I have some experience with racism, including growing up in Queens, NY, during some racially volatile times. I experienced racism firsthand—and was at the short end of black hate against whites (see my bio for some background). I lived through “white flight” and forced integration (“busing”) during my junior high and high school years. Importing a couple hundred students from a white neighborhood to a predominantly black neighborhood was not only a failed experiment but it made me painfully aware that there was a divide between those who are white and those who are black. In elementary school, my best friend was black—and I never thought twice about it. Why would I? We spent a lot of time together during lunch and after school. He was a great guy, a funny and longtime classmate. Why should I see him as anything other than that? Black? White? Yellow? The color of his skin did not matter.
It seems that many humans see anyone different from them as a threat. I’ve never understood why, but my best explanation is that it’s baked into our genome—“human nature.” We see it all over the world, in countries near and far. Despite the term racism, it’s a misnomer. We’re all the same race with very little genetic variation. We may look different from one another, but so what? One color is no better than another. No culture is superior to another. To think that one is better…well…we saw what happens when that belief is taken to heart. Nazi Germany. They believed theirs was the master race.
My observation is that America does have a racism problem. It’s insidious and embedded in our culture. Does that equate to “systemic racism”? I don’t want to get caught up in nomenclature. While I’ve always been aware of individual incidents of racism, I did not realize how much it permeates so many aspects of our society. It’s horribly unfortunate and needs to be corrected. America should be a shining beacon of democracy and freedom for all…not just for some.
I believe it’s healthier for us to acknowledge it and look for solutions to purge it from our country to the extent possible. It will help us as a society and will go a long way towards fulfilling the vision our forefathers had of one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.