Racism is an extremely dynamic concept that we vastly over-simplify.
Racism lives in a person’s head and in their heart. And no one knows what lies in another person’s head or heart.
Yet, we so quickly and casually throw the word “racist” at one another that, at this point, it has entirely lost its meaning.
There’s no way to know, but I just don’t believe there is anywhere near as much racism in the world as some would have you believe. Call me optimistic.
For one thing, it’s got to be very difficult to be a racist. There’s always a magnifying glass on race relations, with people dedicated to looking for the first sign of racism (real or not).
If you’re truly a racist, it must be very difficult for you. It must be a little like being gay before the 80s. You want to find people like you to share your common views and preferences, but there’s just no way to know if there person you’re talking to sees things the way you do.
But consider the opposite. Back when racism was common in society. Back when you could take it for granted that the person you were speaking to was also racist.
Was it difficult to not be racist? Back when people owned slaves and blacks were segregated, how did those who weren’t racist feel? Just as there’s great societal pressure now to accept all, there must have been great pressure to be racist in the early days of the country.
Like now, only the strongest and most independent in society must have had the courage to share their views of acceptance.
Equally fascinating to me is we take it for granted now that everyone knows racism is wrong. Yet, many of us still think and behave like racism is everywhere. Many talk about racism like it’s never been worse in this country – despite the nearly infinite examples to the contrary.
It’s ironic that the very people who want to move on and put racism in our past never let it go and constantly bring it up. Too often, they find racism where there is none.
We’ll never get to a place of racial peace if everyone keeps insisting there’s racism around every corner. And because there’s no quantifiable way to know if, and to what degree, racism exists, we have to take it on faith, guided by our observations and experience, that it is just about gone.