Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics,Tom Lehrer
And the Catholics hate the Protestants,
And the Hindus hate the muslems,
And everybody hates the Jews.
We’re all racists.
We all are. Everyone. Including me. You bet we are. I remember watching a scene in a show called “Northern Exposure” years ago where a black character name Bernard told a very conservative white character named Maurice—an ex-military man and former astronaut who was the richest man in town; a classic macho type who loved to use his money to manipulate people in the town to do his will—that he was a racist. But he startled Maurice by pointed out that he, a Black man, was racist too, because “imperialism, slavery, and genocide weren’t exclusively white institutions”:
So we’re all racists. It’s not confined to white Northern Europeans. I’ve read many times how horrible historically the Japanese have been to Koreans. How the Hutus and Tutsis consider each other subhuman. How badly Mexicans traditionally treated “Indios”. The constant fighting between Hindus and non-Hindus in India.
Racism: It’s not just for white folks. That’s just our major brand here in the U.S. because whites are the majority is all.
The issue with racism, like with the first step in dealing with substance abuse, is to admit you have a problem. Like with alcoholics, a great indicator that a person is racist is when they say they aren’t. Of course they are. We all are. We’re raised that way! To deny it means you’re (duh!) in denial.
There are of course shades. On one end of the spectrum are folks like your average progressive, who work hard to be inclusive and non-bigoted. To listen to people outside their immediate racial & cultural milieu and try to learn about other cultures. On the other end of the spectrum are overtly-bigoted yahoos who bleat about “white genocide”, ride around in trucks with Confederate flag stickers in the window, read “The Daily Stormer”, and toss Molotov cocktails at synagogues.
Most folks, of course, are in between.
I’m bringing this up because in the last five years or so there’s been an alarming increase in the amount of overt bigotry and straight white cis Christian male violence against “the other”. And that’s a serious problem we need to really do something about.
In the 1950s and 1960s, we made huge strides in overturning laws against minorities and women. The Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts, in addition to the gay rights and women’s rights movements, really pushed things a long way towards equality in this country. We have an awfully long way to go—it was only recently that gays and lesbians could get legally married, for example—but that’s when IMO we really started making progress. Society accepted that overt bigotry was A Bad Thing™.
But just because society accept it doesn’t mean it went away. Let’s go back to my original thesis: We’re all racists. And on the spectrum of racism, you’ve got a hard core that are unrepentant, n-word-using, Confederate flag-flying, synagogue-bombing ass-clowns. How many is that? One third? I don’t know, but 74 million people voted for Trump, so it’s a lot of people. They didn’t go away, they just recognized that saying “nigger” or “kike” out loud in public was no longer acceptable. But don’t you believe for a second they didn’t think it or still want to say it.
Since the mid-60s these folks have wanted to say it. Have been aching to say it. Have believed, deep in their hearts, that [Blacks | Jews | Mexicans | Asians | what-have-you ] are inferior. Have not been allowed by the “bleeding heart lib communist socialist coastal GLBT agenda-lovers” to say what they really think.
Reagan and his cohort in the 80s recognized this. Lee Atwater even said it out loud:
You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.Lee Atwater
(By the way, I find it interesting that all these supposedly God-fearing right-wingers have nothing to say about the fact that Lee Atwater, who clearly used all his intellectual gifts for evil purposes, was cut down by cancer in the prime of life. But I digress.)
So Reagan gave a speech during the 1980 campaign on “States Rights”—obvious code words at the time for segregation—at the Neshoba County Fair, about 7 miles from Philadelphia, Mississippi, a town associated with the Civil Rights-era murders of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner in 1964. “I am one of you,” Reagan was calling out to the racists in coded language. And Republicans followed this up regularly afterwards. Jesse Helms did it with his “Hands” ad; George H.W. Bush with his anti-Dukakis Willie Horton Ad; and on and on.
Race-baiting at its finest
What makes things different now is that Donald Trump—a vulgar, intellectually incurious, ignorant, narcissistic man whose only goal is to outrage people and accumulate power and money—ran a Presidential campaign unlike any other in 2016. He didn’t craft his message, triangulate his answer, or craft his image; he just said what was on his mind. He didn’t appear to give a damn whether he won or lost. Whatever caused the crowd to applaud, cheer, or scream, he fed them. The more outrageous he became, the more they cheered.
And what they loved was bigotry, pure and simple.
Trump gave them permission to be bigots. Out in the open. And when he became President, they now had permission from the President of the United States to be openly bigoted. For the first time in over half a century.
Can you imagine their joy? Their relief? They could at last say what they had been thinking for decades! The President himself was giving them permission! They could tell those n-words what they thought of them! Those lazy immigrants taking their jobs! Those non-Christians! Those fags trying to brainwash their children into being trans weirdos instead of playing football like good American kids! Trump loved it when they flew big American flags with his face emblazoned on it from the back of their big trucks, and fired off guns from the truck beds while shoving campaign buses of those limp-wristed libs off the road! Yeah, sometimes he pretended to object, but they know he really loved them!
That he sneered at them in private as a bunch of dumb rubes mattered not at all because they could finally say and do what they had wanted for so long.
And what I’m saying here folks is the way to fight these people is not to pretend that we are morally superior, no matter how much we feel we are. We’re bigots, too. Look inside yourself for what you’re bigoted about, acknowledge it, accept it (like a first-step alcoholic), and work on overcoming it. And use it to make a connection with these folks.
Yes, some of them are beyond help, no question. I’m not talking about that lot. I’m talking about the Maurice’s of the world. The ones who can actually change. Be like Bernard and admit to them your own failings and try to connect. Try to pry out an admission from them. Help them to work towards an understanding. Because somewhere in their family tree is a GLBT person, or a person of mixed race, or a non-Christian, or someone who is not a straight white cis Christian man.
Because IMO connecting is the only way out of this mess.