Real racism versus fake

I'm triggered.  After more than six decades of experience, I finally decided it is time to speak about the twin curses of racism: the real and the fake.

For years, I have learned to avoid the subject whenever I was in the company of black people.  When I did try to discuss the matter, it was at best awkward and oftentimes worse than that.  A single careless word could cause offense when none was intended.

But now, change is in the air.  Recently, I have become aware that more than a few white people have begun to actually speak frankly, with black people, about racism.  Moreover, people are beginning to listen to each other.  Best of all, they are doing so in a non-political, non-academic setting.  That is key.  When the conversation is one on one, person to person, with no news coverage, no partisan advocacy, then cordial honesty can prevail.  People are genuinely curious about what it is like, either to be victimized by real racists or to be falsely accused of racism.

They speak truth not to power, but to each other, the powerless.

The anecdotes that struck me the most are the ones in which white people, riding in a car with a black driver, report that for the first time in their lives, they experience being pulled over by a policeman.  Mind you, the stop is not a quick "Sir, you were doing sixty in a fifty, here's your ticket."  It is more on the order of, where are you coming from?  Where are you going?  What is that in your back seat?  Do you have a receipt for it?  May I look in your trunk?  It can go on for several agonizing minutes.  It can escalate.

The white person begins to understand that many of the stories he has heard are true.  Driving while black is not a joke.

In addition, some white people who (for example) get daily rides to and from work, with a black coworker driving, discover that these incidents are frequent.  The white wife of a black man reports that she had never witnessed such police conduct until she had begun dating and later married him.  She was astonished at the regularity of such encounters.  Even though they happen "only" once every few months, that is enough to generate the expectation of unpleasant encounters with the law.  The interaction starts off tensely, right away.  The potential for serious consequences is always present.

Another venue is the barbershop discussion, often involving a white customer and a black barber.  Both men are typically business-owners, so they already have some common ground.  There may be a television turned on to the news.  Somehow, the white guy works up the nerve to ask about the barber's experience with racism, expecting perhaps some resentment, but instead, he finds that the black person appreciates being asked.

Another report involved a white lady and a black repairman who runs his own business.  After more than one encounter, both of them felt comfortable enough to ask, and to answer, questions that might otherwise have seemed too risky, the can of worms that might result in going to a bad place.  Many black people feel that most white people actually do harbor at least some racial animosities.  Many white people feel that although racism surely exists, it does not impact black people very much.

As it is, there is surely a lot of fakery in the racism business, and make no mistake: it is big business.  That fakery, by both black activists and leftist politicians, has exacerbated the real underlying problem, perhaps intentionally.  The real problems could be solved if only the conversation would be dominated by honest people who have nothing to gain from racism and much to gain from ending it.  

Our attention is all too often riveted on the politicians, the rioters, the looters, the actual violent criminals on the street, and the welfare-abusers.  Add to them, the Ku Klux Klan, the Confederate flag–wavers, and the college professors who whine about "micro-aggressions."  They are the ones who profit from the racism industry.

Let us hope that this giant iceberg is melting.  It can.  We can begin, as individuals, by gently broaching the subject, carefully, to be sure, but not fearfully.  If we are tactful, if we listen not to any ideology, but simply connect with our fellow human beings one on one, there is hope.

That is a tall order, to be sure, but it's achievable. 

I am reminded of a man I once knew who disliked all black people — except the ones he knew personally.  Amazingly, he described them all as "exceptions."  That's where the focus needs to be, on the people we know personally.  That's where the solution is.

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