I Hope More Black People Share Their Stories of Daily Racism, Bigotry and Prejudice

People — including me — quite often lament how facts and statistics seem to be ignored these days in favor of some cherry-picking whatever supporting material and opinion is out there to back-up their position. Whether it’s the “All Lives Matter” or “COVID is just the flu” crowds, they don’t seem to need much to defend their position.

Statistics that prove racism — even if unintentional in many cases — happens in law enforcement, don’t seem to be enough to prove there’s a problem. The fact 19 states reported spikes in COVID-19 in the last week doesn’t matter either. Neither are real problems if you ignore the facts.

I’ve always wondered what makes certain people so obtuse. Accepting facts and data isn’t an endorsement or denouncement. It’s just recognizing reality. For instance, there is a man-made global warming problem. Now, who wouldn’t want to do anything about it? Those who contribute to the problem and those who support them. So they deny it. They’d actually have my ear if they said, “Yes, we’re contributing to a problem, but what we offer is more important and here is why…” I don’t know what that argument could be, but it’s one that I’d be willing to hear and consider.

I’ve been asking myself, “What is it that these people aren’t getting?” in regard to the BLM movement and was asking myself about that again yesterday when NASCAR rightly banned the Confederate flag. I’ve never understood why we celebrate the heritage of a group that was the enemy of the United States and the losing side of a war not about “states’ rights” but about slavery. We defeated the Nazis and don’t celebrate the swastika. There are no statues to Hitler or Stalin. I just don’t see how this is different.

I was watching a report about the spike of COVID cases in Arizona and one clearly sheltered middle-aged lady said she didn’t think it was a big deal because she still didn’t know anybody with it. It was all about her and her worldview was all about her. Suddenly, a light came on.

In the past several years, I’ve had a handful of people who have shunned me say something like, “I now have a relative who got into some trouble like you. I’m sorry I abandoned you” or “I now realize you’re not a bad person and just made a mistake.”

Many people are too blinded by emotion to allow the truth to find its way to their heart and head. Almost every person complaining in the FoxNews.com comments that NASCAR was now violating their right to free speech for not allowing the confederate flag did not have the capacity to pause and understand what many others were trying to explain. NASCAR is a private business and can do what it wants and free speech rights are not carried to its property. People were too upset to recognize the truth.

When this civil unrest started, the 21-year-old white daughter of one of my wife’s friends talked about what it’s like having black siblings. My wife’s friend never married the 21-year-old’s father, instead marrying a terrific man who was born in Ghana. They had two boys together and the daughter loves them as full brothers 100%.

She wrote a heart-wrenching post on social media that my wife shared with me about how she’s witnessed racism against her younger brothers. Since nobody assumes a lily-white blonde-haired girl could be related to a couple of black teenage boys, people have been openly racist around her in their presence. From regularly being called monkeys and apes to others not wanting to touch something after her brothers have, the stories were heartbreaking. You’d think her brothers were lepers the way that some white people have treated them. She gets it. She understands racism because she’s been there to experience it through her brothers. Her long post brought tears to my wife’s eyes and really shook me. For all their faults, my parents clearly raised me well because I would never have some of those thoughts run through my head. It’s disgusting anybody does.

A couple of days ago, my wife showed me another post from social media. This was from my uncle who is one of my dad’s two brothers. He has recently just retired back to the East Coast after around 25 years in California. His second wife was unable to conceive and they wanted to have children. They don’t care about the color of anybody’s skin, so instead of racistly waiting a few years for a white baby, they were able to adopt two black babies in the space of two years. I didn’t get to know my cousins as well as I wish because of the distance, both in age and proximity, but from everything I can tell, they have both grown into smart, strong, independent young women.

I have another cousin, the son of my father’s other brother in Ohio, who we have always been somewhat estranged from. Apparently some heated arguments went down in the early 80s and while the kids had nothing to do with them, I’ve only met my cousins when they’ve driven in for funerals. I neither like nor dislike them because I just don’t know them.

I didn’t see the entire string of posts, but I read my uncle’s. He actually had to go onto his wife’s Facebook feed to speak to one of my Ohio cousins about how hurtful he was being to his entire family. He wrote briefly about how my Ohio cousin was being insensitive to my black cousins and how he should stop blindly following Trump, especially as so many military commanders were disavowing the president. Apparently, since my Ohio cousin was injured in the three years he served in the military nearly 20 years ago, my cousin now defines himself as a diehard military man. It’s his journey, so whatever.

I asked my wife how this all started and she said that my Ohio cousin had disputed the Black Lives Matter stance…and the stories of racism…my black cousins (also his cousins, I should remind you) shared on social media. When my aunt made some comment about the demonstrators and police on her Facebook page, my Ohio cousin started spouting that she needed to stop watching “mainstream” media to get her news and that my black cousins were a part of the problem.

I haven’t read my black cousins’ stories of racism because I think it would just hurt my heart too much. Obviously, they weren’t enough to move my Ohio cousin because he has dug his heels in. There is no systematic racism to him, even if there is far more proof than anybody should need to support that conclusion.

So what do we do here to really explain the problem? As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m from the 49th whitest state in the USA. There are many people here who not only don’t know black or brown people, but they’ve never had a conversation with someone who looks different than them. They don’t truly understand the problem because they have just not been able to communicate with minority populations in their life.

I believe this is where you get the unintentional racists. They’re the ones who believe they are not racist, but some of their beliefs and verbiage would prove otherwise. They aren’t antagonistic, like my Ohio cousin, but they can’t appreciate the issue on a deeper level until they are educated about it.

These are many of the same kind of people who turned away from me when I got in trouble with the law. They didn’t take the time to understand what I actually did, nor to understand any of the circumstances around it. They simply wrote me off because it was easier. It wasn’t until some of these people had personal experiences with similar situations that they came to emotionally understand their behavior to me was wrong and I didn’t deserve a shunning.

I think there are a lot of these people in the world. They are not bad people, they are just ill-informed and don’t have enough of an emotional bond to invest in analyzing their belief system and deciding if it needs changes.

I don’t think that you need to know a black person to know a black person’s story. There is TV, radio, Internet, books, magazines, etc., where these stories need to be told. I’m not talking about the worst of the worst, like the George Floyd incident. I’m talking about the kind of racism and bias that black people face on an everyday basis. When they are followed around a store by security or are asked to open their bags before leaving that store. When they are stopped by the police and questioned as they are just going about their business. When they are still denied service or receive a lower standard of care because of what they look like. All of this is real, but if these sheltered white people don’t know about it, how can an emotional connection be made?

I urge my black and brown brothers and sisters to share their everyday stories. Yes, the worst stories leave a gasping impact, but simply letting the world know how different your day-to-day lives are because of racism may go a long way to getting the more ambivalent people to understand why so many of us are saying “Black Lives Matter” and cringing at “All Lives Matter.”

There are a lot of people in this world who want to understand more, but they are often drown out by the screeching voices of people like my cousin from Ohio. I don’t know what’s pathologically wrong with those people, but the reality is, we just have to wait for them to die out and hope that they are spawning in less numbers and their offspring develop brains of their own.

Please, share you stories. Society needs to hear them.

9 thoughts on “I Hope More Black People Share Their Stories of Daily Racism, Bigotry and Prejudice

  1. I think fear of the “other” is probably one part of this. The more insular people’s lives are, the more different the “other” looks. If it’s perceived as fear rather than hate, that probably makes it easier for people to deny that they’re prejudiced. I completely agree that we need people sharing their individual stories, and maybe that can reduce the othering.

    1. You’re right about that, too. You know about my time in Japan and the racism I experienced. There was two kinds…that with malice and that just seemed ignorant. I think we can still convert some of the ignorant people. The malicious ones can go back to their shacks in the woods and enjoy being hoarders.

  2. “They are not bad people, they are just ill-informed and don’t have enough of an emotional bond to invest in analyzing their belief system and deciding if it needs changes.” I used to believe that to be true. Now, I am less willing to let those folks off the hook. Being an ignorant person – in terms of understanding, not attitude per se – is something that can be remedied. Choosing not to remedy it certainly doesn’t make you a good person or a good citizen for that matter. These days, there is no reason to remain ignorant with all of the information available online. If people can figure out how to use Facebook they can listen to podcasts and avail themselves of online library materials. If they choose not to? Well, they can deal with the consequences when the rest of the world catches up to them. My firm just terminated multiple long-term employees for posting racist crap on their personal social media accounts. Each of them said they didn’t think the material posted was racist. Oh well. They’ll have a lot of time on their hands to sort out their confusion.

    1. I’m curious if your co-workers were just using an excuse. I think your conclusion is a little strong because after learning a lot about unintentional racism, for instance — do you notice a black person in a car next to you as black where you’d never do that if they were white — isn’t necessarily evil. I think there has to be malice and I don’t see that in a lot of people — just habits that need to be broken quickly. I believe one of the ways to wake people up to the fact they need to break these habits is the day-to-day stories. We need to get people to say “Wait, I need to examine my behavior.”

      With what you’re saying, it sounds like you think everybody should just wake up and examine their behavior. I wish that would happen, too, but I’m not willing to so quickly write someone off who can be convinced with a bit of nudging. If what you’re saying is true, we wouldn’t need all those commercials urging people to donate to hungry kids or polar bears or abused animals. Sometimes people need nudging and I think if we can get even 1-2% of the population who wasn’t going to examine their behavior to do so, then it’s worth fighting for.

      1. The posts were written by women of a certain generation who have likely used the same language throughout their lives. No one ever called them on it before or, if they did, it just fell on very deaf ears.

        I think my perspective on this is shaped by two things: I grew up a staunch anti-racist (long before it had a name) in a very racist community and I spent 14 years in an interracial relationship and so had a front row ticket to all that entailed. I just believe very strongly that racism is learned behavior and if you can learn it you can also unlearn it – if you put some effort in to do so. Do I think everyone will? No. But if they didn’t have a wake up call before these last few weeks then this is kind of the line in the sand for me. No excuses going forward.

  3. After election here a hashtag became trending sharing stories of racism. I know that it exists, I know that it’s ugly but reading some of the experiences I wasn’t prepared for.
    As long as we think about it as ‘oh that’s just one incident’ and ‘oh that is the exception’ nothing will change. I agree on sharing stories, bigger and smaller because it is day to day life. And it affects more people than statistics can show us.

Leave a Reply