Racism, what does that mean when you say it? – Marc MacYoung

This is response to an older black friend who snarled that racism is alive and well in the US. Here’s my response.


I actually agree with you, racism, bigotry and hatred still permeate American society.

Thing about it is, growing up in an ethnically mixed area where:

A) people tended to self-segregate into ethnic enclaves

B) I attended a high school where everyone was a racial minority

C) we had outright race riots, not just racial tensions

D) I have first-hand experience of not just being held in contempt and insulted, but being physically assaulted because of my race…

gave me a slightly different opinion regarding racism.

In fact, I have to admit to holding an old school definition of racism. Specifically “hating someone and feeling superior¬† because of ethnicity, color or religious creed.” I do so because that is a game anybody can play, regardless of their own race, socioeconomic level or religion. It also gels with neurological and psychological studies that point to exactly how tribal we humans are and how we ALL react somewhat negatively to someone who is not like us. That is until we get to know that person and accept him or her into our personal ‘tribe.’

Hell, I still have to admit that I routinely run into old-school racism on the streets of Denver because I refuse to let go of certain habits. Habits that take me out of white bread Castle Rock and go into areas where certain ethnicities are both prominent and consider it their ‘territory.’ I am constantly besieged with, “What are you doing here (insert local term for white boy)?” looks. I’ve sat with my friends from many races and heard them spit their dislike for other races and those who are different from them. Hell, I’ve even had them talk shit about white people, then turn to me and say, “But you aren’t like that.”

And I’ve sat and listened to both public speakers and individuals talk about the wrongs committed on that person’s race, group or nation and why it is justified to do the same right back. I’ve heard mythologies people taught to their children about the wrongs done to ‘their people’ and why it is acceptable — but not racist — to hate, mistrust and despise these ‘others,’ who did their people wrong. The funny thing about this is is that most of this isn’t against people who are wildly different. It’s against people who really aren’t that different at all.

See that’s what happens to your understanding of racism when you have Korean, Chinese, American Black, Cuban, Ethiopian, Jewish, Middle Eastern, Hindu, Mexican, Guatemalan, Brazilian and Indian friends — as well as ‘White’ friends.

You discover that racism isn’t just something whites alone do. Although to tell you the truth, I’ve gotten an earful about the Germans from French, Poles, Russians and Dutch along with hearing about the English from Scots and Irish friends. Then there’s those damned Catalonians. Them folks all look white to me, but boy are those divisions important to them. And locally, let me tell you about hearing my in-laws go on about Texans and Californians ….

I’ve noticed entrenched racial hatreds tend to be strongest against the people real close to home. That’s why the Greeks and Turks get along so well, as do the Koreans and Chinese. And of course the Japanese are so well loved throughout Asia. Wait, come to think of it, the Chinese are popular, too. And how about those whacky Palestinians? Isn’t it great how the whole Middle East has opened their arms to take them in?

What do you know? Holding someone else in contempt because of their race, nationality, skin color or religion ISN’T just an American phenomenon. It’s also not a game only white folks can play.

Coming to the new world and finding yourself in a mixed racial city, you can always add a couple more. Add these other races onto your list of old favorites. Like the Blacks and the Koreans have a history of hating each other that spans thousands of years. Oh wait, that’s mostly in Los Angeles and over the last 40 years.

So you’re right, there’s STILL a lot of racism going on in this country, but like I said, I’m pretty old school in my definition.

I certainly know that my definition of that word isn’t the same as Al Sharpton’s or Jesse Jackson’s. ‘Cause where I’m from, racism is a game anyone can play — all you have to do is hate someone different than you.

So what exactly do you mean when you use that word?

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