I’ve had some interesting conversations with some folks recently on the topic of diversity and inclusions.
Long story short:
These are mostly older white people, either Christian or from a Christian cultural background, who are hurt when they hear themselves being referred to as racists. They blame this hurt on cultural diversity, thinking they are being made into scapegoats for things their ancestors did to other people.
By and large, these people I had these conversations with are nice, decent, compassionate human beings. They’re morally and ethically trustworthy. They can say “some of my best friends are” and truly mean it without any irony, because on a personal one-to-one level they have no bias against any particular individual.
Okay, so let’s address their specific personal problem and how to go about alleviating their pain…
If you don’t want to be thought of as a racist,
you must be open and vocal in your opposition to racism.
As stated here oft times before, racism is an institutionalized system of discrimination, either explicit (laws) or implicit (culture).
To avoid being
called a racist,
You don’t have to reject the entire culture, just the parts that discriminate against people outside the ethnic majority.
This means listening to the people who have experienced discrimination and stop trying to explain to them that what they felt, what they experienced isn’t valid.
If someone tells you they feel excluded from mainstream American society, you aren’t going to make them feel included by explaining to them why they shouldn’t feel excluded.
The dignity and security and sense of self-worth you want for yourself has to be extended to those not like you.
It sometimes means coming to a workable compromise on some issues.
The Confederacy and their flag may not be a hate symbol to you, but it’s certainly a hate symbol to millions of other people.
If you don’t want to be thought of as racist, you can’t defend symbols used by people who waged open terrorism against non-whites and non-Christians.
(Buddhists can use swastikas in their temples because they control the message there, but they don’t use them openly in countries where there’s any sizeable European cultural component.)
You also have to recognize that while you personally have displayed no prejudice against non-whites and non-Christians, there certainly has been a long, long history of such prejudice by others in the past.
And as a result, those non-white / non-Christian cultures are shaped by literally hundreds of years worth of experience (thousands when you start including some Middle Eastern cultures).
Those cultures, their histories, and their common experiences cannot be negated with the stroke of a pen. The momentum they built up to simply survive in the face of a hostile dominant culture can’t be turned on a dime.
Yes, it may be unfair for you to be told you have to shoulder the blame for something your ancestors did to their ancestors 150 years ago, but you can’t expect their culture to cancel itself out in order to accommodate yours.
(When you think about it, that attitude by your ancestors was precisely what created the problem in the first place.)
You have to understand that echoes of racism still resonate loudly in our culture.
When a 12 year old boy is gunned down without warning by police for playing in a park, you need to get angry.
Not say “he was big for his age”.
When a teenager returning to his father’s home is chased down and murdered by an armed vigilante, you need to get angry.
Not make excuses for the vigilante.
When a doctor is brutalized by a corporation and the corporation tries to justify it by falsely claiming he had a criminal record, you need to get angry.
Not agree with the corporation’s smear campaign.
When it is pointed out that to this very day people of one color have a vastly different experience with the legal system than white people who commit the exact same crimes, you need to get angry.
Not blame the victims of this legal bias.
You say — and I believe you, and believe you are genuine and sincere in doing so — that you want this country to be more inclusive.
Remember the exclusions this country suffered through in the past were created and engineered by white Christians for the benefit of white Christians.
African-Americans did not champion Jim Crow. Native Americans did not volunteer for the Trail Of Tears. Gays did not request to be criminalized and hounded for their orientation.
Women didn’t ask to be denied the rights and privileges of citizenship because of their gender.
There’s an easy way to avoid being regarded as a racist.
Act like a mensch.