I am a white guy. Oh, how very white. And, anyway, not a racist. That's not some kind of overcompensating for what, deep down, psychologically, is in fact racism.
I just don't care.
For as long as I can remember, I've basically been colour blind. No, not literally colour blind, the condition some people legitimately have, the confusing of blue with green or any of the other variants. I just mean that my natural state of being when I see a black person is essentially, “Oh. Cool, I guess.”
So no raging tempest of racial hatred-motivated ideology, or anything of the kind. No queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach on encountering a member of a different race. And confusion when it comes to people who do feel that way.
I did not know, growing up, too many black people. I don't have black friends. Or have too many friends in general.
But it seems to be that racism is not a natural condition. There's nothing in the genes that causes people to think that way. You're taught it. It's learned. All the evidence I've encountered, anyway. I don't know of any studies, but it seems virtually inescapable to me that a) if you were integrated growing up and b) did not have parents or friends that drummed into you fear of or a superiority complex toward other races, that you will basically never be a racist.
Is there anything else there other than dusting off my hands and moving on? Well, maybe. My consciousness was perhaps partially formed by movies like American History X, Mississippi Burning, Biko, Hotel Rwanda (the Rwandan genocide of 1994 informing us that the demons lurk behind the eyelids always, through at least two kinds of racism: the Hutus towards the Tutsis and the failure of US response). And all in their own rights very good films. But I don't remember feeling any particular ill will to non-whites before that, either.
Racism is, of course, hardly just a white vs. black issue, although in my particular geographical location – Canada – it's perhaps a bit more visceral due to what our neighbors down south go through still today, decades ago, and even more decades ago. It's a long, bloody, sad, unnecessary history. People probably ought to live in harmony generally, though we're still working on that one – there are plenty of ways to be a jerk without caring about skin colour or otherwise defining physical features that signifies “different race” (by the way, my browser informs me colour is misspelled. Nonsense. That 'u' will remain as I write words that have a UK spelling.)
The Holocaust was white against white violence. Rwanda, black against black. There has been oriental vs oriental racism in the east, brutal enough to make the Holocaust seem by comparison... well, let's avoid any cheeky or overly cheerful analogies, here. It sucks and it is what it is.
Is there any content to this? Are there “superior” or “inferior” races? Is there reality to any of it, something really there?
My answer is, as you might have guessed, no. But it's interesting how much heated passion goes into all this. And religious discussions, too, are involved in this. One of my favorite parts of one of my favorite trilogies, the Arthur series by Kevin Crossley-Holland (The Seeing Stone, At The Crossing Places, King Of The Middle March, fantastic books all), is Arthur speaking to the local priest of his village of Caldicot, Oliver:
“Oliver turned the key in the creaking chest, and took out the Bible. 'In the name of King Richard,' he said, 'your reading is the twentieth psalm. The twentieth psalm and then the twenty-first psalm.'
'“We will wave our banners,”' I began to read in Latin, and then to translate, '“in the name of God. Some men trust their horses and some their chariots; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God. We trample our enemies: they lie in the dust, but we rise and stand upright.“'
'You see?' said Oliver. 'If you're going to fight, horses and chariots are all very well. Horses and chariots are necessary, but they're not enough. King Richard knows that. That's why he defeated Saladin at Arsuf. That's why he has saved for us the Kingdom of Jerusalem.'
'But doesn't Saladin worship God too?' I asked. 'Don't Saracens worship God?'
'They worship a false prophet,' said Oliver. 'They're not true believers. Saracens are infidels.'
'Sir William says that's what Saracens call Christians,' I replied. 'Infidels!'
Oliver snorted. 'They don't understand the Book. They don't even read it.'
'Aren't Saracens and Christians equal in the eyes of God then?'
'They are not!' said Oliver. 'Of course they're not! In the eyes of God, all Christian people are equal. But you can be sure hell's mouth is wide and waiting for heathens and heretics and infidels.'
I think that sort of sums it up. History is full of people fighting for the “right” ideals and it all turns out to be massively misguided. Ideas of racial purity, certain philosophies, whatever.
And, anyway, the science of “blackness” such as it is is well known (I should look this up so I don't expose my ignorance, I'm saying this from memory, I hope I'll be forgiven if I get this wrong). Homo sapiens grew out of Africa. Very hot there, the sun beats down. Melanin in the skin – what makes the black – is a protection against that. And that's it. That's the whole reason. Yet it results in such hatred because we whites feel like there's this “otherness” there that makes them not as “good” as us. There are, as I mentioned, other forms of race conflict, but as you might guess I think those are equally silly.
And just to mention that education is the great leveler. The more you know about the world, the richer your internal mental life and understanding of people.
Can we substitute racism for anything else? Can we substitute religion for anything else? Well, of course we can, in terms of identification of the other. I despise certain people, and certain types of people. I probably ought to be more tolerant, but there it is. I've screamed at people before. Said things I regret. Thought unkind thoughts that I've later had to go back and re-evaluate.
Am I perfect? Absolutely not. That I'm colour blind (screw you, browser) doesn't make me an exalted human being. That should tell you how irrelevant I think the collected passions around topics of race are.
And as for religion, we all have certain gods. Individual rituals, comforts, things we bow down before, even if wholly secular.
In fact if we're going to hate, let's hate the things that really matter. Like greed. Like propaganda that pits white against black, rich against poor (one reason MLK Jr was reportedly killed, I've heard (if I remember right), was not for advocating black rights, but for advocating pacifism re: Vietnam). Like boredom and settling for second best, the dulling of creativity, the industries who would rather everything remain freeze dried and shrink wrapped (the music industry comes to mind).
And this isn't to say that one should be infinitely tolerant toward people externally and infinitely composed internally when evaluating people. There are certainly people I would rather associate with, these people over here vs. those people over there. But it's just a weird state of affairs that things are revealed to be more simple than the conflicts of history would have us believe.