Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Racism is but a part of our national problem

Racism is a hot-button topic these days. The truth is it's been a hotly debated and divisive topic in this country for well over 300 years. Practically every generation has produced an event that has brought the inequality between white citizens and those of color to the national spotlight.

And yet, the color of one's skin has not been the only cause of distrust and hatred. Since our country was founded we've invented reasons to deny equality to women, the poor, the Irish (and Italians, Polish, Japanese, Germans, Native Americans, and a host of other immigrants as well as those born on these shores), Catholics, Jews, Mormons, atheists, gays and other LGBT people, children, the elderly, the handicapped; almost every type of human being other than wealthy white males.

It's that history that makes me uncomfortable with the national focus on race.

Skin color is not the only component of race. Race is also determined by bone structure, hair and eye color. (diffen.com) We also have a history of prejudice toward humans of various ethnicities, genders, sexual persuasions, etc.

Obviously we have a problem in this country, and not just between whites and blacks, gays and straights, men and women.

Our laser focus on race is blinding us to a larger problem. We are a nation of the intolerant.

Since the founding of the U.S. we have been intolerant of anyone who is different than us in any way imaginable. (For a satirical example, enjoy Tom Lehrer's National Brotherhood Week) This is the sad state of affairs in America. We are a nation of immigrants, for the most part, people of various color, national origin, gender, sexual persuasions, hair color, physical ability, handedness, belief...who look down on everyone who isn't like us in every way.

Racism is only a fraction of our national intolerance, our institutionalized bigotry.

Instead of stressing our common humanity and celebrating our similarities as human beings, we'd rather emphasize our differences. Instead of working together to make the world a better place for everyone, we'd rather fight wars and commit genocide based on our perceived differences.

I may be a progressive, but I've lived too many years to be an idealist. I'd like to think that we could dismiss our differences and unite as humans to create a better world. But I honestly don't think we've evolved that far yet. We are still too closely related to our territorial, tribal, hunter forebearers. We are closer to our cave-dwelling past than we are to our possibly utopian future. We are not yet able to think of ourselves as a single human race. 

I seriously doubt we'll accomplish that in my lifetime. It may take many generations, providing we don't manage to bring about our own extinction in the meantime. I do think it's a worthwhile goal. In fact I believe it's the only way we'll ever progress as a species and assure our continued existence. But it won't happen overnight. It won't be brought about by passing laws or shaming on social media. It won't happen by lying about our past and rewriting history. We won't change just because we take one flag off the pole. 

Our entire nation, every person in the country, will have to be educated and encouraged to reorder their beliefs. Cooperation will have to crowd out competition. Peer pressure will need to be applied until hating another person just because they aren't like us is no longer acceptable anywhere at any time. 

I sincerely hope we can. I hope we will. I hope we do. Because if we don't our future as humans is seriously threatened. 



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