This week I’ve had a lot on my mind, even though I’ve been in nursing “boot camp”. I wanted to give you guys another juicy post, since you only get one once a week!
When do we unknowingly or unthinkingly support negative attitudes? I’ve been thinking about racism. Contrary to what some might say, racism persists in the US society. While racial violence may be more rare than it was sixty years ago, the attitude of “us vs. them” and racial superiority persist in each race. It’s ugly. I don’t like to admit it, but racism still exists. It shouldn’t.
The Civil War comes to my mind. Whether you believe it is about states rights or slavery is irrelevant. Saying that slavery was an acceptable institution or that most slaves were treated well is racist. Even *if* I believed that, (which I don’t), I would never say that in front of an African-American.
I’ll compare that to modern day sweatshops. Even if I think that sweatshop labor is exploitative, when I buy from a store that utilizes them, I am supporting that institution. If I don’t actively oppose it, I’m supporting it through omission. It’s the same with slavery. If I owned a slave back in the Old South, and even if I treated him or her nicely, I would be supporting an immoral institution. Our individual choices have a global impact, whether we like to believe it or not.
“What we need today is more awareness, a wider recognition of how the vast systems we are caught up in can do terrible things and how we can contribute to that evil without even being conscious of it. This is a disturbing idea. It means that the traditional debate about deeds and intentions needs to be rethought. ‘I didn’t really mean it,’ should no longer exonerate us so easily, nor should ‘I had no idea of what I was doing.’ In our century to be unaware is to be less than moral.”-Harvey Cox
Here is my rule of thumb: If I have a comment or a thought about a specific race that I wouldn’t express in front of a person from that race, then I need to excise it from my mind. It might be a “harmless” joke, but the thing about harmless jokes is that they reflect an inner acceptance of racial superiority.
I’m also a little uncomfortable when others overemphasize differences. Just because someone’s skin is a different color doesn’t mean that the person is incapable of understanding or accomplishing something outside of their culture. I think that it would be rude and presumptuous of me to assume that I can understand what a person of another race can do. I think it is equally rude and presumptuous for someone to assume that you can’t do or understand, especially since you can’t always determine someone’s race by their skin color.
Last week, someone asked my dad if he was Native American. Not only is that an inappropriate question (I’d compare it to inquiring about gender or orientation), but it is also not the most important thing in getting to know a person. I want to hear about their likes, dislikes, hopes, dreams, and experiences. Race factors into that, but it does not dominate or center around that. The human condition is fundamentally the same. (In case you were wondering, he is Hispanic.)
Some may complain that our society will cave in by political correctness. When it comes to racism, I believe that any attitude that supports superiority is inherently hateful. We don’t have to simper meekly and forgo our opinions. It’s not a matter of being “correct” or not, but cultivating a speech and attitude of humility and kindness. It’s not natural, and it’s not easy. Those are not reasons to not try.
For those of you who like Bible verses, I found a few to accompany this post:
“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”-John 7:24
“For God shows no partiality.”-Romans 2:11
“So Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation, anyone who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him.”-Acts 10:34-35
“Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.” 1 John 2:9
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit, we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and were all made to drink of one Spirit.”-1 Corinthians 12:12-13
When have you experienced or observed racism? What did you think at the time? How did it affect you over the long-term?