Friday, June 19, 2015

American Shame- Race and Our Realities

Today, I am ashamed to be an American. I am ashamed of my pale skin and the privilege and legacy it contains. We are a nation plagued by a sickness- that sickness is racism and we have to treat it. 

Dylann Roof may have been a maniac, but his mania was nurtured and cultivated. It was encouraged and ratified by voices from our past and present. And now, nine innocent people in Charleston have paid the price.

For all the strides America has made since 1964 there is still so much work to do. This attack has been only the most recent example of how African Americans in this country are still second class citizens. 


I am sick of reading stories about black men and women being abused by police. I'm tired of seeing the difference in how whites and people of color are treated differently by the authorities in so many matters. 

My soul is cut every time I hear of yet another young black person being gunned down and the indifference or hostility that comes from White Americans who refuse to see that Jim Crow is not yet dead.

We need to address race in this country. Something has to change in our society so that we can continue to build off the legacy of the Civil Rights movement of the 60s. We need an America that is truly for all Americans, free of random acts of mass gun violence, with justice for all regardless of skin. We need this and we need to talk about how to do it.

Even getting to that stage, however, is difficult in our current environment.

All too often we lack the ability to have good, honest respectful debate and discussion. We spend too much time in our own political, and social realities often defined by what we find online. And the more we listen exclusively to others like us, who repeat again and again that our world is the greatest and our problems are the worst, the more likely we are to ignore the pain of the others outside our reality and perhaps even hate them as Dylan Roof did.

Too many of us in White America are not capable of living with difference or with ambiguity. We are fearful. 

And I don't just mean on matters of race. We fear political difference, religious difference, philosophical difference.

Above all else we fear being challenged, we fear having our beliefs, our worldview altered by the reality of another. Rather than entertain the notion that what our views on taxes, social welfare or President Obama are not gospel we fail

No more is this clearer than the realm of social media, where all too often we share stories that reinforce our worldview and interact with others who believe the same things we do for the same reasons.

We come to love our home, our culture, our ideals, our front lawns, our sexuality, our cars, our sport's team. Not only do we fail to see the lives of other around us, we fail to value their reality. We fail to see that their path's struggles, different and at times more severe than our own, are just as real.

It's this failure at trying to understand the other (no matter who that other is) that is reinforced by and reflected in American media outlets like Fox and MSNBC.

Our race problems and so many other issues America is wrestling with stem from this. Our inability to look beyond our favorite news stations, our most trusted websites and Facebook groups and break from whichever parallel universe we inhabit even if just for a little bit.

When we lose the willingness to sit down with someone who's belief and background differs from ours and attempt to understand their perspective we are more likely to find ourselves incapable of respecting anyone who doesn't do as we do and think as we think.

We have to break this. We have to learn respect for whichever other we are not a part of. Until that happens, these types of attacks will continues and they will be our shame to bear as the rest of the world watches.

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