I Am A Racist

In this national moment of Black Lives Matter awareness, as I am forced to stop, and think, about how people of color have been treated as less than human in this country – a fact I have been cognizant of and from time to time commented on, but done way too little about – I keep coming back to my own personal history.

My mother tried to instill in me what she called Brutal Honesty. What she meant was I must diligently strive to not lie to myself. It’s an impossible task, but the idea became so ingrained, I’ve tried to make it a habit.

Here’s a comment I’ve often made: I hit the lottery; I was born white male in mid-twentieth-century USA.
The point is, it was easier for me to be successful than if I had been born anything but white and male: my nod to the advantages the USA conferred on me for not being a woman, person of color, a recent immigrant, or LGBTQ.
In the USA, I am the not-other.

Another thing I think about, and have done way too little about, is my own inner racism.

I have been hesitant to use that word – racism – instead, softening it in my mind to historical bias, conditioning, soft-determinism, or even something more inexcusable: habit.

Here’s the gut-wrenching truth: Deep down, I am a racist.

I’ve never been accused of being a racist. Most people think of me as a bastion of liberal tolerance.

Here’s how I know: When I walk down the street and a group of young black men walk by me, anxiety curdles the recesses of my stomach.
I smile and say “hey”, or “whatsup?”
It’s that easy to convince myself I am not really afraid.
Yet what if the young men see fear in my eyes?
Don’t they sense inauthenticity in my welcoming manner?
Honesty is not enough; it must be Brutal.

I’ve always maintained – and had many discussions with my son about this – that racism and misogyny (any fear of the-other) – cannot be overcome in one generation, by passing a law, or insisting on political correctness alone.

My father was less racist than his father, but he was a racist. I am less racist than my father. My son, by all measures, is not a racist. Yet his children are less biased and racist than he. My son agrees.

This is how political correctness works; I was brought up in a world where my grandfather, born in 1892, used the n-word more descriptively than derogatorily (can I even say that? Or is that the whitewashing of a child’s memory?) And my father used it in front of me only in anger or when his political correctness lapsed.
My mother did not allow it in our home. I never use it, but have always been bewildered why it was OK for black people to use it in contexts I would be condemned for. My son understands its use as historical and moral ignorance, and both he and his children, my beautiful grandchildren, understand it’s petty hatefulness better than I.

Our current national BLM moment is an overdue reckoning. It will mean something only if it is also a personal reckoning. I must free myself. And the path to that freedom is Brutal Honesty.

I am a racist.

Next Post: Personal Experiences With Race


Soft Coup

I’ve had this discussion with friends and family, but it’s time for the conversation to become mainstream.

I am not a conspiracy theorist, but make no mistake; if you wanted to set the stage for a soft-coup in a democracy, this is what you would do:
Sew distrust in National Law Enforcement and Lawmaking institutions: DOJ, FBI, CIA, NSA; and Congress
Sew distrust in the media.
Create an ‘Us against Them’ mentality; with Us being a ‘Cult of Personality’, Them being ‘All of the Above.’
The goal is to get a significant portion of the population to believe that ‘All of the Above’ has nefarious motives, that no one but ‘Cult Personality’ is willing to tell the truth, no matter how outlandish ‘Personality’s’ pronouncements.
This is accomplished by repeating over and over not just derogatory things about those who disagree with Personality, not just by contradicting ‘All of the Above’, but first by calling them liars and fakes, then moving on to claims that ‘All of the Above’ are actually dangerous, that only Personality can be trusted.
People who crave power are drawn to Personality; they seek out government positions and elected office. They adopt Personality’s language.
Personality cultivates loyalty in some percentage of the military and local law enforcement. It doesn’t have to be a majority, only visible and vocal.
Once the populace is sufficiently divided, Personality creates a crisis.
The crisis could be an international military threat, but Personality is more likely to succeed if the threat is perceived as internal, while holding an international threat in a back pocket.
Personality claims internal opponents want to take over the country, deprive the populace of their freedom, their livelihood.
Personality encourages those won over by rhetoric and demagoguery to engage in paramilitary behavior; thuggery, mob violence. Some sensational event occurs. Supporters rise up against the ‘enemies of the people,’ creating a volatile internal condition. Personality refuses to condemn the violence, blames opponents. It is unclear if Personality has adopted supporters’ language or vice-versa.
Absolute Power is needed; Marshall Law, restrictions on the press, suspension of checks and balances. Personality has only the people’s best interests at heart, is the only one who can protect the people, and is making great personal sacrifice for the good of the people. Personality assures Absolute Power will be voluntarily relinquished once the crisis is over.
“You can trust me,” Personality says. “I’ve always done what I said I was going to do.”

History shows that the percentage of the populace needed to accomplish a ‘soft-coup’ is not a majority. In the most glaring example accomplished in the last century “Cult Personality’ took power with about one-third of the vote.

It is important, given current rhetoric in the US, the possibiity of a soft-coup gets widely discussed, so IF a crisis is created, it can be recognized for what it is.

My UnAmerican Holidays

I live in a country full of all kinds of people

A country based on freedom, on the idea that I have an inalienable right to my own belifs, and the right express those beliefs without being persecuted.

I understand this means my next door neighbors, those worshiping in a church down the street, across town, in another state, from another culture, don’t necessarily share my beliefs.

And I by living here I have explicitly agreed to co-exist with all these diverse individuals, groups, cultures, freaks, bozos, ignoramuses, deep and shallow thinkers, those who love and hate me, for whatever reasons.

So I extend respect to all my fellow citizens, and I tolerate them, and expect them to tolerate me, even when I’m irrascible.

By definition then, we are a tolerant nation. This experiment in tolerance has worked quite well, producing the best place to live on the planet. Not just at the moment, but the best place to live as a human being in the entire history of the human race.

Not only am I proud of this, but profoundly humbled. Why am I so lucky? Why is it I was born a white male in the mid-twentieth century in America? What did I do to derserve the life I enjoy, the wonderfu;ly diverse people I share this life with, the unprecedented opportunity to learn from all these people that tolerate me?

At times I have to compromise my beliefs in order to allow others that disagree with me to tell me what they think, why they think what they think. Yes, I have to allow the laws I live under to govern me. Often I grit my teeth at perceived injustices that I think are unnecessary.

And I am humbled in the knowledge that others have to grit their teeth to tolerate me.

All this makes me happy.

I have one simple request. If you do not want to tolerate me; if you disagree with me so much that you think I should conform to your way of thinking; then you should move somewhere else, because you are UnAmerican.

It is UnAmerican to not tolerate me. It is UnAmerican to not take my views into account. It is UnAmerican to not compromise or take me and others who don’t agree with you into account.

If you want to live in a society where you don’t have to compromise (I don’t really think such a society exists) then move somewhere else. I can suggest a couple of communist nations. Or perhaps you can discover a time machine and go to Germany or Italy in 1938. There was quite a society in Espana in the 1400s that might work well for you.

But if you decide America is where you want to live, I welcome you. Just keep always in mind that by living here you agree to compromise, so we can all live a better, more fair, more just, and more fulfilling life together.

My Taos Memory

This was in last week’s Taos News, letter to the editor. Life is a work of art here, visual, intellectual, spiritual, all aspects; her I feel life can truly be what you make of it.

My Taos Memory

I recently visited Taos for the celebration of a family member’s life. Her passing was sudden and a shock to us all.

Some of my family and I, who traveled to New Mexico from across the country, stayed at the Hampton Inn. Each morning I would sit in the lobby dnjoying a cup of coffee, but feeling the loss of Sandi.

A very talented gentleman played Native American flute in the lobby each morning. I now know art is not only for the eyes. This man’s artistry took my mind to places it needed to be, a little closer to heaven. The music both calmed and relaxed and I saw why my sister-in-law and brother chose to spend their years together here. The air is clear, the people more than friendly and, as I know now, an incredible source of peace. \

God must love New Mexico.

New Jersey Visitor