This essay is directed at White people. I happen to be Caucasian, and it’s long past the time all of us need to look into the mirror about racism. Most of us don’t think of ourselves as racists. Most of us don’t entertain deliberate thoughts about race. We are confident in our benevolence and wish no ill will towards others be they black, brown, or white. Racism is something evil people do. We are not evil. America is no longer a racist country. Those who still complain about it are either mistaken or are just trying to stir up trouble. Right?
Recently, Colorado state senator Vicki Marble claimed that Black people are poor because they eat too much barbeque chicken. She later apologized for her remarks if they had offended anyone, but she did not apologize for their obviously ignorant and insensitive content. As a political representative of the people, her words carry much more weight than an ordinary citizen. What she said was objectively racist even though subjectively she may not have thought so.
Colorado State Sen. Vicki Marble (R)
These subtle and seemingly innocuous sentiments are the real faces of racism, and they happen countless times every day in America. Their cumulative effect on society is pernicious, leading to an escalation and intensification of ethnic and racial animus. Such cultural divisions pose an existential threat to the nation in terms of its security and prosperity. The overt racism expressed by small groups like the KKK, Aryan Brotherhood, skinheads, and neo-Nazis, pales in comparison.
Now, let’s look into the mirror.
Have you ever made disparaging comments like Vicki Marble’s? I know I have.
Have you ever heard your friends and family members say even worse things? I know I have.
Have you ever been participant or witness to an ugly act of racial disrespect? I know I have.
Have you ever turned your back on a person who was the target of such an act? I know I have.
Have you ever allowed your innermost feelings to discriminate against someone who doesn’t look like you? Be honest, now. I know I have.
Have you ever rooted for or against an athlete or sports teams solely because of their race? I know I have.
Have you ever observed a racially-motivated crime? I know I have.
Have you ever ignored the racial transgressions of your associates? I know I have.
Have you ever supported a person or organization despite their negative racial attitudes? I have not. If you have ever voted for a politician who favors voter suppression efforts through so-called “Voter Id” legislation, then you most certainly have supported racism.
On this day when we commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech and the March on Washington, let all of us White folks pause for a moment of self-reflection and look closely into the mirror. What do you see?