Updated: Jul 18
Am I a racist? Me? A fifty seven year-old white man who was lucky enough to grow up with, and continues to reap the benefits of, a massive advantage over others in this world who don’t share my skin color or my gender. Easy for people to dismiss that question as absurd because a racist is, to many of us, an ugly person that does ugly things. People in white hoods. Or a guy that sneers at people from his porch somewhere other than where they live. In fact, racism is everywhere. And in everyone. Also, I don’t get to answer that question about myself. I really am not qualified to answer.
I can answer another question: am I guilty of prejudgement of others based on their skin color? Almost certainly. If I’m being honest, I can’t ignore the fact that we all fear the “other.” It’s baked into our DNA. It’s hard to recognize it in ourselves, even harder to admit, and harder still to change. But, I can specifically remember times where I reflexively prejudged or feared people with different skin color. I told my share of racist jokes when I was younger. I like to think I’ve changed. And I do think I’ve grown up and developed healthy attitudes about my fellow humans. But it took conscious thought. And yet, I still exist in, and reep the benefits of, a racist system that treats minorities, and especially black people, as somehow less valuable than myself. A racist system that values the appearance of safety and order over treating its citizens with compassion. A racist system where both political parties have jumped on the “law and order bandwagon” that perpetuates these practices and where police kill more than a thousand people of all colors EVERY YEAR. In most western democracies this number can be tallied on one hand. This system needs to change.
We all have the ability to change but it’s so much easier to go on as before. I’m very aware there needs to be more recognition of people of color, women, and the disenfranchised. Even when I want to change my attitudes, I’m not always successful. Implicit bias is a real thing. I just wrote a 140,000 word novel with only one black character who doesn't appear until near the end. And although I love strong females in my fiction--the book has two female leads--I still had to go back and rewrite whole sections because I realized every scientist in the book was male, and white. WTF? I’m not at all proud of these things. But I can recognize them. And I can either ignore the problem, or I can try to change. The system can’t change unless we all do.
How do we change something that’s as entrenched as the culture we live in? Where the mere act of raising our voices against the violent and racist practices of our system is met with violence and racism. Where OUR government, the one that’s supposed to serve the PEOPLE treats dissent as an act of war? A threat so heinous that a military response is justified? This is a huge question. One that I don’t have the answer to. Fortunately, the answer doesn’t have to come just from me. At the bottom of this post are links to some good reporting on this subject. I hope you’ll at least look at them with an open mind. We all need to hear these things. We all need to take action. Every one of us needs to wake up and admit there is a problem. And then we need to work together to change this racist system. Personally, I’ve stepped up my support for equality initiatives, not just with likes and retweets, but with money. That’s how things get done in our society. I’m also committing to making black and brown characters a more central part of my writing. I know it’s only a small thing, but that’s how we have to do it. If we vote with our dollars and each person does whatever small thing they can to change in whatever way they can, it will add up to a huge difference. I’ll also be working hard to check my own racism and supporting businesses and politicians who feel the same way.
Please watch this.
Systemic Racism The last five minutes will definitely make you think.
Try some independent media sources: for a change.
Stop bouncing around in your echo chamber. This problem is so much bigger than Red vs Blue. Watch what politicians actually do, not what they say. Pay attention and you’ll be surprised what you learn.
Read. I’ll be doing the same and I’ll try to let you know what I come up with.
And above all, call out racism wherever you see it.
Call me out if I need it.