IS EVERYONE A LITTLE BIT RACIST?

Fandango’s Provocative Question #81

From Fandango:

“Racism, especially in America, is a thorny and divisive topic. Someone I know told me about a song, “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist,” from the Broadway musical “Avenue Q.” It goes:

Everyone’s a little bit
Racist, sometimes.
Doesn’t mean we go around committing
Hate crimes.
Look around and
You will find,
No one’s really
Color-blind.
Maybe it’s a fact
We all should face.
Everyone makes
Judgments…
Based on race.”

I’d like to point out that racism by color has NOT always existed. Until the introduction of slavery — Black slavery — into Europe and America, bonds were largely religious and/or tribal. They were not based on skin color. The addition of skin color was a Christian weapon to justify slavery. It worked so well, they discovered if you turn any non-white people — North American Natives, abducted dark-skinned African natives, and Indians (from India) — into “barbarians” or “brutes,” then they weren’t human and you didn’t have to treat them as human. Race is, as human history goes, a relatively recent introduction to the haters scoreboard. Children who are brought up in a non-racist household in diverse neighborhoods often don’t notice skin color. When my son was growing up, I had to explain skin color to him because he had no idea what I was talking about. So I had to explain “more like my color or more like Garry’s color.” He still didn’t get why it mattered.

I don’t know what as a society we can do to stop parents who hate others based on skin color from pushing the same intolerance into their children’s little heads. Short of lobotomy — which occasionally seems like not a half-bad idea — how do you get ignorant, arrogant haters to consider the possibility that skin color has nothing to do with any other human abilities? People with other skin colors are as smart — or smarter — than lighter skinned people. They have the same sets of gifts for music, art, writing, mathematics or nuclear physics than whiter people do.

As racial groups, we may have differences in physiology. For example, Ashkenazi Jewish woman are more likely to get breast cancer than women without that gene. Young Black women are also more likely to get breast cancer. I’m sure one day we’ll work out the DNA links that make this true and maybe fix the problem. We know some of it, but not nearly enough. There are other ailments that are linked by DNA to specific groupings, probably many more than we know about.

Anything else is sheer prejudice.

Do people smell different? Sure they do. My son doesn’t smell like me and neither does my husband. A scent that smells good on me may smell awful on my best friend. Do they have different kinds of hair? Does baldness count? My grandmother was a redhead and I’m not. On the other hand, I inherited my father’s heart condition. I would have preferred the red hair. Oh, and Garry has dark skin and I’m about as white as anyone can be. We used to argue about beach vacations. His idea of a great vacation would put me in a burn unit. Somehow, we manage mostly because putting me in a burn unit would probably ruin both our vacations.

I don’t know why people hate each other for anything other than entirely personal reasons. It’s not that I don’t understand hate. I just don’t understand group hate, racial hate, religious hatred. But personally? I get the one-on-one thing. I often think the weirdest difference between any two humans is male versus female. It’s amazing that people so completely different manage to live together in some semblance of harmony for decades. It proves that tolerance can work.

Maybe if everyone  of every color marry until we are all one, nice tan, there will be no group left to hate.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Opinionated writer with hopes for a better future for all plus a big helping of cynicism.

7 thoughts on “IS EVERYONE A LITTLE BIT RACIST?”

  1. Slavery, its existence and its legacy, has pretty well ruined the quality of community in the nation (the USA). If we hadn’t started off by buying and keeping slaves and then going to war to buy and keep them, we might have received the introduction of other races to each other in an even way.

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  2. My father was a racist. He never hesitated to use the n-word. But honestly, I didn’t give it much thought when I was a kid. I grew up in an almost all-white suburb, went to mostly all-white schools until college. And even there, it was mostly white. It wasn’t until I went into the army that I was exposed to working with and living with blacks. And what I learned made me see that my father was wrong to be the way he was and that skin color has nothing to do with the kind of person one is. So yes, racism is definitely something that is learned. From my perspective, no one is born a racist. By the same token, everyone is born an atheist.

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  3. I was raised in a family with no racial prejudices. People were just people. When I lived on a ranch when I was a young girl, the Navajos wee different because they dressed differently. I remember my grandmother often speaking of a girlfriend she had in her youth. They lost track of one another over the years. One day, on a busy New York City street, they caught sight of one another and rushed to embrace. My grandmother had told us everything about her except that she was a colored lady. When I attended a Black Literature class in college when I was in my 30s, I was the only white person. It was in the 70s with all the turmoil, and the class let me know I was not welcome. However, after the drop period passed and I was still there, they decided to tolerate me and talked about what was on their minds. I was the one that was “different” and it took a while before they realized I was serious about their problems and accepted me as a fellow student. Sure, I see differences in people’s colors, shapes,and sizes, but that’s all they are.They have nothing to do with a person’s mind and soul and feelings. I do believe in the song’s lyric, “You have to be carefully taught to hate and fear.” Children are born with no racial prejudices. They have to be carefully taught..

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    1. I don’t think I ever heard a racially derogatory word in my home and I’m sure my son never heard any in ours. But too many people are more into the cover than they are the book. I never understood it. I have to admit to a personal fascination with people who are different. I want to know about how they lived and what they ate and if they had a religion with which I was unfamiliar, what it was like. I was always very upfront about it because some things, if you don’t ask, no one will tell you anything. I’m hopelessly nosy, I suppose. I have a cousin who lives down south who is exactly the same way, but our mothers were very close. Maybe that’s why. Her husband is Chinese.

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  4. Aaron and Miriam harshly criticized Moses for his marriage to a Cushite or Kushite woman after he returned to Egypt to set the children of Israel free. God punished Miriam with leprosy for this.

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    1. Your point being? Anyway, that’s good old religious and tribal prejudice, not skin color. No one much cared about skin color until the British and other Europeans found oppressing dark-skinned people to be so fiscally rewarding. Tribal and religious bigotry has much deeper roots than color does.

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