Friday, July 8, 2016

It Was Supposed to be Better by Now - another word

When I started writing this series of posts, it was sparked by a conversation between friends on Facebook.  I never expected, while I was writing through my thoughts, that we would be see the tragic violence and loss of lives the last few days.  My heart is aching.

Make no mistake, I believe in nonviolence.  Even while I admit the our world is filled with violence, my heart's cry is that someday, somehow, we can grow up and learn better ways to deal with each other.  Growing up means that we are willing to recognise that we still have things to learn.  I have things to learn, I absolutely admit that.  It wasn't that long ago the I really disagreed with the way the word racism was being redefined.

Language changes, though.  We add words, we drop and shorten words, and we change how we use words.  You can chose to insist on your definition and continue to have conversations that are filled with misunderstandings, or you can chose to learn the new usages and have conversations that just might make advances towards healing, justice, and peace.  I can only give you the information, you chose your own adventure on this one.

The simplest definition of racism, the one I grew up with, is that it is the belief that your race is superior to another race. It was often used synonymously with prejudice.  Now, that definition still does not make it a positive word, but it leaves open the concept of reverse racism.

But the newer usage and definition of racism add this; it only applies to a dominant culture.  In the United States, white is still the dominant culture.  A white person can be a racist.  A minority person may be prejudiced, they may be bigoted, they may act out their forced role of the oppressed in angry and hurtful ways.  But the response of a minority culture to the oppression of the dominant culture is not defined as reverse racism.

Now, you may not think that whites are still the dominant culture.  I get that. Balances have been shifting, and that is uncomfortable sometimes.  But one thing that really is certain in life is change.  You can embrace it or fight it, but it is still going to happen.

Still not convinced we are the dominant culture?  Look at the entertainment you enjoy.  Think about the characters in the movies and TV shows you watch.  Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys?  Yes it is changing somewhat, becoming slightly more balanced, but whites still dominate the power roles. Whites also dominate in big business and politics.

I know, stereotypes exist for a reason.  So let's think for a minute about one of those stereotypes; the black gang.  Hardcore violent, drug dealing, pimping, blinged out.  You know it well.  Now, I'm not going to say that gangs don't exist, but are they really as dominant and taking over as the media portrays?

More important to our conversation, why do any gangs exist.  Well, for a start, gangs have always existed.  Groups of people have always formed alliances to protect their tribe, village, or other symbol of safety.  There were such alliances in medieval Europe.  We know about those other, overused media stereotype gangs; the mafia and chinese tongs.  Sometimes gangs are called Board of Directors, Membership Committees, or militia.  Gangs protect what is ours to make sure it stays ours.  Sometimes we do that by illegal means, sometimes by legal, more often someplace in between.

And as an aside, one more word about movie and TV stereotypes.  I'm sick to death of the "sassy Mexican Maid" and the "perky red-head computer geek girl." I'm tired of the predictable sitcom redo of  "A Christmas Carol" or the "lets have a fake family crisis" where we review every episode so far.  I'm sorry all you writers, producers and directors, I think you are being lazy.  How about trying to be original.

And so when Jesse Williams stood up and talked about some of the very real racism in this country at an awards show, he was speaking about the organization he was being honored for. He spoke about an organization working to advance civil rights. He specifically spoke against violence and for education within the black community.

And now there are people trying to get him fired from his job.  He is and actor on Grey's Anatomy, one of those rare shows that breaks stereotypes and portrays all kinds of people of all kinds of backgrounds, races and orientations, being intelligent and dumb and messing up and making amends and being human.  All being very human.

I could try to make this fit together, but I'm still raw today.  Humans are out there, arguing and nitpicking and effing shooting each other, and we can't even agree on language.  If our assumptions are challenged,  we cant even try to listen and understand before we begin to reject and argue.

We were supposed to be better by now.

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