As long as we continue to define our perception of people by their color, there will be racism.
The thing that bothers me is our never-ending need to stuff individuals into categories. As long as the news, our politicians, our children, our brains continue to put color, race, sexual orientation, or religion as our defining title, then we as a nation will continue to struggle.
There are few times that we need to label an individual, and in day to day conversations, I don’t understand the need to specify that a “white girl” sat next to me on the bus or a “black man” waited on our table. Why must a “gay man” be defined as your best friend or a “latino woman” as your neighbor. When you stop clarifying you stop noticing.
And I’ve had people tell me how offensive it is that I no longer go out of my way to notice the color of their skin because they use it to self-identify, but I don’t see it that way. I don’t need to describe my neighbor as a “white male about 45” because I am not putting up a lost persons ad. I can tell you about him, my neighbor is a nice guy, he loves to laugh. He drives a Harley. He smiles with his whole face. If you asked, I can tell you his ethnicity and religion, but I don’t think of these things as his defining quality.
Now, as for current events, I wasn’t there. I can’t tell you if that “white cop” shot that “black guy” because he was black or if it was in self-defense.
I can’t tell you if destroying Baltimore is the right thing to do, because I am not the person who decides what is right or wrong. (If you were wondering, if I lived there I would certainly not be participating because I believe causing injury and damage only creates a mob mentality that the rest of the nation will not take seriously.)
But I’m really tired of listening to the news and being told that a black man was killed by a white cop today. I want to hear when deaths and terrible things happen in my community (and good things! I want to hear good things!), but I don’t think that the color of their skin should be the reason they make the news. Why are some of the reports of police officers killing white people not making the news? The newspapers are more concerned with the color of their skin than the fact that someone lost their life.
So, what I see as the challenge for ALL American is: see a person as a person before you try to categorize them in your mind.
Why are you noticing when a white person walks through a predominantly black neighborhood? Why does it matter if a Muslim owns the gas station down the road? Why do we need to check an ethnicity or a race on our standardized testing, on our taxes, on our job applications? Why can’t we stop comparing categories? Because when you stop continually having them pointed out, you stop noticing.
I don’t notice these things first anymore. Which is why it has been so hard for me to believe there was still racism in today’s society, I had stopped noticing race a while ago, I see us under one umbrella: American.
United we should stand, because we all share one thing in common: we are humans.
Update: As I reread my post, I realize that I didn’t address the fact that I think history, culture, and heritage are interesting and important, but I really don’t feel they define us. They may play a role in developing us, but they are not a definition.