Last week, I was heartened to see Fascinations take a stand, despite the risks of fallout from doing so. They didn’t attack, they didn’t insult. They just took a stand for what was right. And I have taken stands myself, in my personal Facebook account, and with friends and family. But that was all private. But I also have this, my other minor, but very public, platform. And, I feel it’s my duty to take a stand, and yet, I also don’t want to attack, or insult. That won’t do anybody any good. So, I thought I would try an open discussion of racial tensions, and how I’ve grown in my understanding of them.
So, that being said, I want to be clear: this post has nothing to do with Metal Earth, model building, or anything of the sort. Nor is it here to pass judgement on anyone, lest I pass judgement on myself. I don’t intend to accuse others of anything, or attack anyone personally. If you want to skip this post, that’s fine. If you are offended that I wrote this post – well, I can’t do anything about that. But I felt the need to post this, on the off chance that the things I have learned through my growth might be of use to others. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. I do expect everyone to remain respectful if they choose to comment on this post, however.
Before I get into the more controversial discussion, I want to give a little background on myself. To clear some things up, and prevent any assumptions about my intentions or predispositions. I’m not going to get overly detailed (yeah, I know, kinda a surprise from me, right?), but I want to “set the scene” for this discussion.
I was born about as white as you can be. Pale blue eyes, blond as blond can be (almost white). I was born into a stable family. We were as dysfunctional as most families are, but I was blessed by a family that did not involve divorce. I had one sister and one brother. I grew up in the church, but not a specific denomination. Unsurprisingly, my family was a Republican family.
My father was in the military, and had attended the Air Force Academy. That meant we moved around a lot – every 2-3 years, sometimes less. This exposed me to a lot of different subcultures of America. And one thing that I was taught, very specifically, everywhere I went was this: racism was bad. All people are equal. Red and Yellow, Black and White. There was no doubt. My parents drew no lines, didn’t say bad things about people of color, nothing like that.
I had the honor of finishing my last 3 years of high school on a military base in Germany. While there, I was exposed to even more cultural views and traditions, a true blessing. Then I moved to Arkansas, where I went to a very-conservative christian university, of a denomination that I hadn’t really had much exposure to. While there, I had the opportunity to meet several more people from diverse backgrounds. Nevertheless, it was a hard-line conservative college. As in, you could get kicked out if you were caught drinking (even off campus) or even dancing. Yes, dancing. I thought it was silly, honestly. I got a degree in Computer Science, and met my wife. I never intended to settle in Arkansas (the climate kills me every August), but here I am.
I have two kids, a loving wife, three cats and two dogs. I learned late in life that I have Asperger’s, a mild form of autism. I voted entirely Republican before the 2016 election, where I ended up voting Independent. And I’ve included this last part as a preface to the next section here, where I will continue to preface the subject of this post with another bit of context.
One of the biggest pitfalls that we run into when discussing controversial subjects like these is tribalism, especially in the USA. And, if you haven’t figured out, this is a very US-centric post, because that’s my citizenship, and it’s where the situation has boiled over. But before I get into talking about what has boiled over, I want to address the topic of tribalism, which has become a very real and dangerous trait of conversations in the past few years.
What do I mean by tribalism, as it regards the US? I mean the almost dogmatic, defensive, offensive and hard-lined divisiveness that has pervaded both political and non-political conversations in the USA for the past few years. And that applies to people of all parties, not just Republican or Democratic, even Libertarian and smaller political leanings. It’s the Us versus Them mentality. It’s the rhetoric and theatrics performed by all sides of the aisle to cast blame and “shade” at those on the other sides.
So often now, if I take a position on something, it’s assumed that the rest of my opinions fall into the silo of “Party X.” And that becomes an avenue of attack, a way to question all my other opinions because I must support this one thing that is just ridiculous! And if I disagree with you on this one thing (thing A), then I must be saying that you are also things X, Y, and Z, and so you have to defend yourself from A, because you are definitely not X, Y or Z.
On top of this, there is a habit of ascribing intent and beliefs on other people because of their stand on something. Intent and beliefs that are actually undermined, generally, by the stance the other person holds. To use the most caustic and divisive example, take the rhetoric and accusations people make on either side of the issue of abortion. Pro-life supporters most often frame every discussion with the context of calling Pro-choice supporters baby killers, or people who want to kill babies. Pro-choice supporters, on the other hand, frame the context as if Pro-life people want to interfere and mandate what women are allowed to do with their own body. Instead of addressing the core disagreement, that being what exactly a fetus is, both sides prefer to act as if the other side actually believes what they believe, and don’t care. Pro-choice people are not in favor of killing babies, because they don’t see them as babies. Pro-life people are not in favor of allowing the government to mandate or control what a woman can do with her own body, because they see the fetus as a person with their own body and rights. Lobbing these attacks at each other is not fruitful, and will never open a path to honest discussion.
And so, what I’m trying to say is that tribalism is about defending our side, yelling our views as loudly as possible, and not listening at all. There’s no effort to understand one another, because we have robbed each other of individuality. In tribalism, we are not individuals first, we are tribes first. And that is a self-feeding cycle of destruction, because there can be no constructive discussions when things are discussed from that point of view.
So I ask that, if you continue to read this post, please leave tribalism at the door, metaphorically speaking. If you choose to comment, please make no assumptions of a persons other beliefs, and try to read what they say with the intent of understanding them, rather than through the lens of defeating them. Try to read what we each say with the assumption that there are very few people that are just intentionally bad people. Read in the best of light, and the best of intentions. Give people the benefit of the doubt, and try not to let your preconceptions lead you to interpret what they say in a different way than they intended.
Oh, man. I kinda can’t believe I’m doing this. It’s such a hotbed word. Something that is uncomfortable to talk about, even before everything boiled over in recent days. Of course, in some circles, it’s now almost the “cool thing to discuss.” But where I live, it definitely is not. And I’m not jumping on the bandwagon here… my views on this issue have been evolving for years. And this is not a “current condition” that is new. But before I get into anything, I want to talk about the word itself. Or more specifically, the fact that racism comes in multiple flavors.
Active Racism is what I like to call the classical definition of racism. The type of racism that everyone understands, where there is active hate, animosity, or views of superiority. We’re talking KKK here. Jim Crow Laws. Segregation. White Supremacy. Nazis. All the “worst of the worst.” And even some of the underhanded racism, where we don’t admit it in front of the world, but we just don’t associate with “those people,” because they are not “our people.” This type of racism is easy to label. It’s also the most common thing people think of when being labelled as “racist.”
But there’s another kind of racism. There are several terms for it that already exist, but I prefer a term that I’ve chosen to use: Passive Racism. This is a subconscious racism. This is the racism of biases that may not even be aware you have. This is a racism that is not taught in any traditional way. This is a racism that persists at the community level, rather than individual level. It’s not taught or learned in the traditional sense. It’s not something you choose to be. It’s a pervasive, underlying contamination of society. In some cases, it can be argued that some of it was engineered by unscrupulous people. Some of it has grown of it’s own volition. Some of it comes from history, some from news reporting, and some even from entertainment. It’s lives in us in mechanisms of our mind that were meant for self-preservation, for quick decisions and evaluations of threats. Things that happen below the surface. But it affects a lot more than that, and it’s effect is real.
Often this form of racism is called Systemic Racism or Institutional Racism. And I pull away from these labels, because they still seem to indicate or convey some level of intent. And some people seem to see it as connected to laws and official statuses and condoning racism at the cultural level. Which bridges, in my mind, the gap between passive and active. And I prefer to identify and separate the very distinction of racism that is passive and, in a way, hidden.
And so, I will say, right here, right now… I am racist. I am not actively racist, I am passively racist. I will instinctively be more uncomfortable in a “black neighborhood” than a “white” one. I will react differently to coming across a black man in an alley than a white one. Because I have deeply ingrained biases that affect my threat assessment process. Something I cannot control. Something I didn’t learn from any individual, but was absorbed into me by observing the same in other people as I grew up, or how things were portrayed in entertainment and on the news. However, I am also Actively Anti-Racist. Towards myself. I censure myself. I push myself to address those instincts, those initial reactions, and to re-evaluate them with my rational mind. To return the individuality to the people from whom I have stolen it. To not continue to read the situation through generalizations, but to evaluate the person as an individual.
And I’m not perfect at it. I fail. I am still a racist. But admitting it does not mean I’m admitting I’m a bad person. I am who I am, and denying aspects of who I am doesn’t change any of that. Admitting and recognizing aspects of a negative nature is part of growing, and changing for the better. I’m not admitting to being a bad person, I’m admitting to wanting to be a better person. Though, at times, I do look back at things I’ve done in the past and feel like I was foolish. But that’s the thing about growth – you have a greater perspective and understanding than you did before, and so it’s unfair to judge your previous actions by the understanding you have now. That’s a trap that will lead to you circling in defeat, and not progressing.
I remember, as an early teen, repeating something I’d heard as a scary thing: that in 50 years, white people would be the minority! And I had no idea how much intrinsic racism that exposed. Even an interim understanding along the way, reflecting on that view, showed a shallow understanding. Because my first revelation on the memory was this question: so what if white people were a minority? What harm would that be. Having grown in understanding over a few years since then, I’m realizing a second layer of racism inherent in that statement. It was that evaluation was based on white versus non-white. Clumping all other minorities together into one general category. It was based in an us versus them mentality.
Oh man, how I recoiled when I first hear this phrase. I hated it. I resented it. I pushed back and fought it. I was offended. I felt robbed of my accomplishments. I felt disrespected, attacked, belittled, vilified, and oh so many other things. And that wasn’t entirely my fault. By the time I’d heard it, it had become common to use it as an insult or attack. You would often here it as “Your white privilege is showing.” Or just dismissing someone’s entire opinion by just responding with “well, that’s white privilege for you.” And so my guards went up. It was an accusation, and I had to defend myself from it. Because I was not handed anything on a silver platter. I am a self-made man, I fought for what I have, I went to school, I put in the effort, and I wasn’t born with the knowledge and experience required to do what I do.
I don’t recall how long it was before I grew to understand and appreciate what this phrase is really talking about. Because I was too defensive. I was too focused on myself and what it said about me. It made it hard to listen, and it also required someone using it in a way that wasn’t an attack. It’s not entirely my fault, but neither am I innocent of contributing to the lack of understanding. And so I pass no judgement, whatsoever, on people who react in very similar ways to how I did to this phrase. I was right there with you. I bristled, and I got angry. But at some point, I listened to the right person, and I grew in my understanding.
So I’m taking the time here to share my view of what this phrase means, for anyone to listen. Hoping that they can learn from my mistake, and my re-evaluation, and maybe gain an understanding that I was sorely missing for a while. So what is White Privilege? Let’s start by identifying what is isn’t. It’s not saying that you were given more by society because you are white. It’s not saying that you didn’t earn what you have. It’s not saying you never had to struggle, or never faced hardship. That’s what I originally interpreted “privilege” to mean. But instead, it’s very simply the privilege of not being disadvantaged by the color of your skin.
Of course, to understand this concept, you have to concede, or understand, that people of color are at a disadvantage. And that’s something that plays into, at least in my opinion, how this phrase began to be used. Because white people, white culture, has inoculated itself against the claim that people of color are discriminated against. A knee-jerk reaction had become prevalent to deny discrimination, or to say that it barely existed and only in small cases. To label it, in a way, as black people just complaining and being whiny. Another aspect of it is that… not all black people are disadvantaged in this way. And some white people face some similar disadvantages. Because a portion of the disadvantage is based on the wealth disparity between the black population and white population. They way that affects school funding, as well as general opportunities for improving their financial situation generation over generation. I don’t necessarily want to go into all the ways that people of color are disadvantaged, as that is fairly well discussed, from what I’ve said already to who gets followed through a store, to how the justice system treats and handles cases differently. However, here is a great little video that explains some of it rather simply:
But there is one more reflection on this subject that I want to express. And that’s the fact that White Privilege is not the only Privilege. But it is one of the greatest disparities. There’s also Male Privilege, Class Privilege, Neurotypical Privilege (one I’m definitely aware of, being Neuroatypical), and many more. The privilege of not being disadvantaged. A great example, albeit a silly one, that is hard to deny is Right-Handed Privilege. As a left-handed person, I can personally attest to the reality of this one, but it’s nowhere near the importance of white privilege, as far as needing to be addressed.
Rioting and Looting
I’m really not sure about including this section, cause it’s a very awkward subject. It’s hard to discuss, because… well, everyone knows that rioting and looting are bad. Nobody has to tell you that rioting and looting are a bad thing. It’s obvious. Vandalism, theft, destruction of property, all these things are bad. No question. No denial.
And then comes the “But…” part of the conversation. At least for me. Some people are more comfortable leaving it at that. And honestly, I feel like some people choose to stop the conversation there, simply because they don’t want to actually confront what is behind all this. It’s easier to just dismiss the whole, because the rioting and looting are bad, and that’s enough. Some pay lip service to this underlying causes, but come down harder on the rioting and looting than on the racism and murders of people of color. And I don’t think they see it that way. I think the perception is that nobody needs to say murder is bad, it’s obviously bad, so I don’t need to talk to that very much. But people are looting and rioting right now, and nobody is murdering, so we need to talk about the looting and rioting. That’s the impression I get, at least.
The problem I see with that perspective is that the abuse and murder of people of color by police officers is merely the tip of the iceberg that is Passive Racism. Just because nobody is being murdered right now, does not mean that the underlying conditions that lead to that are not happening right now. Just because this one officer was arrested and charged, does not change what happened to the last 30 or what will happen with the next 30 officers.
But there’s more than just that. The rioting is a result of years and years of inaction. The argument that violence doesn’t do anyone any good, and they should use peaceful protest shouts of ignorance, either willful or not. Because there has been plenty of peaceful protests. Tons of it. But you know what happens to these protests? They’re chased off, or told that they are not protesting in an acceptable way.
Black Lives Matter!?! Hell, no, All Lives Matter! Or even Blue Lives Matter! We have our knee-jerk reaction, and stick with it for a while. I even had that knee-jerk reaction to BLM. Because I didn’t take the time to understand it at first. I’m sure you’ve seen by now one of the many ways it’s been explained, but in case you haven’t… Black Lives Matter does not mean that they matter more, or that All Lives shouldn’t Matter. The point is, in fact, that Black Lives Matter Too. That we, as a society, have failed to achieve All Lives Matter, so long as Black Lives don’t Matter as much. But it was condemned, nonetheless, as being inappropriate and targeting white people and police officers. It was rude and unacceptable.
Or what about the whole kneeling controversy? A man, seeking to find a way to protest, to use his position and platform to plea for equality, chooses to kneel during the national anthem, rather than salute it or place hand on heart. Kneel, not turn his back, not flip people off, not walk off, roll eyes, or anything else inherently disrespectful. He took a knee. Something that, until people threw a fit about it, was never taken as disrespectful. But suddenly, it was offensive, because it was disrespecting the flag, veterans, the country. And I honestly believe that the entirety of the reaction to condemn this protest was driven by two things: a) someone said it first (that it was disrespectful); and b) it was a lot less uncomfortable to be incensed at the disrespect than to consider the meaning that the football player himself said it was about: the need to fight racism. Once again, a perfectly peaceful approach was deemed inappropriate.
There are so many more peaceful methods of protest that were either declared “not okay,” or just completely ignored. Peaceful protests were not working. And I’m not saying that they should have gotten violent. I’m not saying that they should riot or loot. I’m saying that this escalation… it’s understandable. Because we won’t listen to anything else! Of course, that also ignores the probability and evidence that a preponderance of rioting and looting was instigated by outside sources, and even the police themselves at times. Not all, not every instance, but many. And contributions have been made from all sides here, Left, Right, Black, White, White Supremists, Antifa, whatever. People taking advantage of the boiling over, people that are greedy, or people that want to tarnish the view of the movement. People that just want to watch the whole system burn down.
And so, I’m not condoning the rioting or looting. But I am trying to be understanding of the people that get caught up in it. Not the people who instigate it for their own reasons, separate from the cause of the protests. But I seek to understand how, in those cases where it is from within the protest that it escalates, it comes not from malicious intent, but from desperation and frustration and fury at being ignored. And it comes from fear. Fear that they might be the next. Or maybe their brother, or son, or daughter, or neighbor, or spouse, or mentor, or any other type of loved one.
But there is another aspect, even still, to this that I wasn’t aware of, or couldn’t think of. One that I heard from another, and it made so much sense. It’s, again, not an excuse. But an explanation. And it comes from a man I have grown to respect as a level-headed thoughtful person. Who just also happens to be a comedian. I wouldn’t do a decent job of explaining this aspect, so I’m simply going to link to the video of him discussing it below. This is an 18 minute video, but I hope you will take the time to watch it all. In particular, the discussion of social contracts is what was of most impact to me.
Cutting It Short?
So, I feel like so much more could be said. But I’m not sure where to go from here, and I’ve already said a lot. But I feel like there are some things that I do need to finish with. Things I want to say to hopefully ensure that I have not made you feel attacked or insulted.
First and foremost, I’m not an authority on these subjects. I’ve not done in-depth research, statistical analysis, or anything like that. These are just my feelings, my understandings, and my thoughts. I could very well be wrong about stuff, I know I have been in the past.
I do feel passionately, and sometimes I use passionate language that may come across as judgmental, but that is not my intent. I do not wish to judge anyone. Some of my thoughts and views on things are a result of previously having the conceptions that I now disagree with. I have no room or right to judge.
At times, I have suggested that people might hold certain views because it’s uncomfortable to even consider the alternate view possible. Please don’t read this as an accusation, or that I’m suggesting an intent. This may be a conscious choice, or more likely a subconscious one. But again, this interpretation comes from reflecting on why I used to think things, or resisted understanding or accepting things.
For now, I’m going to leave comments enabled on this post. I ask that if you choose to comment, you do so respectfully. I ask that you do not throw insults or accusations. Do your best to not assume intent or additional words of others. And seek to understand as much as be understood. Thank you.