Race Exists (Whether You Acknowledge It or Not)

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Dear White friends,

I know you want to live in a utopia where race doesn’t matter. Every time the discussion comes up, you say, “Well, I don’t see color.” When there’s a riot or a speech by some activist, you decry them as the racist. “You’re the one bringing it up, making it all about race.” You sincerely believe that if we just stop labeling, accusing, or thinking about the topic, it will go away.

Well, you’re wrong. Race exists, and is important, whether you like it or not.

At the very least, it’s a factor that makes someone different. Maybe it’s physical, like someone who is left-handed, short, or deaf. You don’t ignore these aspects when you know someone, so why would you ignore their race? Maybe it doesn’t come up all the time, or it’s the butt of friendly jokes, or it’s a serious part of their lives. Yet it exists and people have to acknowledge it. You don’t ask your short friend to get something off the shelf or tell someone deaf to go to concerts; why would you tell your Black friend to not worry about situations where skin color matters?

On the other hand, maybe it’s an intricate part of their lives, rooted in culture, history, and development. “Race” is a social construct, as we’re all the same species, consisting of physical features, historical occurrences, cultural ties, and individual experiences. Someone who is Native American is more than their looks; their development may be influenced by the ancient teachings of their nation, historic oppression, modern poverty, and their personal views and relationships. If you ignore “race”, you are denying more than their skin color; you are ignoring history, society, and self-identity.

So, that makes me a “racist” because I refuse to ignore that factor? Well, no.

Racism occurs when you take those differences and aspects, and use them to denigrate another. Racists use “race” to label others inferior while making themselves appear superior. They use labels, traits, and culture ties in a harmful, exclusive manner. (There’s also “positive” stereotypes, which still constitutes a form of racism, but that’s a topic for another time).

You can acknowledge race, and all that comes with it, without being “racist”. All you’re doing is saying, “Oh, you’re different; maybe I should think before I say or do something based on that difference.” You already do this for friends because of their personal experiences or beliefs, so why wouldn’t you do it because of race? Why would you avoid casual use of the word “rape” around a victim, but think it’s acceptable to use the N-word because “Black people do it”? If you can support LGBT-rights, because they’re born that way, why is it so hard to acknowledge higher rates of police brutality against those born with non-Caucasian skin?

Now, of course there are those who try to argue about racism because they feel it’s been flipped back on White people. “If you give special treatment to Blacks or Latinos, then you’re a racist!” These same people often ignore the concept of equity versus equality, a topic I posted about in-depth before. The goal is to provide everyone with an equal opportunity, and that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone is treated the same. Someone with a handicap needs accommodations to be able to do the things the abled can already do. The same is true for non-Whites in America, where they require things like race-based organizations, advocacy groups, months focusing on their history, and laws that discourage racist practices… all so they can get the same opportunities that Whites usually have. It’s not racism to require special treatment so non-Whites can have equal chances and to level the playing field; these are done because of racism, even if new problems may arise.

Also, that doesn’t mean that all Whites have opportunity and equity. There are still many other factors besides race that can cause oppression and injustice. Economy, crime, politics, etc. can all cause problems, and even the aforementioned race-based legislation or organizations may contribute (whether accidentally or not). The point of racial acknowledgement is not to deny the issues faced by others because of class, faith, etc… but to focus on the very real issues that exist because of race.

Also important is this: no one is asking you to feel guilt over racial issues because you’re White. Do you feel guilt because you can reach the top shelf and your wife can’t? Do you take it personally whenever a Sarah McLachlan ad about animals comes on? Well, you shouldn’t necessarily feel guilt… but I certainly hope you still feel. You acknowledge something in those cases, from the smallest home problem to the largest social issue, and you probably act. You buy a footstool for the height challenged or you feel anger or sadness at pet abuse. If you can recognize these issues, experience some sort of non-guilt emotion, and possibly change your perception or actions… why is it so hard to do the same because of racial issues?

The point of acknowledgement is not to continue the racial divide, make an issue out of a non-issue, or “oppress the majority”. The whole purpose of racial recognition is to help create a better society, one that is more open-minded and inclusive and strives to prevent racism. By sticking our heads in the sand and turning our back on the issue as if it doesn’t exist, we only contribute to the problem. A popular movie once said, “there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men.”

Dear White friends, no one is denying your experiences, your problems, or your identity. So, why would you do that to others?

The Untouchable Nature of America’s Police

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Recently there has been a disturbing trend where police officers involved in questionable, and possibly illegal behaviors, have been able to avoid so much as an indictment. Many people think this means they were found “not guilty”, but it’s even worse than that. An indictment is not confirmation of a defendant’s guilt, it’s simply an accusation that the individual might be guilty, and thus the case is worthy of being looked at in a court of law. The indicted individual remains “innocent until proven guilty” but there is the possibility of a wrongdoing.

This is why recent events are so frustrating. If we can’t even accuse a police officer of wrongdoing, whether from witness testimony (no matter how conflicting) or from outright recorded video of questionable behavior… how can you guarantee anyone’s freedom or safety? None of these attempts at grand juries would have convicted anyone, they just would have stated the situation was questionable and the courts should look into it. Instead, though, the officers in question (who may have had histories of similar or related behavior) are able to walk free without so much as an allegation on their record.

Sadly, I blame this on two factors:

1) Nepotism – Courts need the police to cooperate. Sometimes this is done amicably, other times it’s done through favors. And what better favor than to not even try to indict a cop? Thus the criticism in one recent case about the prosecutor not even trying to prosecute and actually doing the defense’s job for them. This quid pro quo approach combines with the “Brothers in Blue” mentality, maintaining an unethical and broken system that rarely convicts one if its own. Who watches the watchers, especially when those who would refuse to do so?

2) Ignorance – Too many people in the majority have no critical thought and objectivity when it comes to social issues. Whether refusing to accept their “privileged” positions in society, unable to see their own bias, or simply incapable of seeing beyond their own white-washed world… these individuals are the worst people to make decisions about these sorts of cases. And yet our grand juries involving racially-charged cases are often created unequally, stocked with this same short-sighted and biased majority. I find it amusing that many associates find fault with Women’s Rights panels made up completely of men, but can’t see the problem with a case that involves minorities and a grand jury that consists of 75% white people.

This is why people are in such an uproar. This is why people are protesting. Hell, other than the criminally-minded in a group, this is why people are rioting. Because nepotism and ignorance trump justice and equality.

Last I checked, those latter two were supposedly the foundations of our country. I guess that’s only for the racial majority, though.