Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Racial Intolerance – Black and White or Fifty Shades of Gray?

A friend and I were discussing the 2016 Oscars and he wanted to know what I thought about the constant references made about the fact that no blacks were nominated for any awards. A cloud of reminders had hovered over the entire event, and while I realized Chris Rock brought even more attention to the fact that no blacks were nominated, I wondered why the discussion was still so rampant. Why we are still discussing something that should have been resolved a long time ago?

Why, of all the races and colors in the world, do blacks appear to be the ones still struggling the most? After all these years, after all the strides we think we have made, after all the contributions Martin Luther King, Jr. and others have made to elevate the black population to a level where whites would accept them, blacks still seem to have difficulty assimilating. And yet, they have many amazing role models, from Oprah Winfrey to Maya Angelou to President Barack Obama to Kanye West – OOPS!

In all seriousness, I can’t figure out why blacks are the ones who most often appear to be ostracized – well, over the years, anyway, because, move over, Blacks, make room for Muslims and Syrians today. Yes, Americans are now targeting Muslims and Syrians. Oh, and Mexicans. We don’t want them in our country either! 

The first five years of my life, I lived in an ethnically diverse neighborhood. From our apartment in the Hyde Park neighborhood on Chicago’s south side, we spent nearly every day walking through a neighborhood filled with so much diversity, Hyde Park looked like a mini-version of the world. I saw differences from the day I was born, but I was oblivious to the torment whites inflicted on people of color, because I never saw it back then.

Over the years other ethnic groups have been similarly ostracized – the Jews, the Japanese, the Irish, the Polish – but the Jews, the Japanese, the Irish, and the Polish worked hard to achieve assimilation and to erase from the minds of the American people the negative stereotypes white people carried about them. Without forming organizations that ostracized everyone else, without standing on platforms voicing their complaints, they assimilated without notice. Though blacks weren’t the only ones who had been enslaved, we heard mostly about how whites enslaved blacks. I don’t remember other ethnic groups voicing their complaints as loudly.

So what’s going on? Does integrity or work ethics play a role? Is the white mind flawed in some way, so that deeply embedded within each of us is a KKK gene? I certainly hope not. And why were blacks delegated to represent the bottom of the gene pool, while Asians were placed on the highest platform of respect?

Maybe a lot of what is happening in America has to do with the mindset of the American people – or Karma. When we bullied this country away from the Native Americans, we sent them off to live on reservations. Why did the Native Americans accept their “lot” in life? Were they duped into believing that these future land stealers, I mean landowners, had the Native Americans’ best interests in mind, or were the Native Americans attracted to these pioneers’ introduction of greed and politics?

Of all the people in the United States, I would have thought the Native Americans would have rightfully considered an uprising, but if they did, I never read about it and if they thought about it, none of us heard about it, and they never followed through with one. Were any Native American actors chosen as contenders for an Academy Award?  What about Japanese actors? Were any Polish actors nominated? I don’t know. I never heard any complaints other than those from the black community.

One problem from which many of us suffer is that we tend to think of whites as opposite of blacks. So whites assume the superior role, while we shove blacks to the bottom – again. We call blacks African Americans as if all of them are from Africa and all whites are considered to be just Americans as if we all come from the United States. But even our President isn’t all black! Like our president, not all blacks are all black, and yet, if even only 6.25% of a person is black, we call him or her black. And most of us whites are not Native Americans! As a matter of fact, if we were to return to our country of origin, we might find that move to be impossible. After all, how does one move back to several countries of origin? 

I sometimes wonder if blacks are responsible for perpetuating the black/white controversy by constantly reminding us of every negative thing that has happened – and continues to happen – to them over the years. Or is the white community responsible for proliferating the stereotype? Media contributes to the picture of blacks being disemboweled by whites and some law enforcement groups jump on the hate bandwagon by targeting blacks as well. Why not? They’re easy to spot, aren’t they? But aren’t Asians too? Why did our hatred of the Japanese end so swiftly?

Another obvious problem is that many whites teach their children to be racist. Kids learn from their parents, their caregivers, their teachers, the media, and their neighbors that blacks are supposed to be ostracized. But white children don’t automatically hate black children, just as black children don’t automatically hate white children, though black children learn how to be racist too. Kids learn hatred. They aren’t born hating. And when little white children identify black children as targets of hatred, they tend to notice that black skin is easier to spot in a country filled with lighter skin. We teach our children what to see and hear. 

How easily we become deceived into believing everything we hear and everything we think we see. I remember watching The Oprah Winfrey Show many years ago when Jane Elliott appeared on her show. Elliott ran a social experiment by separating blue-eyed individuals from brown-eyed individuals. From the moment audience members entered the studio, both groups were separated from each other. The brown-eyed members of the audience were treated with utmost respect while blue-eyed members were treated poorly. 

Jane discussed why brown-eyed people were superior in nature to blue-eyed people and she supplied “irrefutable proof” to back up her claims. Of course, none of what she said was true, but audience members fell for it and even provided their own proof to back her up. 

Are we all so vulnerable we choose to believe lies? And are we all so eager to put ourselves in superior positions when we consider others to be more vulnerable than we are? Why do we automatically assume that what we hear and see is true, especially when the person delivering the message appears to have some authority? I would have thought that Oprah’s program might have impacted people to behave differently. Maybe it impacted only those people who watched it. 

From that program, I learned that most of us prefer to have others think for us rather than take the effort to think for ourselves.Why are we always so much more comfortable playing the role of a follower than we are of being a leader? Look at Hitler and his followers! How many people stood up to him and his idiocy? How many people still follow him? No one race is any better or any worse than any other race. We have got to stop looking at each other as enemies!

Recently I saw a video of two little black girls, who were probably around 5 or 6, encouraged by a 12-year-old black boy to hurt a little 3-year-old white girl while he taped the bully session (the incident took place a couple years ago in St. Paul, Minnesota, and is heartbreaking to watch, but you can see it HERE if you want to watch it). 

Though the 12-year-old who uploaded the video to the Internet, called it, “When white people piss black people off part 1,” both fathers of the 12-year-old and the 3-year old – claimed the situation was not racially motivated. All bullies involved were disciplined, and the bullies' dad apologized to the victim's dad. But if this event was not racially motivated, why then did the videographer give it a racial title? Perhaps, because he was only 12, he hoped it would become viral and he would gain some kind of fame.

Have race relations improved over the past hundred years? If you watched the Academy Awards you would think not. So let’s take one city, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and see if race relations have improved there. Yes, race riots run rampant in other cities as well, but in this particular city, we saw a race massacre occur on May 31-June 1 in 1921. 91 years later, on April 6, 2012 (Good Friday), in Tulsa, Oklahoma, we saw a race riot. What we often see is whites antagonize while blacks retaliate. 

Did race relations improve when President Barack Obama moved into the White House? Obviously not. Blacks and many whites hoped it would, but because of the masked hatred so many whites have for blacks, Obama’s presidency only fueled the fire that already burned beneath way too many whites. We are a country filled with bullies who want to uplift ourselves while stomping on those we consider to be beneath us!

My personal belief is that nobody is born a bully, but once you become a bully, your sense of who you are becomes warped. You enjoy the high you get from and the power you feel by inflicting pain on somebody more vulnerable than you are. You don’t recognize what you have become, but what you have become is a coward! When we encourage our children to bully other children who are more vulnerable than they are, we are teaching our children how to be cowards!

And yes, I believe a lot of white people are cowards! Why do we act so afraid of blacks? Why do so many of us target them with our hatred? And why don’t we stand up for our own personal beliefs? Why do we cripple ourselves with learned hatred?

I wonder what would happen if we took parents or caregivers out of the equation and gave children an opportunity to learn about each other through play (not in a Frederick II, Emperor of Germany, type of experiment when the emperor desired to discover the language babies would speak if they were left alone {they all died}, but in a joyful social setting)? Might we discover that children of all ethnic backgrounds actually get along

Look at any playground and you’ll see kids of all colors playing together without prejudice. Parents, caregivers, and teachers are responsible for teaching children how to hate – and how to love. Why not teach them how to love – themselves and each other?

We all want to see an end to bullying, but we don’t look at ourselves as being one of those bullies, and many of us are! If we intentionally teach our children how to hate people who are not like us, we bully our children! We are teaching our children how to hate! Do we really want our kids to grow up in a country filled with hatred? Is hatred the legacy we want to leave behind for them?

On the other end of the spectrum we see people being bullied, and we consistently emphasize prejudice and hatred, whether we speak those words aloud or act insidiously prejudiced against people – again – not like us. If everybody was like us, we’d be clones of each other!

Can we improve race relations in our country or for the Academy next year? Is the answer to the problem of inclusion in the Oscars that black parents who want their kids to become black actors and win awards to educate black students to write black screenplays, hire black actors, and join the Academy of Arts and Sciences? Or am I suggesting they just shut up about what is happening to them and stop emphasizing racial hatred?  

When Mike Wallace interviewed Morgan Freeman during a 2005, 60 Minutes television show, Wallace asked Freeman: “How are we going to get rid of racism until ...?” Morgan Freeman interrupted, “Stop talking about it. I'm going to stop calling you a white man. And I'm going to ask you to stop calling me a black man. I know you as Mike Wallace. You know me as Morgan Freeman. You're not going to say, ‘I know this white guy named Mike Wallace.’ Hear what I'm saying?”  

So maybe we just need to stop talking about it. Maybe that’s the answer. Partly! Maybe we need to bring attention to the absurdity of racial prejudice in ways other than chronicling all the bad things people of different races do to each other, and instead of focusing on negativity, bring more attention to the attributes of our various races. Force media to pay attention to outstanding accomplishments made by all races and all people of different ethnicities. 

Years ago, sick of all the negative reporting, I told my mother that I would really rather watch more uplifting news. Maybe spend a few minutes televising the negativity in our communities and in our world, and then take the rest of the half hour or hour showing positive actions taken by members of our communities and our world. She told me that nobody would watch it. 

Maybe she was right. We stop our cars to watch a traffic accident, and our own engines get revved when we view atrocities on TV that put us in the mood to fight people we perceive as our enemies. And usually, with the exception of the recent explosion of hatred for Muslims, those people are white if we’re black and black if we’re white.

Why not take that fight-urge we feel for situations that matter to us and become action-oriented individuals who work to improve our country and our communities, using our talents, our skills, and our intellect? What are we mirroring to our children? Instead of allowing media to force our children to watch the incessant belittling of black people, why don’t we show kids the strength, the resiliency, the fortitude, and the creativity of black people instead?

Way too many of us allow media to manipulate our minds for way too many reasons: because a lot of us don’t know how to reason; because a lot of us complacently play the roles of followers; and because a lot of us don’t use common sense. We rely on media to provide us with a semblance of truth, fabricated from pieces of truth, interwoven into lies so delicately that unless we care enough to know the absolute truth, we think that what we see actually happened. 

We allow and accept this manipulation, because we don’t want to take time to learn the truth. We believe that everything we see on TV or read online is true without validating the source!

We watch videos conveniently snipped together to give the illusion that what we see is true, because some bullies on the other side of the editing program want us to believe the lies we read and watch, or they were told by their bosses that the footage needed to be manipulated so their version would be considered reliable and would become viral! It never occurs to us that the reason we are fed lies is to improve ratings so we can feed greedy station managers.

We take as fact the lies we see and hear and then we vomit them across social media so that everyone can become infected with those same lies. We ceaselessly accept lie after lie after lie after lie. Those lies build walls of hatred between “us” and “them” and we protect those walls at all costs, because we fear that if we let our guard down, we will be annihilated. We have a let’s-get-them-before-they-get-us mentality, and it’s ripping apart the fabric of our United States.


Wouldn’t it be nice to awaken tomorrow and know peace, no matter in which neighborhood you reside? Let’s stop focusing on hatred, prejudice, stereotypes, and statistics. Do we really want the Academy Awards to reflect national statistics? 

If 6% of American residents are of Italian descent, 3% of French descent, 2% of Norwegian descent, 7% of Mexican descent, 11% of Irish descent, and 15% of German descent, is the Academy responsible for insuring that they match statistical percentages to contenders for potential Academy Awards? 

How ridiculous! Awards should be given based on talent, not on color or ethnicity. If you create a movie that appeals to a wide audience and the acting and directing are superb, you deserve an award, but you don’t deserve an award only because statistically you belong to a small representation of your nationality.

However, if you truly want a voice in determining the outcome of the Academy Awards, become a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Better yet, ask to be invited to join by somebody on the Board of Governors. Of course you’ll have to request admission from a current member to be considered for admission, and it would help if you already won an Academy Award, but if the goal of writing, producing, or acting in a movie is to win an award, learn how to win awards. 

Will winning an award mean you will now be respected as a producer, writer, actor, videographer, or whatever? Leonardo DiCaprio was already respected as an actor and now he has finally won an award. Did he need to win an award to get more roles? Will people treat him better now that he has won?

Maybe the best way to teach others how to treat all of us is to stop living down to whatever our particular stereotype dictates. If we are obese, for instance, let’s not sit in front of everyone in fast-food restaurants devouring several large hamburgers, tons of French fries, and 2 liters of pop. We all know that obesity and heart problems go hand in hand. Why put ourselves in a position to be ridiculed? 

If we are white, let’s own up to the fact that we were bullies when we first confiscated this country from its original inhabitants and felt that we had the right to use people as slaves. We are not the ones who have the right to give permission to others who want to live in this country, a country that was STOLEN BY THIEVES! And now we think we can dictate who will live here? Give that right to the Native Americans. Let them choose who they want to live in this country. 

And let us all remember, that unless our ancestors were Native Americans, our ancestors were all immigrants! A lot of immigrants today are hard-working individuals who just want a better life for themselves and their families. Like Muslims, they are not all terrorists! (Related Reading: Immigration Rant – America’s Dirty Secrets

If you don’t want to be seen as a thug, stop wearing your pants below your butts. Don’t allow negative media to convince you that you need to follow the stereotypical negative image media want all of us to believe about you no matter to what race you belong. 

Above all, whether you’re black, white, Muslim, Syrian, or belong to any ethnic group Americans have decided is not worthy of living in our country, always speak in a manner that shows, not only who you truly are, but also who you truly want to be. We need to expect more from ourselves and then exceed our own expectations. We need to respect each other, and we need to embrace our differences. 

Instead of complaining about the way things are, let’s change the way things are. If we don’t know how to change things, let’s learn how to change things. Let’s get involved in whatever matters to us so that we can make changes we want to see. Also let’s live by example! Let us prove to people who berate and humiliate us that we are NOT who or what others think we are. Let’s bring more attention to the positive aspects of race relations and inspire the spirit of cooperation. Let’s encourage children of different backgrounds to work together. 

Kids are having a hard enough time learning how to cooperate with each other considering the current atmosphere of extreme divisiveness in politics, but we owe it to them to provide at least a little hope, to believe that the way we present the world to them is not the way it always has to be.

We cannot change the past or the way people think about the past, but we can change the present and, through the present, the future. Every ethnic group has its stereotypes. Let’s erase those stereotypes and start presenting ourselves as intelligent, caring, compassionate, empathetic, loving, peace-keeping individuals who use common sense in our UNITED States. Until this current 2016 election, other countries respected us. Let’s earn that respect again.

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