Familiarity Breeds Compassion

The basic problem with passive racism is that we who live in the gated zone of white privilege simply don’t know enough about black lives, black families, black cultures. We, like most descendents of colonial conquerors, never inherited the genes for sincere curiosity nor for respect for The Other. We accepted so many core beliefs from our own antecedants.

Only we mattered. Only we were quite wholly human. We represented the apex of civilization, the height of God’s Plan for mankind. Our beliefs were the truest, our understandings the wisest, our interpretations of philosophies and religious the most and only correct ones.

Years ago, there was a mini-series based on author Alex Haley’s search for his African heritage. ROOTS was a huge eye-opener. A heart-opener. It showed us–the dominant culture in America who never had to look before–black people as… people. People with feelings and dreams, with families. We saw them in pain and fear, in love, in anger and desperation. We saw them brutalized. We saw them well-treated. We saw them talented and strong and wise. By the end of the series, at least some of us no longer saw black people as merely mono-dimensional, stereotypical Others. We had seen that they were, in fact, a lot like Us.

We need more than our fears and assumptions and lies we’ve been taught, to get it, that we are all people trying to live our lives. That it hurts to have people regard you with fear, or condemnation, or disdain. That we all love our children and just want to give them happiness and a good and thriving future in a troublesome world. That it is not unreasonable to expect to be treated with courtesy and respect.

And while we’re here… It has never ever been about race. We are all one race. It has always been about cultural differences. Cultural. Which means, it isn’t genetic, it is and has always been human-generated beliefs and attitudes. And that means, it’s stuff we can fix.

Because how we regard ourselves and others has always been a matter of choice.

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  1. i have been saying for years that we cannot be racist against those of our own race. That I call it Ethnicism doesn’t make the bigotry and hate go away. I agree that this is repairable. Maybe we can even do it before the next big chunk of space rock sends us the way of the dinosaurs.

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    1. There is a real value, as fairy tales remind us, in calling a thing by its real name. It is about ethnicity, about culture. It has always been one race–unless we are talking about Neanderthals. And even they were not so very different from us. Our proper scientific designation is Homo sapiens sapiens; theirs is Homo sapiens neanderthalensis.

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