Updated 10.3.2017 at 6:07pm EST
Racism in America.
What is it?
How does one try to address the problem of racism?
Well, while it didn’t start in America, it sure has flourished and it was there from the beginning.
When I say “America” I mean the people, culture and society that is on the North American continent and that which we call the United States of America.
There were people living here long before Europeans “discovered” this land. Millions of people. When Europeans landed here they carried out their goal of gaining riches and resources. They looked down upon those here first … the Indigenous population … those who occupied this land as less than themselves. As people to be shoved out of the way using any force to any degree necessary to move them off of where trees, minerals and eventually anything desirable was. They were looked down upon, abused, lied to and many were destroyed.
For people to carry out such acts they need a few things in their belief system.
One is they are superior to others, the other is greed.
They had those horrible traits in abundance.
The first of those two things is racism, the second supports a selfish view such as racism.
Eventually as the land was settled by the invaders and a very different way of living was spreading and to get a lot of the work done, some of those newcomers used people that had been captured and sold into slavery. Sold as if they were a product or a machine. No rights. Abused and used.
Racism and greed once again.
So, the land was taken and a whole new society was built by those two things as a major part of the whole foundation and belief system that enabled and made it all possible.
Racism and greed, selfishness.
And it has continued in various forms to this day.
Immigrants and refugees from all places around our planet came here, often times out of necessity (such as the Irish that were starving due to famine) and time after time the newcomers were treated to varying degrees of racism and while maybe not technically slavery, much was virtual slavery or at the least horrible working conditions, low or no pay, and again, no rights.
Racism is woven into the tapestry of our nation often in ways that may not be evident or obvious to someone who may not feel the brunt of or face racism or it’s effects be they social, political, economic or in any other way. It may not be obvious if someone doesn’t realize racism isn’t just limited to someone yelling racist words or physically attacking another. As mentioned, it’s in the cloth of our nation. It’s woven in. It can have effects subtle on through to horrifying actions.
For the record, I’m a white guy. Lived in the U.S. my whole life. I do not purport to know what it is like to be black or of any various groups of people that face the same sort of oppression, hatred, barriers, prejudices and unfair social, business and legal systems. I’m not saying I understand what it is like nor that I know of all the difficulties. All I can say is I know it exists and being one who has always, even from a very, very young age, have despised injustice and have never understood letting color of skin, nationality, religion, culture or anything else separate us or cause anyone to be treated differently, so I attempt to stay as informed and open as possible, try to learn, try to see, try to imagine and try to find ways I can make sure I am not part of the problem and find ways to help us all learn, grow, understand and see problems and find ways to make things better and make sure we do those things.
Much of that is internal, we all, all of us, we all must be willing to listen to concerns by others. Listen. Not just wait until the other is finished speaking, but listen, process, then respond if a response is required, or maybe just go think about what they said.
We have to be willing to challenge our own assumptions and beliefs.
That’s not always the easiest thing. Not easy at all, because our picture of reality can be so deeply rooted and seem so obvious to be true that any other narrative, any other words or proof to things being different may just be pushed away. Pushed away not necessarily in a way that is intended to dismiss what another says, not meant to be mean or closed minded, but just because it’s often automatic to think or feel that if one considers themselves a good person and maybe even be one that actively tries to help all the time, but carry uninformed or (unintentionally) harmful beliefs or ways we look at the world. It doesn’t seem to fit, therefor a part of the mind can reject any other narrative, belief or facts as wrong.
Racism and it’s effects are too numerous to count and come from so many angles and in so many ways affect every aspect of people’s lives that for people, especially those that do not face the negative aspects and effects of it due to their skin color, nationality or religion, etc, that understanding it and trying to help us all move away from causing or allowing it to continue are going to be difficult to say the least.
As I mentioned, I’m white. I am not really the person who should speak on what those involved with “Black Lives Matter” stands for any more than I can explain issues around women’s rights, Indigenous people’s rights and so forth but I can say that when one listens to what is said, written and shared by those involved in BLM and takes into account any group of people is made of individuals and needs to be understood from looking at the whole, that what comes across is really a basic simple statement…
Black Lives Matter.
What does that mean?
Exactly what it says: “Black Lives Matter”
It says nothing negative, it says nothing about any other group of people. It says “Black Lives Matter”
When we see that is what it is and we refuse to allow assumptions to enter into the statement, then we see it is pointing out that society and the system needs to be reminded that those lives matter just as much as all the others.
One way of understanding it could be thinking about a group saying “cure breast cancer”. They aren’t against curing ALL cancer, but they see we need to focus on breast cancer.
Some people pointing out certain diseases that affect many people but are way under funded and need more research aren’t saying those people are more important, they want ALL people healthy, but they see that will not happen unless that particular disease is addressed.
A person who sees their river being illegally polluted and raising concerns and demanding the toxic dumping be stopped and the river be cleaned as much as possible is not saying their river is more important, they are saying that river is not being protected. Then hopefully after that is addressed, ALL water would be protected.
Black Lives Matter is not in any way pulling down the rights of others, but meant to raise up to a level of equality of those that do not have the equality and the respect and protection of life.
“Black Lives Matter” in no way whatsoever diminishes my life mattering. They aren’t saying whites or blue lives or anyone else doesn’t matter.
It is meaning “All Lives Matter” but All Lives DON’T matter to the system and much of society. Until Black lives (and all the others that are not treated equally and fairly such as the Native Nations peoples who are Indigenous to this land and have faced the longest amount of injustice here) are treated the same as the rest, then in reality, in practice, all lives DON’T matter. Therefor the focus and reminder that Black Lives Matter is necessary so that we can say that yes, All Lives Matter but not just in saying it and wanting it but in reality for all people.
They are saying the system ALREADY recognizes those other lives, but the clear day to day and minute by minute history and current reality in our country shows that, without a doubt, Black Lives do not matter as much as mine or a cop’s and that can not be considered acceptable to anyone of conscience, to anyone that cares and since we speak of the US, to any American that understand the idea of what this country is.
It was built on racism and greed, but at the same time the idea of “We The People” and “All Men Are Created Equal” and that Justice is supposed to be blind (meaning justice is meant to treat everyone, no matter color of skin, income bracket, religion or anything else be treated exactly as equal) are what this country is meant to be and finally evolve into as a reality.
While we obviously have more work to do, we already (to a fair degree) have made strides to see that the “all men” part is to be read as including women and trans and so forth, so now we must make strides to bring into reality that ALL are created equal and justice need be truly and completely blind.
As I said above, we all, all of us, must be willing to listen to concerns by others. To actually listen. Not just wait until the other is finished speaking, but listen, process, then respond if a response is required, or maybe just go think about what they said.
We have to be willing to challenge our own assumptions and beliefs.
And then we need to be willing to stand and work for this country and the whole world to treat everyone as an equal.
That can be done and if we choose to make it happen it can and will.
If we use our minds and our hearts, it can happen.
So I ask everyone to try. Read more, reach out to others, stay open.
Make this the world where we’re all better off and that love, respect and concern for others guides us and our lives.
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