It’s all about perspective

Lately, if you are seen as a White Christian Republican – you are racist. Not only would that person be a racist, but you can add: fascist, homophobic, simple minded a**hole to the mix.  Honestly, that still is judging someone on the color of their skin, isn’t it?

One of the definitions of racism is:

A belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. (merriam-webster.com, racism, 11/19/2020)

I started my life in the late sixties. Unfortunately I was not from a privileged white family. We lived pretty much paycheck to paycheck and from listening to the stories of my parents, sometimes we didn’t know when we were going to get our next meal: “It was only by the grace of God that we had food on the table.” That did not foster ill feelings towards anyone, and as a child, I didn’t perceive any problems my parents might or might not have had monetarily.

However, I was racist.

When I was in eighth grade, I hung around some pretty funny kids. They would make jokes, I would remember the jokes and regurgitate them to my family and friends. In the late seventies and early eighties, “pollock jokes” were all the rage. It stemmed from discrimination of Polish people in German occupied territory.

Pollock jokes, I had a million of them. About the same time, I had a huge crush on this girl from my church. Her name was Kari Webb, She was of polonesian descent, and her mom was thinking of moving her across town which meant she would be going to my school. We only saw each other on Sundays, but we talked on the phone a lot during the week.

One day she invited me to her grandparents home for dinner and game night. I was not particularly fond of board games, but I was particularly fond of Kari, so I accepted. My parents dropped me off at her grandparents home, and Kari came skipping out, grabbed my hand and took me to meet the rest of her family. 

 We had a wonderful dinner of lasagna, and we went outside to where her grandparents had a fire pit to roast marshmellos. Her grandparents were definately white, but I really didn’t notice. We were all sitting around the fire, and I started off on my schtick. 

The jokes rolled off my tongue like balls rolling down a ramp. But the crowd was rough, they weren’t even smiling – Kari’s grandfather just shook his head. So I pulled out the big guns and the jokes kept coming. Kari’s grandmother left the circle and went inside. 

Kari took me by the hand and led me away from the fire pit. She looked at me with tears in her eyes. “Thom,” she said, “My mom was adopted, my grandparents are polish.”

Photo by burak kostak on Pexels.com

My heart sunk. She left me there by the side of the road and went back to her house. I never saw or heard from Kari again. I realized those jokes were hurtful. I not only hurt Kari, but the jokes hurt her grandparents too. Racial jokes are not funny, they are mean, demeaning and inaccurate. I also never said another polish joke again. 

I lived around racists, my grandfather on my mother’s side was from the south, and he didn’t like black people, jewish people, irish people… and the list goes on. He would always be making some kind of racial slur, and he was unapologetic about it. My parents would always make generalizations about one person or another based on their race.

So I was raised in it… Does that make it ok? No

Another story… I was in Navy boot camp in the late ‘80’s. The command that I was attached to was a diverse ethnic mix, we had Blacks, Latinos, and Whites. However, that didn’t phase me. I had the philosophy that if you turned us inside out, we would all be red. Besides the United States was turning us into sailors – we were leaving our individuality outside the base, right?

One day one of my “shipmates” looked at me and said, “Get out of my way cracker.”

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

I had never heard that word before. I had to wrap my mind around what a “cracker” was. I thought it was a strange racial slur.

Later I found out by watching a cooking show -that a “cracker” was what slaves in the south would call the men that drove the cattle. these men would crack whips to move the cattle along. Where I am from – in Arizona – that would be called a “cowboy.” 

Later that night the same “shipmate” jumped on my bunk, put me in a chokehold and whispered in my ear, “I could kill you now cracker, I’m watching you.” He was discharged a little while later from bootcamp on an unrelated matter.

Everything is still seen through a racial bend, we see things through our own ethnic lenses. We cannot help ourselves, because that is how we were raised. One of the many things I love about my granddaughters is that right now they do not see color; children don’t because they have not been told to.  

Are White, Christian, Republican’s all racist, or is that just another generalization based on the color of skin? Are all races prone to a racial bend when looking at someone that is not of their skin color or their ethnicity? Maybe in the words of Rodney King, “Can’t we all just get along?”

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