Over the last few weeks, like so many others in this country, I have been considering the role of race in this country. It would seem helpful to deal with what racism is.
Racism is in my estimation the belief that two people are fundamentally different, and in fact one is fundamentally superior, based on the color of their skin, which we see as an indication of ancestry. Racism is the continuation of the in-group out-group themes which have plagued human history. Unlike many other problems in society there is no substance to racism.
Racism is something that exists only in the realm of the mind. You cannot touch racism, or see it, or feel it. You can see, feel, and touch the actions which result from racism. Racism itself though is merely an idea and a racist is merely the person who believes in the ideas of racism.
How do you purge yourself of an idea? Stop thinking it. Stop giving it credence. Stop allowing it to define us. Start defining ourselves as humans, as fellow sojourners in a land of great joy and great adversity. Begin defining ourselves as those who can share hopes and dreams of a time and place when the world is better, where the injustice and inequality have faded and all that remains is hope and unity.
How does this begin? We must stop talking about it. We must stop defining ourselves by our race, unless of course it is the human race. Because if you are reading this you are human. You are not black, white, yellow, or red. You are human and I am human, and if we are both humans then we can share life together. We can share hopes dreams and ideals.
The moment I define myself as white, if you are not white that precludes you from being able to understand me. In the same way if you define yourself as black, or red, or yellow, then I have no way of being able to understand you. No matter how I may desire too I cannot make my skin color anything but what it is.
This is different from defining yourself as American, or Chinese, or African, or some other region/culture. Even if I am from another culture, I can immerse myself in a different culture and begin to understand it. I may never have the same understanding as native, but I can come close.
If you say you are a skin color and that is your most defining characteristic I have no way to bridge the gap. My skin color is what it is I was born with it, and I will die with it. If your skin color is different I cannot immerse myself in it I cannot understand it, and hence I cannot understand you.
If however, we all come together and say we will not be judged by the color of our skin but by the content of our character, we will not define ourselves by the color of our skin but by our shared humanity, our shared hopes, dreams, and ideals. Then we can understand each other. Then we can see each other as we truly are, as uniquely human.