Once again technology failed. This blog did not get distributed last week.
I hope you and yours are healthy. Thankfully, Jeny and I continue to enjoy good health and each other.
The Hamster Wheel. A friend sent me an article with the caption “racism is tiring.” He certainly was not objecting to increased awareness. I believe he meant we are overwhelmed by many, many stories of the evils of racist behavior. The reality of the problem is a big burden. The endless stories wear on us. I find many things to be tiring in my hunkered down state. To have the many stories of racial injustice on top of the COVID nightmare is indeed tiring, important but tiring.
I wrote him a response:
In my opinion, racism is tiring for at least one big reason: the paradigm implied by the term is a hamster wheel. Much energy is expended going nowhere.
As I see it, the use of the term immediately begins any discussion of our many problems along racial lines, with the most frequent approach in America being whites should feel guilt and shame for the past and the present and whites need to change. I see that paradigm as a treadmill without end.
Before going further, I must be clear – there is a great need for change. Blacks have been and are mistreated and some of the treatment is systemic, some is personal. So are Hispanics, who make up a larger portion of our population than Blacks. So are many other cultures. But I believe a race/culture paradigm will not advance change as rapidly or as thoroughly as a different paradigm.
The paradigm I think we need to adopt is a paradigm of HUMAN frailty. Whatever problems I have, and I have many, are because of my humanity not my whiteness.
If we start with the assumption of human frailty then I believe a better dialog is possible. In this paradigm each and every human examines their personal issues, their personal contributions to racist behaviors and their contributions to systemic racist structures in our society.
When I do, I see racial problems in terms of such matters as: 1. the abuse of power 2. self-righteousness 3. fear 4. greed 5. disrespect for authority and the rule of law 6. disrespect for other people’s lives and property and many other human frailties — not race.
That does not deny in any way the history of racial injustice and inequality in America. It does imply the problems are caused by human frailty not race. In my opinion if we had dialogs about those issues, we would get off the treadmill and make better progress.
One important and difficult to achieve perspective is — since I wholeheartedly believe Blacks are human — Blacks would have to adopt the position they are in this struggle with whites not against whites. Whites are not against them. The evils of human frailty in people are against them and causing conflicts between all of us. The problems Blacks face are real, but not caused by whiteness. They are caused by the evils found within all people. A tough part to accept from that view is – because they are human, Blacks share the evils with whites, browns – all humans.
A second important and difficult perspective to achieve is whites have to recognize and accept people of their race have been in power and share a great responsible for many years of inequality and disparity.
My position is very difficult to adopt by anyone who has a strong commitment to the “us vs. them” perspective of a racial paradigm. My position is very difficult to adopt if people are unwilling to examine their own frailties.
Racism as an explanation. I have other concerns about the term racism. I find it frequently used in the same trite manner we use “explanatory” terms like alcoholism and schizophrenia.
Alcoholic behavior is a problem. Simply offering the reified term, the disease of alcoholism as an explanation says nothing.
Schizophrenic behavior is a serious problem. Simply offering the disease of schizophrenia as an explanation says nothing.
In the same manner racial problems are serious issues. Simply offering racism as a disease white people catch as an explanation says nothing.
Many people see racial prejudice and explain it by racism. But when asked — how they know it is racial prejudice, they refer back to the behavior they are trying to explain. More treadmill behavior.
Some people are careful with the term, but I find many are not. Some Black and white people want an easy, seemingly obvious explanation of racial prejudice that leads them to believe they do not have the disease but others do. Racism fits that want. Some whites want to relieve their guilt by assuming they do not have racism, so they can be on the correct side in the “us vs them” paradigm.
To attack the serious issues of prejudice we must look beyond trite explanations that do not offer insights into how the attitudes and decision-making processes causing racial prejudice are formed. We need insights into how the attitudes and decision-making processes causing racial prejudice can be changed in everyone. In my opinion, seeking those insights about human frailty would do more to get us off the treadmill and into the activity of real change than the us vs. them paradigm of race.
Observations and Responses
There is prejudice and then there is prejudice. In one response to the last blog, a friend described three situations: first when he was in the military, he spent a month, near death, in an army hospital as result of what he believed to be a racist beating by some blacks. He also believes, his life was spared because another black person intervened. Second, he consults with a black business in a predominantly black country. He has experience being the minority in the latter situation. The interactions have been cordial but the officials have made it clear the power lies with them.
Now his great insight – having related his experiences he went on to say “but of course I know that when I am pulled over by the police I do not have to fear for my life.”
He believes, as I do, whites experience prejudice, but not nearly to the extend, the frequency and the devastating effects blacks and Hispanics face and certainly not by law enforcement.
United We Sing. Harry Connick Jr in his tribute to the healthcare workers and other heroes of the COVID fight, made it clear — we all different, but we should celebrate that we share – starting with love. The title was “United We Sing.” Obviously I agree with him. It was a heart-warming special.
Power. Another friend made the great observation — “However it comes about, power is always a player…for good or for ill.”
I agree, Lets do what we can to make it for good.
As always, I welcome your thoughts