Americans will only beat back racism when we realize we're no better than anyone else
There’s a new poll out about race in America. It questions the American people on how big a problem they believe race is in the country. The results of the poll shows that 33% of Americans believe race issues to be somewhat of a problem in the United States, while a whopping 49% see it as a big problem.
It doesn’t take a social scientist to see why race has been front and center in the nation’s consciousness during the last couple of years. What is, and always has been, at the core of these issues is a matter of justice. Whether it’s social justice or criminal justice, we see what humanity has always seen when injustice is present; a group of people marginalized by another group of people because they are thought to be inferior.
The source of this type of behavior throughout human history can be attributed to a number of things, but the crux of the problem is easily recognizable as greed and fear. These emotions readily stoke the fires of distrust, and a lack of trust leads to all kinds of deeds that we would find abhorrent if we were to pull our blinders off.
Once upon a time, it was relatively simple to live a segregated existence if that is what you chose, cut off from those not like you. In some parts of the country it’s still possible. But for the most part, we live in a world where we must coexist with others who are not like us. From social media providing information and opinion from all corners of the globe, to new immigrants settling every day in every state, to same sex couples raising their children alongside straight couples, diversity is no longer a buzzword; it’s the way things are.
We are faced with the threat of terrorism on a worldwide scale, with attacks ranging from those on Paris to the Middle East, Africa and even here at home. What seems at first to be hatred motivated solely by religious fervor is nothing more than fear, greed and hatred motivated by a desire to be right, or morally superior.
We humans have a deep desire to believe that the way we live is the correct way and an even greater desire for a type of certainty and security that simply doesn’t exist. We have an extremely long history as a species of putting forth a certain way of living that everyone should adhere to and backing that up with the claim that God is on our side. Many wars have been fought with the very sincere conviction that “we” are right and “they” are wrong, and God seems to always be on the side of the winner.
If we examine the issue further, it becomes clear that throughout history we have seen once seemingly indestructible empires and civilizations crumble. We see that groups who had slaves and forced a set of beliefs onto other groups of people different from them came to ruin in the end. If God were involved in anything, perhaps one could say that God was present in the liberation of the oppressed.
What is our issue in America, then? How can we not learn to live together in our own country as one people? When we are honest with ourselves, we see that inequality affects 98% percent of us. We like to say that we are a nation with no class system, but that is simply not true. The unspoken lines of who is more important than who are drawn in our education system, our housing, our healthcare and our criminal justice system. We want a system that benefits us and not them. We want our rights to always be protected but not theirs. This is not the way a nation that boasts a relationship with God goes about its business.
Racism is not a black and white issue. Racism is a human issue. As a white man, I recognize (after a significant struggle with the concept) what my white privilege affords me. I could see that as a blessing from God, but unless I use that blessing to benefit others different than me, it will cease to be a blessing and become a waste of an opportunity to do good.
To counteract the greed and fear and that forces us into “othering,” we must look upon others not as a separate race, but as if they are one of us along this journey of life. If we want to truly call our ways the ways of God and our nation a Godly one, then our beliefs must be about being others-centered, not self-centered.
What if God weren’t so concerned with whether or not we “got it right,” but was more interested in whether or not people had enough of what it means to live a good life? Racism will never be cured by policy, but policy is the right place to start. It is only by living for the other that we will save our nation from the fates of many others that have gone before, who thought they were superior and had God on their side.