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Bethanne Kim  

How can we fight racism?

U.S. Air Force Col. (Ret.) Charles E. McGee Jr. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

Honestly, the most effective way to fight it isn’t realistic or easy to do in a wide-spread manner. The organization that has been, by far, the best in combating racism and promoting true integration and racial equality is the United States Armed Forces.

The Tuskagee Airmen and many other brave men and women in the Armed Services have done an amazing job of reducing racism in this nation simply by living and working together.

But we won’t be having an all-encompassing national draft any time soon.

What else can help?

  1. Acknowledge that racism exists in pretty much all times and places. We can and should limit it, but there will always be a few cretins who are racist. Don’t judge the majority on a few outliers. The truth is, those outliers exist in all races, so the minority / downtrodden group has them too.
  2. Stop bringing up old wounds. Why? Because nothing heals if you keep picking at it. Frankly, for most people who weren’t involved, the Japanese internment in WWII, Asian inability to become citizens from soon after the Civil War until the 1960s, Jim Crow laws, and other major racial injustices are truly things of the past. They don’t know any, or many, details of what was done.
    They truly don’t know that blacks were called monkey as an insult implying they were less evolved because, depending on their age, it might have largely stopped by the time their parents were little kids. Since those things are offensive, it is unlikely their family will tell them because their is no point even risking possibly implanting such a horrid idea. How could repeating those idea be a good thing?
  3. Look at it from the other side. To partially repeat the last point, a younger light skinned person, the suffering of the Civil Rights Era may seem long past. Especially since their parents might not even have been alive then. Talking about many of those racist beliefs, especially outside of your immediate family, is generally not done, making it difficult for a younger generation to understand how bad it really could be. It has been more than fifty years since the Civil Rights Era ended the worst of the excesses.
    As a black or Asian, it might be your Dad and Granddad’s story about being badly beaten for talking to a white girl, even he was only asking directions, or your Grandma’s story about not getting citizenship when she immigrated because she is Asian. For those who had to endure it, the wounds may not seem that old.
    For people outside those communities, those beliefs are dead and gone as surely as War Gardens, building your own home (not having it built – doing it yourself, from scratch), and milking a cow before breakfast. None of them are part of regular conversation.
  4. Learn about different groups that have suffered. There are great books about just about everything under the sun. If you understand that your ancestors weren’t the only ones who suffered, it’s easier to focus on the present and moving forward.
  5. Someone fought for each group’s rights. What were they fighting for? Civil Rights Era blacks were barred from voting entirely in some states. Civil War Era blacks were barred from being citizens in some states. Today, people are comparing a requirement for all voters to show government ID to vote to the Jim Crow laws that were designed to bar blacks, and only blacks, from voting. Is there still racism? Yes, but this isn’t it for the simple reason that it applies to all people, of all races, and, frankly, is not at all hard to comply with. The simple reality is that a government-issued photo ID is required for many of our common life activities. I need one to pick up my kids from school!
  6. Look at what racism cost the victims. Discussed more in a future post, true racism costs a lot. True racism doesn’t just annoy a single “victim.” The price may be paid on dignity, in damaged healthy, in lost jobs, in inability to advance, or in many other ways, but true racism exacts a price beyond momentary hurt feelings or ruffled feathers. Yes, those suck, but that is a part of life for everyone.
  7. Acknowledge that racism doesn’t just affect one group. I lived for years in an area that was, if not actually Mexican-dominant, very very close. If you were not Mexican, you weren’t treated well many places, and you could be charged more for services. In one particular example, a Mexican neighbor described going to a fashion designer’s sales and if she spoke in Spanish she got a better price than if she spoke in English, and she had gone more than once.

I’m not a minority, but that doesn’t mean racism doesn’t bother me or that I don’t notice. In fact, it doesn’t even mean I’ve never experienced it, although it certainly hasn’t been a significant factor in my life. Anyone who lives in an area where they are a minority runs that risk. You don’t know what a person has experienced by looking at them. Even if they are white, they may have family members who are not, so it may still impact them.

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