Archive for the ‘new years 2016’ Tag

Looking Forward to 2016   Leave a comment

So it’s January 1, 2016 and that seems like a good time to glance back at the past and forward to the future.

There were any number of topics I could have choose, but I decided to look at racism in the United States and something I learned this year.

Racism exists. Preference is a part of human nature that is actually a positive. It helps to keep us alive. We tend to not want to eat things that taste bad because that preference helps us to distinguish foods that are good to eat and those that are poisonous. Like so many positive human characteristics, our sin nature twists preference to something unhealthy and evil … racism. If we’re all honest with ourselves, we all have some racially based preferences.

A former Sunday School student of mine whose father is black and mother Korean married a Hmong woman and almost all of his male friends are black. He goes to a multicultural church (similar to the one where I was his Sunday School teacher). About two years ago, he invited a white church member to join the basketball team he plays on. After a few weeks, the friend had the bravery to jokingly call himself the “token white guy” on the team. Ken said the scales dropped from his eyes. “I’m a racist. I’m not an evil racist. I’m just exercising my preferences. I would never assault a white person because they were white. But I distinctly prefer black and Asian people over white people.” Ken has been trying to correct that imbalance in his life because he doesn’t like knowing that about himself, but he’s finding it difficult because he really does prefer black and Asian people over white people.

I am proud of my Native American roots, but I was raised to be equally proud of the rest of my heritage. I live in Alaska, a long way away from my mother’s tribe (some of them live in Canada, some in Ohio, some in Kansas, some in Michigan,  and the majority in Oklahoma). I go to Oklahoma occasionally to visit “cousins” (we share an ancestor and our grandmothers called each other “cousin” in truth. I’ve related here before my experiences before. In July I went to the Midnight Sun Intertribal Pow Wow, which has Alaska Natives and First Nations folks. As my dark-brown hair has grayed, I’ve chosen to dye it a dark auburn that I find very attractive with my blue eyes, but when I went to join the activities at the Pow Wow, I quickly felt the temperature drop. “They” did not want me there. As an experiment, I went home and dyed my hair black and went back the next day. Oddly, I felt welcome. I didn’t share that on the blog because I wanted some time to process it and, frankly, I felt guilty for violating my principles to feel included.

The fact is … racism is still alive in the United States because it is alive in the human heart.

Let’s be honest, though, things are a whole lot better since the Civil Rights movement.  I’ve never known anyone my age who has ever been denied housing or a job because of their skin color. I experienced perceived racism in a shop in the southwest, but that may have been a misinterpretation on my part. I’ve experienced overt racism in a shop in Fairbanks and that was not a misinterpretation, but I want to look at that because I learned something about it this year.

JP Jones was a community icon in the Fairbanks black community. He owned a corner store, he was head of the NAACP, he did a lot of good in that community. The community has honored his memory by naming a community center after him. My interactions with him were few, but memorable.

The first time, I was a teenager walking to a friend’s house in cold weather. It’s not uncommon here for pedestrians to walk from store to store to warm up along the way. I ducked into Jones’ corner store and learned about racism. JP clearly didn’t like me; he wanted me out of his shop; he treated me very rudely. When I met him again a year or so later, he was claiming a fight at the high school had been racially motivated because one of the participants was black. As a witness, I knew better and I heard the racism in his whole speech.

JP was a racist, but I’ve realized something — he earned it. I don’t know anything about his life, but I know his accent was southern and I expect he had been treated badly by white shop owners when he was a high school student. Maybe if I’d been buying something he would have treated me better. And, although the fight at Lathrop was definitely not racially motivated, in 1978 racially-oriented fights were not uncommon in high schools across America. JP’s racism was natural, but it falsely colored his perception of the world. Had he been pleasant with me, I would have been his greatest supporter, but because he was rude, I never had much use for him later.

So, this year, Black Lives Matter has been a huge media circus and I’ve been dismissive of it. It smacks of racism just as much as Wounded Knee seemed a racist venture to my mother. It’s is motivated by an understandable anger at cops killing people who haven’t done anything worthy of the death penalty. But by focusing on black deaths, the whole movement reveals its underpinning as racist. Most people shot and killed by cops are white. Yes, compared to their percentage in the population, there is a slightly higher percentage of blacks in that total number, but it is extremely divisive focus on that when the real issue is that cops shooting civilians ought to be a rare occurrence and it’s not.

By saying Black Lives Matter … or Indian Lives Matter … or Chinese Lives Matter … those using that term are saying that Other Lives Don’t Matter.

So, I don’t do resolutions for New Years, but I do state my hopes for the new year. In 2016, I hope we have an honest conversation about the true role of race in America and that we acknowledge that there is no institutional racism left. Those barriers have been kicked down a long time ago. The barriers that persist are individual barriers —

  • What are you going to do with the education that the taxpayers have provided for you?
  • Are you sure that your anger at the light-skinned other is not coming from you rather than engendered by something “they” are doing?
  • Do you see yourself as human or as some subcategory of human who thinks your subcategory is more deserving than the other subcategories?

Resolve to be a human rather than a race hyphen human. If you do that, you may be extremely surprised at how much less racist the world becomes.

Posted January 1, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in racism

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