Sunday, August 17, 2014

Racism Can Be Passive, Too, You Know

    Okay, so I've refrained from writing about Ferguson all week. Why? Well, I'd rather those who have something important to say (See Osheta Moore, Stacia Brown, and Sarah Bessey for examples) have the platform to say it. someone who grew up barely thinking about race, I do now have one thing I'd like to say:
    Just because you don't chant around a burning cross, lynch or shave your head, doesn't mean you're not a racist.
    Passive racism exists.
    Let me explain.
    I don't hate black people. I have dear, dear friends of color. I grew up in a community that claimed race didn't matter at all (which is a well-intentioned but dismissive and over-simplified view, honestly).
    So imagine my surprise (and revulsion, and denial) when I took Harvard's Implicit Test and found out I have slightly negative connotations regarding people of color.
    I'm not a racist, I thought in horror. Never! I've never treated or felt differently about my black friends, Asian friends, Indian friends, white friends. But...when it came to strangers on the street...
    Too bad my opinion of myself didn't line up with my results.
    At first I dismissed the results. Inaccurate, biased. I am not a racist.
    But then I began noticing problems. Specifically, why did I feel a bit more antsy when a young black dude with dreadlocks and sagging pants passed me than a white guy with messy brown hair and stains on his grey T-shirt?
    Then I started reading about how women with black sons are terrified of them getting shot.
    At first I bristled at that. Why are you so angry? You have equal rights!
    Eventually it hit me: racism can be active, obviously. But racism, like the sexism I know so much about, is also a systematic, passive beast.
    You can say black people have equal rights, I don't hate them, I have black friends, all you want. You're right, in theory. And then you also complain that it's their culture to get pregnant young and cheat welfare. You complain that they're in poverty because they don't work hard. You use the Bible to say they're under the "curse of Ham."
    Might I suggest that when the majority of impoverished city people are people of color, there is something else going on: a systematic racism.
    If you have negative connotations about black people that you wouldn't have about white or Asian or whatever, you are a racist whether you hate or not. 
    The first step towards recovery is admitting you have a problem. So deal with it.
    I don't know exactly what happened in regard to Mike Brown. But I will guess that Darren Wilson, like the majority of Americans, doesn't consider himself a racist. Yet when multiple witnesses describe him shooting a kid who had his hands raised, something iffy probably happened.
    Maybe over-reactors like Chief Jackson and news commentators like Bill O'Reilly and everyone else heightening claims of looting above the fact that someone was needlessly killed don't consider themselves racists, too. But, again, if you have negative connotations about black people that you wouldn't have about other races, you are a racist whether you hate or not. 
    Maybe you haven't had to confront your racism because you're the majority. Fine. Start confronting it now. Everyone is made equal, unique, imago dei.
    Start acknowledging your participation in this system, educate yourself, and for God's sake start caring.
    Caring will hurt. I'm kind if sickened at my own participation in this system via simple white privilege. But it's necessary for change, so more innocents aren't killed for holding a toy gun in Walmart or jaywalking.
    Passive racism is still racism, and it needed to end before it existed.

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