If you look the word "racism" up, the definition is: the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races. The definition goes on to say: prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race, culture, ideal or religion based on the belief that ones own is superior. Hmmm.....so by this very definition(s) who among us is NOT racist or at the very least....prejudice? Put your hand down. You are lying!
To be quite honest with you, I am really tired of hearing that because I am white....I am somehow privileged. There is absolutely nothing about my life that would lead anyone to believe that I am privileged. In fact, contrary to what you might choose to believe, I too have been on the receiving end of prejudice more times than I would like to think about. First there was that whole....being born a woman thing. Do you know in the era I was brought up, women were viewed more as possessions than people?! From our first breath outside the womb, we were taught to be housewives and mothers while our brothers were taught to go to college, get a degree and be the bread winners with the jobs and the paychecks. In fact, when I went to college back in the early 1980's, it was still widely believed that if a woman went to college, it was only to get her Mrs. degree and that for a woman to go to college, was a waste of good money.
In my family, my father still believes in the superiority of man over woman and to this day, at my age, even with all the life experience I have had and all I have done on my own since my husband died, my father still believes that I know nothing and am capable of nothing more than cooking and cleaning. I am being seen as inferior both mentally and physically because of my gender. That is prejudice in its ugliest form.
Then of course there is the whole being a Catholic thing. I don't think people truly realize the prejudice there is towards Catholics in this country. In this enlightened age where there is suppose to be tolerance and respect for all religious beliefs in this country, I have been called a heretic, told that I worship idols and have even had parents not let there kids come to my house because they didn't know what kind of "devil worship" was going on in our home. Imagine, I belong to the religion that Jesus Himself created. He in fact ordained the first Pope...St. Peter, and yet my religion has been the source of prejudice my entire life.
And how about those Irish? I am 3/4 Irish and if we are going to look at past hurts, let's look at this. When the Irish first came to this country, they were treated not much better than slaves. We were a disposable race that were given the worst and most dangerous jobs, because quite frankly.....Irish lives DID NOT matter. Add to that the fact that most Irish immigrants were Catholic, and by our very existence we had created one of the most hated races in this country. Funny how no one makes THAT relevant in 2016!
Finally, how about politics? From the moment we state our political beliefs (Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Conservative, Liberal, etc), someone out there is forming an opinion about us. If our political stance is not theirs, likely their beliefs of superiority are taking over and suddenly we somehow become less in their eyes because we do not believe as they do. You know you do this! We ALL do this! You look at that person and say to yourself, "I thought they were intelligent. How can they believe like that?" It is a judgment and quite frankly, most of the time we don't ask them how they believe like that and listen to the answer, we just mentally shut them down and put them in an imaginary box labeled "faulty." If that is not prejudice, then I don't know what is.
To be honest, every person alive has likely dealt with some form of racism or prejudice at some point in their lives whether it was the color of their skin, their ethnicity, their religion or their beliefs. More over, I would also venture to say that every person alive has also been racist and/or prejudice in their lives. Some comes from the way we were raised, some comes from ego and a majority comes from the fact that we assume things about others without knowing the facts. It is the old "Judging a book by it's cover," scenario.
While there has always been racism and prejudice in this country, there have been times when it has been especially bad. Contrary to what you might believe, as I have said, it has not always been just a black racism. There has been prejudice towards Native Americans, Irish, Asians, Christians, Non-Christians, smokers, gays, women, disabled, and the list goes on and on and on. People have been run out of towns, lost their homes, their jobs and even their lives over racism and prejudice and unfortunately instead of learning from our mistakes, we as country just keep the fire burning. Never has this been more prevalent than in the last eight years.
When Barack Obama took office, this world could have been a much different place. Instead, we ended up with a country in more racist and prejudicial turmoil than we have seen since the 1960's. The fact was that many voted for Obama because he was black, which if you think about it, was racist in itself and speaks volumes about where we as a country were at in 2008. You don't vote for someone because of the color of their skin, you vote for them because of their qualifications. In a way though, I understood the excitement of having the first black president ever. People felt it was time that a black person was president. It would finally be the key to showing the world and proving to ourselves that racism was no longer a factor in this country. I understood people voting for him because of the color of his skin. He was a dynamic speaker with a lot of charm and he was black and in this new millennium perhaps it was time. However, he was not the most qualified person for the job and at that moment in time, if we were looking at what was best for the country, his job experience did not yet give him the credentials to be our president. It was because of his background and not his skin color that I did not vote for him, but.....I had hopes that his time in office would season him and he truly might be the hope and change we were looking for. Let's face it, we were in the middle of a very long war and we were due for something good.
After his first four years, it was evident that like many presidents before him, he had his failings. He was not as effective as people had hoped and there was change, but hope was dying out fast. Had Barack Obama been a white man, I have no doubt he would not have been re-elected in 2012. However, because he was black, he HAD to be re-elected. In fact, the cry was....if you don't vote for Obama....you are racist. Hollywood elite were screaming it, democrats were screaming it and the black community was screaming it. There were people literally afraid NOT to vote for him for fear of some sort of retaliation. He was re-elected, but again it had little to do with what his qualifications. Racism began to rise like a rocket. Riots were breaking out, people were dying in the streets and it was at this time, that the man who was elected for hope and change could have done so much to unite all races and this country as a whole. Instead he chose to divide us. There was no diplomacy, no respect for humans in general, just the constant trench digging of us against them mentality.
So today, at the end of this long eight years, we have a divide of racism and prejudice in this country that has not been seen in decades. Those who were not voting because of race in 2008 might never be persuaded to vote for a black person again. Instead of looking at each others as human beings, the color of skin is now in the forefront of everyone's minds. The black communities are angry because their anger has been stoked and fueled and words like "death to all white people, " "Black lives matter,"and sentiments of segregation are once again cultural and current topics. It is tragic and if Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, I am sure it would literally make him weep to see how his dream has turned into such a nightmare.
Has prejudice ever been non-existant in this country? Sadly no. But it was getting better. We were uniting more and more, but the last eight years have set us back to an ugly time with a resurgence of the KKK, the Black Panthers and hate in the heart of many.
Am I prejudice? I would be lying if I said I weren't. I am sure it comes out in little ways, here and there, but truthfully.....I try very hard to never judge anyone by skin color or ethnicity. Judgement is not my job. I look to peoples character; their honesty, kindness, work ethic and how they treat others. I am very prejudice towards someone who hurts their spouse, kids or animals, I have no respect for someone who can work, but refuses and instead chooses to live off the government or others. If you lie to me, I don't care who you are or what color your skin is, we will have a problem. Basically, if you are kind to me.....I will be kind to you. It is just that simple. Race is not important to me.....character is.
So my hope for 2016 and the upcoming election? I hope, no I pray, that whoever takes office be it man or woman, regardless of their skin color or ethnicity, that they are for the people. Not just the white people or the black people but ALL the people. That their goal is to unite us as a country and as a people. I want gone the slogan....."Black lives matter." I want it replaced with, "All lives matter," and with the sentiment that we are all equal under God and our flag. Is this too much to ask? Who knows, but I pray with my whole heart and soul that we come out of these last eight years, wiser and with a desire to be the wonderful country we have always been regardless of race, creed or color....otherwise....we may be looking at the beginning of the end.