I am not unaware of the existence of racism in America. Yet it is difficult to comprehend that any rational person of average intelligence would believe that a person’s skin color differentiates him/her in any way other than by the amount and distribution of melanin pigment in the epidermis.
But the unremitting recent events refute my skepticism and leave me gagging with revulsion. After two thousand and eighteen years of an evolving society of civilized human beings, we continue to stereotype people of different racial backgrounds as “less than.”
Earlier this month Kentucky governor Matt Bevin expressed his surprise that black school children attending a middle school in Louisville, had the ability to play chess. Speaking ahead of his visit to the Chess Club at Nativity Academy at St. Boniface, the Republican governor said chess was not something you’d think of “when you think of this section of town.”
A black woman said a CVS store manager in Chicago called the police after questioning the legitimacy of her coupon and posted the confrontation on social media.
The Muslim head of a children's summer program in Delaware was kicked out of public swimming pool because some of the kids were wearing cotton shirts and traditional headscarves.
Where and how was this nonsense learned? Are we seniors the generation that passed on the fear and fantasy?
At practice for my high school football team I saw a team mate nearly pass out with apoplexy when the coach told him to put on a helmet worn by a black teammate. “Negros’ hair is full of lice,” he lamented, “everybody knows that.”
It wasn’t until the 1957 movie “Island in the Sun,” when Dorothy Dandridge and John Justin lit up the screen with filmdom’s first interracial kiss. (Harry Belafonte and Joan Fontaine were the other romantic couple in the movie, but Hollywood would not go so far as to have an African American man smack lips with a white woman).
I have a story of my own that took place only months ago, and it’s not apocryphal, it happened at a workshop a colleague and I were doing on the south side. A sixty-plus Black man bravely shared an event in his life. Touched by his willingly vulnerable recitation I hugged him instinctively. He turned to me and said, “You are the first White man who has ever touched me.”
So to the headline of this screed: my proposal for a Mandatory Day of Hugging. One day set aside to put your white face next to a brown or black cheek and see what happens… which will be pretty much nothing other than an exchange of good feelings and mutual regard for the sheer joy of having emotions and sharing being alive together on this earth.
Or how about an International Baby Parade on the same day all over the world, a million pictures of the event posted in chorus on Instagram and Facebook with captions: “Oh my god, how adorable!” “Look at those toddlers, so cute, so innocent, so loving.”
And innocent of the venomous injections of small mind and intolerance not yet inculcated into their unsullied minds.
When do the labels become attached? When do the cute little darlings from different racial backgrounds become stereotyped as “lazy,” “dull witted” and “innately aggressive?”
I don’t know the answer but I do know how stereotypes can be exposed for the lies they tell. Get to know people from different racial backgrounds and find out how much you have in common.
No race is superior to the other. There are no biological differences between people.
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