What most people think when they hear the term racism is someone saying “I hate you for your skin color” or “I’m inherently better than you based on the race I was born into.” Charlottesville showed us that that attitude does exist in America, but as many (correctly) pointed out, the percentage of people who truly think and talk that way is very small.
So, they insist that the racial problem in America is overblown. They post things like the following on Twitter and Facebook – an image that has been shared thousands of times
That’s great, it makes a perfectly fine point, but it completely misunderstands the issue. It’s an oversimplification. Those types of posts are held up by many, many people as if to say, “SEE, racism isn’t a widespread issue.”
Ask minorities if they agree. Ask them if they think those pictures signal an end to racism. You’ll often get a different answer. When minorities in America talk about racism, they use a much broader definition, one that means the kind of racial division that leads people to openly hate others but also includes a deeper, less directly obvious racial injustice.
I wasn’t sure how to explain this deeper racism until a Utah police officer recently provided the perfect example of what the REAL problem with racism is in this country.
What the video depicts is a police officer who grew frustrated with a nurse for enforcing hospital policy to the point that he literally dragged her out of the hospital and illegally arrested her. After watching this, I had a hunch what the response would be if the racial problem exists as I think it does, and a scan of people’s comments on various news sites confirmed exactly what I expected to see: the majority of people were calling for the officer to be disciplined.
They responded with comments like “I back police officers as much as anybody, but this guy needs to lose his badge,” and “There aren’t many bad cops, but this is one of them.” And they’re absolutely right.
You probably see where I’m going with this, but let’s talk about where race comes into this discussion. You and I know for a fact that every time a black person is shot by a police officer, regardless of the circumstances, and without variation, those exact same comment boards are filled with the exact same people insisting that if the person just obeyed the officer it wouldn’t have happened and that if the officer felt the use of force to be necessary than it must have been and that the person probably deserved it. Not only do they immediately decide the police officer was in the right, they start finding reasons to justify the killing. “Well, the suspect had been busted for marijuana possession 3 years before.” So he deserved to die? “Footage shows that he ran from the police.” So fleeing is now a crime worthy of the death penalty?
The policeman in Utah was clearly in the wrong, but so was the policeman in Cleveland who pulled into a park, jumped out, and shot 12 year old Tamir Rice, who was carrying a toy gun… and then neglected to give Rice medical attention… and then lied about the shooting in his statement.
If you find yourself drawn to criticize the police officer for mishandling the situation with the nurse but have never once seen a police shooting video and felt compelled to question the officer, ask yourself – why do I do that?
Minorities want to know the same thing. For them, the only answer they can think of is racism. Not an active hatred of a person, not the kind of racism that would keep you from helping someone of another race, but a mistrust for other races, denying them the benefit of the doubt and ultimately treating them with a warped sense of justice. Racism isn’t hatred – it’s unfairness. It’s treating somebody differently than you would treat a person of a different race. You can say “I’m not racist” because you don’t hate people of other races, but you can still be guilty of racism if you don’t afford them the same trust and rights (such as innocent until proven guilty) as you do people of your own race.
But most people don’t take the time to listen to the nuances of the discussion. Most want the comfortable, easily-packaged answer to racism they see in the Facebook post above. Do you care enough about your fellow man to ask the hard questions about deeper, underlying racism, or will you be content with the superficial, easy to digest answer? Your choice will go a long way toward either fixing the problem or furthering it.