A little while ago, I posted a quicky on the subject of veal and the eating thereof, beginning with “Ooh, touchy subject!”  Well, that ain’t nothin’.  What I’d like to talk about now is racism, and I can’t think of a subject more touchy than that.

Honestly, I think that racism is perfectly natural.  We, as human beings, tend to be attracted to people who resemble us and suspicious of people we don’t recognize.  I’m absolutely not saying that it’s good or pretty or nice, but I do think that it’s natural and shouldn’t be a big surprise–kind of like cancer or tuberculosis.  Ugly as hell, but natural.  And, like cancer or tuberculosis, it should be met and defeated at any cost.

I ain’t gonna lie to you–sometimes, when I see a black guy or a Mexican, I think “Uh-oh, here comes trouble.  Please don’t beat me up.”

I know, I know–it’s ignorant.  I’ve never once been beaten up by a black guy or a Mexican, but somehow I can’t help thinking that way.  I’m not a black guy or a Mexican; I’m a white boy.  When I see somebody who doesn’t resemble me, my brain automatically jumps to stereotypes.  It’s stupid and unreasonable, but I can’t help it.  I wish I could, but I can’t.

If I learned anything growing up, it was tolerance.  It wasn’t ever part of a lecture at my house, or getting yelled at; it was implicit from the day I was born.  My very own dad, for heaven’s sake–a central Texas white boy with hillbilly roots–moved on to become the president of the International Students Association at the University of North Carolina, and some of my happiest memories from boyhood involve mingling with people from Mexico, Portugal, Brazil, Holland, Germany, Spain, Thailand, Hong Kong, Pakistan, India.  Growing up, our house was like a regular meeting at the UN, and I’m glad that it was.

I have pictures of my dad, fresh out of the Navy, getting cozy with an Asian gal named Peggy Moon, cruising in his Buick with some Panamanian babe, laughing it up with Turkish girl.

But the older I get, the more I tend to see things in black and white, so to speak.  My brain’s too old and tired to appreciate complexities, and it right away oversimplifies everything.  You look like me?  Good.  You don’t?  Questionable.

I think it’s worth a little time and effort to draw a line between organic racism and taught racism.  Some people, I’m sorry to say, are taught from the cradle that those who don’t look like us are automatically evil.  I wasn’t raised that way; very much the contrary.  If anything, I was taught–by example–that diversity is a good thing, something to learn from and appreciate.  But I honestly can’t help thinking “Black guy alert!” and “What’s that Mexican going to do next?”

The worst part of all this nonsense is that I sound like the people I hate the most:  people who say “I’m not a racist, but . . .” which is immediately followed by a racist comment.

I often wonder what black guys and Mexicans think when they see me–“Oh, God.  Here comes another racist white guy, stereotyping me”–which is kind of a racist thought in itself (not that I know that they’re thinking that way).

If anything, I think that I overcompensate.  If I bump into a guy from Sri Lanka, I’ll try extra-hard to conjure up what little Sinhalese I know (pretty much limited to “thank you” and “fart”), just for the sake of not looking racist, for the idea that he might walk away thinking “Hey, not all white guys are jack-asses.  I’ll be darned.”

I’ve learned that some people from Sri Lanka are misguided ass-wipes, but so are some people from Nebraska.  Some people from Senegal are beautiful sweethearts, just like some people from Finland.  Scratch a color, find a human.

The struggle to defeat oversimplifying things, reducing everything to either/or, is something that drives me nuts every day, but it’s absolutely something that has to be done.

I guess that all this claptrap applies equally to sexism too.  It’s easy to think “Hey, look at that blonde.  I’ll bet she’s a bimbo.  A knock-out, and therefore a bimbo.”  But in reality, when I stop and think about it, some of the smartest people I’ve ever met have been blonde women.

It’s kind of all too much to think about.

It’s weird, to me, that we have a knack for thinking that evolution is a process that’s already over; it isn’t.  We aren’t the ultimate goal of human achievement–evolution is still happening.  We are–to an unimaginably slight degree–more evolved than our grandparents (evolution takes forever).  I just hope that we all some day arrive at the point that we realize that we’re all the same, and that we outgrow this racism nonsense.

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