I still believe we are misusing the words “racism” and “racist.”
Racism is institutional, systemic, and structural. It’s insidious and buried deep in every aspect of our society and economy. Bigotry is right out in the open.
And this isn’t whitesplaining on my part. This is what I was taught by members of the Black Panther Party and the Brown Berets in 1973. I was, along with 49 of my closest friends, required to go through about 20 hours of cultural and racial sensitivity training before being allowed to travel to Cuba with the sixth contingent of the Venceremos Brigade.
I keep bringing this up because the public now conflates racism with bigotry and, by doing so, gives people an excuse for not looking closer at how they’ve unknowingly embraced or benefited from racism, by merely pointing out their lack of anger or visible anger/hatred toward people of color. “I don’t see color,” or “I have black friends/relatives.” All that means, at the most, is you’re not a bigot. It doesn’t change the centuries of economic and social injustice deeply baked into every aspect of our society.
We need to understand the differences if we’re going to erase racism and its insidious effects.
One other thing I learned from that education, and that has been reinforced in the intervening years, is that white people need to shut the fuck up and listen to people of color when it comes to understanding their lived reality. Because of racism, you don’t know squat about their experiences. Try it. You might be surprised.
As many of my friends know, I live in Simi Valley, California. Simi is known, perhaps internationally, for two main things: The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and the Rodney King trial. Although only one of the jurors in that trial was actually from Simi, the city has the reputation of being filled with racists, and it’s not without some basis in fact.
Nevertheless, it’s a beautiful part of the world, just northwest of the San Fernando Valley and I’ve lived here for about 25 years. When I heard that a protest was being planned to support BLM and protest racism and, specifically, the murder of George Floyd, I knew I had to be there (at least for the beginning) to lend my support. I expected 40 – 50 people. Imagine my surprise when I arrived a few minutes early to find hundreds, growing to between one and two thousand by the time the actual march started. Here’s a piece from ABC Eyewitness News’s coverage of the protest.
The young woman highlighted in the article, and her friends who helped with and supported this amazing event, did an exceptional job organizing and conducting what could have been a debacle. Going back to that element of racism here in Simi, there was a contingent of residents convinced this march would end in violence and looting; so convinced they were patrolling the streets around their neighborhoods and posting in local FB community groups that they were “locked and loaded.” It was borderline comical, made tragically unfunny by the ignorant sincerity of these mental midgets. They even tried to disrupt the march with bullhorn wielding propagandists fresh from the (here’s an oxymoron) “Republican Values Center.”
The kids are continuing to organize and, happily, I’m going along for the ride. Were it up to me, I would ask they not go back to school until the election is over in November. We’re going to need a GOTV effort like we’ve never seen before. I don’t have the energy or stamina I once had but, for the first time in my sour, long life I feel assured the torch has not only been passed, but it’s been picked up . . . by millions, it would appear.
Born in 1947, I am an officially retired pensioner who still has two teenage daughters and a desire to contribute. I remain intensely interested in, and fascinated by, Systems Thinking, Machine Learning, Knowledge Management, Decision Intelligence, and Business in general. I am also conversant in such concepts as innovation and ideation, collaborative tools and strategies, crowdsourcing, and the use of social media to accomplish goals ranging from improving business processes to promoting small retail businesses. Since my "retirement" I have done a little bit of freelancing as an editor/proofreader, as well as some technical writing. I've also done a fair amount of Facebook marketing as well.
There's lots more where that came from. Need some help? Perhaps another set of eyes? Contact me. The first one's free! ;0)
The views expressed herein are those of the author. Any opinions regarding the value or worth of particular business processes, tools, or procedures, whether at his former place of employment, at a current client's enterprise, or in general, are his responsibility alone.