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Culture, Government, Life

Race and Racism

Ok, so here’s another post that is based on a twitter conversation I got into. Before I start I just want to say how frustrated I am with twitter. It’s on the one hand a great place to have a free exchange of ideas with people you would never meet otherwise. However the limits on amount you can say is exactly the opposite of what you’d want in that situation. It lends to bumper sticker slogans, mischaracterizations, and polarization. You actually really have to want to have genuine dialog and even then it’s difficult.

So this particular discussion was about race. In general when I get involved with anyone who has a different perspective than me on twitter the person I’m interacting with quickly breaks down into name calling and condescension (which in general I return, character flaw, I know, I’m working on it). This discussion was no different as a person who wasn’t even involved in the conversation took it upon himself to throw snark bombs (that’s what I’m going to call them).   I don’t know this person or his experiences so I’ll refrain from maligning his character, however he doesn’t know me either yet that didn’t stop him from maligning mine. Oh well.

A couple other people were far more interested in actual discussion so this post is primarily for them. Or more accurately it is my attempt to let them know where I’m coming from. I just didn’t feel like I could get my position/perspective out in a cohesive form on twitter.

First let me explain my views of race in general. It’s fake. Now let me flesh that out a bit. Race is a human invention. From a strictly scientific point of view there is no more genetic difference between a person who is English by heritage and a person who is, say Sudanese by heritage than that same English person and a person of French heritage. A couple points that I think back up this assertion. There is a story bouncing around the internet right now about two British twin girls. Same mother, same father, one has pale skin and red hair, the other has dark skin and black curly hair. To look at them they don’t look like sisters but they are. Secondly, and this was pointed out to me by a “bi-racial” friend, what race are the children of mixed race families? The answer is both, and neither and that’s because the boundaries are subjective in nature. This is not to say that the fake distinction doesn’t have real consequences. For example, I am not Buddhist. To me it is fake (no offense meant to anyone). That doesn’t mean those fake beliefs don’t have real world consequences. People make bad decisions based on bad ideas all the time.

So that’s what I think about race in general.

Now racism.

Does racism exist still? Of course it does. Do I think there are current enforced laws that are inherently racist? Not really. I was presented with “stop and frisk” as an example of a racist law. To explain why I don’t think it is, I’ll use a different example that is often called racist, requiring ID to vote. The main reason I’ve heard it’s racist is because it’s a hardship for people to get an ID. Personally I think that’s a red herring. Virtually every household in the US has a TV (96.7%) and most of those aren’t just over the air TV (only 7 percent rely on over the air). That means they are spending between $10 to as much as $200 for TV per month. A $10 every 4 years ID is not the financial burden it is made out to be. Secondly if you really can’t afford it, I’d support IDs for free for those who can’t. Even so, it wouldn’t make the law racist as much as classist. Could it be implemented in a racist fashion? Yes. If poll workers only asked minority voters to show IDs then yes that would be a racist implementation.

I was presented with statistics that said that stop and frisk was used predominately on black and Hispanic individuals as evidence that it was racist. But is that true. Let’s pretend that my city implemented stop and frisk. Let’s also pretend there was a surge in white, 40 something, bald guys robbing people at gun point. Would it be racist for a cop to stop me? No because I match the general description of the people committing the crimes in my community. That’s not the cops fault. It might be aggravating (especially if I was stopped a lot) and it may seem unfair (I haven’t mugged anyone) but in reality it’s the fault of the people who commit crimes. If people didn’t fear crime stop and frisk wouldn’t be necessary. So if 70-75% of the violent crime in NYC is committed by African Americans (as was stated by the police commissioner) then you would expect the majority of the people to be affected by stop and frisk to be of that ethnic heritage (I’m not saying that his statistic is true, but if that’s the statistic the police have that is the one they would act on).

It is a very complicated issue. I know racism still exists, a friend of mine was denied a place to live because of her race. It’s easy to act like if all black people stopped committing crimes racism will go away (I’ve heard people say similar things) but it’s also easy to say that black people have no choice. Neither are true. There are a few things I do know though. First I don’t want my nieces and nephews to grow up having to worry about being treated differently because they are black (I have 4 nieces and nephews and they are all black). On the other hand, I don’t want my kids to have to grow up feeling like they are somehow to blame for the sins of other people (past and present). I also know that if you want people to see you as the same (which I think is the goal right?) regardless of how much or how little melanin you have in your skin, you have to see them that way too.

PS. You’re right, I don’t know what it’s like to be you. Nor do you know what it’s like to be me. Life is hard and we all have our challenges (how many people reading this have a condition that will kill them in days if they don’t treat it daily?) but we need to see everyone as equals as God sees us (sometimes difficult I agree).




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