7.27.2010

A Word from Atop the Soapbox

People are people
So why should it be
You and I should get
Along so awfully


This just in: I’m a naïve, but well-meaning idealist. Through and through.

Why else would I be reeling from a very unexpected encounter with blatant and vitriolic racism. The likes of which I’ve never seen before. And still cannot imagine, even after just a glimpse.

The set-up: I was innocently Googling something for another blog project. And in the results from that search, I saw a word that made me stop. A very racist word. The most racist word of all, as far as I’m concerned. A curious click led me to a site I never would have even imagined existed. The most appallingly racist, xenophobic and mob-mentality-fueled thing I’ve ever seen.

And it’s rocked me to my soul. My naïve, idealistic soul. And not in a good way.

(FYI: I’m not going to share the Google topic, nor the word, nor the URL of the site on which the word appeared. That would serve no constructive purpose. The end.)

So we're different colours
And we're different creeds
And different people have different needs
It's obvious you hate me
Though I've done nothing wrong
I've never ever met you so what could I have done


I’m not surprised that there are still racist currents running through our country – on both sides of the ethnic divide. My shock and horror comes from the frenzied, entrenched narrow-mindedness I saw. The sheer hate for one person from another because of the color of his or her skin and nothing more. The celebration of acts of discrimination and belittlement and hurt. The telling of tales.

Blatant racism. Celebrated and shared. It was akin to a virtual Klu Klux Klan meeting. And I suspect that it’s probably not the only site like it on these internets.

I just don't understand.

You've got to be taught to hate and fear
You've got to be taught from year to year
It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught


I’m not here to argue on behalf of any extremist side in the racial divide, as xenophobia exists in both camps. I’ve seen it first hand from each group. Even had it directed at me personally. Will is one of a very small minority of Caucasian students at his school. And while I’ve never seen him treated with anything but friendliness and respect (and some flirting with some older elementary girls) I’ve come up against a bit of unfriendly behavior from the parents. Been called names and thrown a couple of profane hand gestures in the parking lot. Received a lot of looks. Ignored or cut off while standing or waiting in a queue.

I try to take it all in stride. Especially when I watch Will in action. My brave, open-minded boy. Who knows nothing of this racism. Who himself can be an example not only for people with disabilities, but for his race as well. We should all be able to act accordingly - and follow young William's innocent but correct example.

Now you're punching
And you're kicking
And you're shouting at me
I'm relying on your common decency
So far it hasn't surfaced
But I'm sure it exists
It just takes a while to travel
From your head to your fists


I have kin who resided and embodied the stereotypical perspective of upper middle class Southern whites of the ‘50s and ‘60s. While I cannot and do not condone their attitudes, I have to take them in context and perspective. However, I never saw or understood them to be anything but racist in word. Not deed. Never malicious. More ignorant and fearful, to be honest.

But that brand of racism is a far, far cry from what I glimpsed on that message board. This is contentious. Angry. With movement. Scared me a little. And I don’t scare easily.

This is also not a partisan issue. It’s got nothing to do with political parties or ideology. To use examples from either side of our current political spectrum to help make a point diminishes the matter at hand. This is a human condition issue. It’s about people. Plain and simple. Who were, in fact, all made equal by our Creator. It’s presumptuous of us to judge and view otherwise.

I can't understand
What makes a man
Hate another man
Help me understand


I was asked if I was going to “report” this message board for offensive content. Turns out the domain owners have barricaded themselves behind a privacy service. And while I firmly adhere to the Voltaire school of thought in most matters of controversy or disagreement – I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it – I must admit that this gave me a moment of pause. Getting entangled with people of this mindset is not the battle I want to fight, the hill I want to die on, so to speak. There are other ways to address the issue. You're reading one of them right now. So thank you.

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made
And people whose skin is a different shade
You've got to be carefully taught


More than anything, now that I’ve had time to process and the initial shock and awe has subsided, I’m sad. And disappointed. For as far as our country has come since Dr. King and others worked so tirelessly and faithfully for civil rights, we apparently still have a long way to go. In those early days, the issues were more out in the open. Obvious. These days, such things are more cloaked and subversive. And as a result, more divisive and potentially dangerous.

I’m not going to say that there are no easy answers, because I don’t believe that’s the crux of the matter. It’s solutions that need to be cultivated. For as long as such people belong to such sites and perpetuate such lines of thinking from generation to generation and don’t want to alter their world view, solutions that stick are a long time coming.

And that makes me saddest of all.

I can't understand
What makes a man
Hate another man
Help me understand...

7 comments:

Ruprecht said...

*applauds*

Antoinette said...

You, Jane darling, are my hero.

Crystal said...

Brilliant. If only people like you were in charge of the world.

Jen said...

:-) you're awesome, but you already knew that!! It's hard to believe that this type of hate is still around in many forms.

Donna said...

You have said it with much more class than I could ever imagine. I have no contact with my Mother and her husband, nor my Father and his wife for the very reasons you have written about. Yes, I swept it under the rug, so to speak, but knowling them the way I do, it would have served no purpose to speak out to them. My children do not know them, nor will they ever for that most horrible reason.

BJ Blinston said...

You my dear ROCK! This is well written and thoughtful. It presents the issue perfectly and how it affected you. It was a good topic discussed on Plurk and now it's a great blog post. Well done and thank you for sharing.

Morgajam said...

*standing ovation* Well said and thank you for your post!!