Random acts of Racism
Many of us, perhaps the overwhelming majority of us, do not carry one ounce of racism in our DNA if we consider racism regarding another person’s race inferior to ours and unworthy of our respect. However we are capable, and, in fact, do commit random acts of racism throughout our lives and a few of them with dire consequences to those in the receiving end of these acts.
Who, in their lifetime has not become irritated, often expressing anger, when calling an organization and the person answering the call has an Ebonics accent, an Indian accent or any other accent that may be not very easy to understand. Ah, some will say, the irritation and ensuing anger is due to the frustration in not understanding, but not racism. Well, that accent is directly related to the race of the person speaking it! Someone who was very close to me was very light complected and blue eyed, but had a very thick accent and often grammatically incorrect way of speaking and many times, in the store that she worked, customers would simple ask for another person to attend to them. Looking down, disrespecting a professional because of his/her accent may be at first out of a thwarted desire to communicate, but what lingers mostly in the back of the frustrated person’s mind is “why do they hire such a person?” This is in fact racism because it stems from the notion that if one is a foreigner and cannot speak as you do or in a manner understandable to you, he/she is unworthy of being hired and ultimately being worthy of providing you services. No, I don’t want everybody to waste their time in understanding heavy accents, and I am not since they are paying the same for the service being received one does not have the right to demand full service and not one impaired by differences. Unfortunately, however, this is a random act of racism since it renders a person who is trying their best to please you unworthy of your business or your attention and even your effort to communicate.
Another example of an random act of racism, and this is more rampant, is when walking through a street and you see someone who does not look like you coming in your direction and you immediately take a defensive position. or, find a reason to cross the street, or do something so as to avoid a close encounter. Again, one may argue statistics and ponder that since statistically that person coming in your direction is of a race that has a higher likelihood to commit a crime than not. So you reason away your random act of racism! Again, I have to emphasize what I am not saying so people understand what I am saying: I am not saying that being safe is not good, that a simple act of crossing the street is racism, and that regarding is alone racism. What I am saying is that it may be not that you are a racist, but it is a random act of racism!
Sensitivity and Racism Against Americans
African Americans, especially, and us immigrants, have developed a special and ever so keen sensitivity to this! It really hurts! I am a strong guy comfortable within myself, and I grew up, since my earliest childhood, being discriminated because I was a Protestant (except that I was mean one and would beat the heck out of those who wanted to bully me because I was a Protestant), so I don’t get uncomfortable or angry with such acts, but others in great number do feel offended because of this. We foreigners are also very much guilty of the same types of random acts of racism as everyone else, and often against the people from our host country! You go to a restaurant and someone is talking too loud, or not knowing what is the point of using a fork and a knife, burping and worse, we immediately think “Americans…” “Red Necks…” “Hillbillies”… mostly those two latter adjectives can be summarized in the former one “Americans…” since we assume that Americans are impervious to common etiquette and care not about acting out their lack of finesse in public and that this is somehow related to “ignorance”. I speak a couple of the Latin languages and I am amused how much Latinos (and I do not consider myself a Latino) mock Americans, call them stupid, scoff at the fact that neighborhoods are being taken, turned into purple and yellow, or whatever uncommon color, and then the price of property in those neighborhoods is devalued, Americans move out to some other place and finally leave nice homes to be sold at the price of nothing, to others from that ethnic group, who, are little by little being able to get their planned “Reconquista” (Reconquering) of America without a drop of blood! I often rebuke these people stating to them that this is as racist as it is what they accuse Americans of doing to them, but they simply laugh it off because Americas are to passive and will never react against such a stance… Yes, we immigrants are capable of that as well. I am not even mentioning what some of my Arab acquaintances say about bringing Islam to America! The racism against America is as common and as bad as it is the racism practiced by Americans against foreigners.
The racism of lower expectations
I heard this term for the first time from Pres. George Bush. It is perhaps the worst form of racism! It is when we take a thought out conscientious decision to demand and expect less from someone because of their race. We do that by lowering the standards of black kids in black schools, we do that by assuming that certain ethnic groups will never learn certain things so it is useless to try to elevate them. Also, to demand from someone in authority less than we would another one based on his race an background. We have that going on in America where the majority of the press give our president a break and refuse to criticize him merely because, in these one-time journalists mind, the president is partly an African American and you cannot expect from him what you would expect from a white one. So, if the past president presided in a certain way stumble in a word or concept, he would be reviled and called names, such as liar, etc. But when the current president practices the same mistakes which are seen on TV, guarded on video tape etc. the press shrugs their shoulders to these mistakes because, after all, is is of an ethnicity that, in the minds of these members of the press, cannot be expected to be any different! So, they practice racism of lower expectations! Often they even express such type of racism and there is no need to mention it, just listen to the things they say about this president and what they say about the past president when the blunder or the infraction is of the same nature and kind! Chris Matthews, from MSNBC is to me the most evident example of someone who practiced racism of lower expectations, if you are craving for an example!
It will be hard to avoid random acts of racism. We just need to discipline ourselves, raise our own standards and exercise an effort not to commit it. Racism against Americans needs to be dropped! I know Americans are strong and thick skinned and can take it, but I urge my foreigner friends to understand that if I go to someone’s home and they are my hosts, I have to understand, and accept their ways instead of imposing mine. I have learned that day by day and in this 30 some years of USA, now as an American Citizen I can understand many things about Americans that supplant every bad impression I had of them in the early days of my life in the USA.
Now, in the wake of the events of Ferguson and New York allow me to say that the racism of lower expectations, combined with a random act of racism, were undoubtedly present. Of course we can’t judge thought, but we don’t have to be so naive either! We have, rather to be honest and ponder if we were in the spot of those same policemen what would we have done (not Jesus!)? Oh no, we are not trained for these situations but we are trained to survive and trained to react to biases built through a lifetime and also our knee-jerk reaction which makes us commit random acts of racism, which, in the case of Ferguson and New York resulted in death!
It is time for reflection! It is time to understand that we are humans capable of the most horrendous acts even though, overall we are kind and nice! Let us not deny that among these horrendous acts we can be, even for a moment, a racist for one reason or another and exact correction where is most desperately needed! That will be accomplished when we stop demanding from others that which we tolerate in ourselves!