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Five Signs You Might Be Racist

Racism is a sensitive subject and in America, it is older than the country itself, especially since it is intertwined within each of America’s institutions. Racism in America is more a part of the American experience than apple pie, basketball and Christmas celebrations. The romanticization of this false narrative of America, or at least its past is similar to how many white Americans envision the community within the movie “Pleasantville” or the “Andy Griffith Show.”

As our country strives to move forward in 2023, there still some among us who wish for a return to the “old days” where white supremacy, racism and oppression were rampant, like a cancer within running free within society. Even though we are 55 years away from the end of the Jim Crow era and 158 years away from the end of slavery, we are still faced with people struggling with something as primitive in thinking as white supremacy and racism, as if classism is not enough to deal with.

Laid out below are a list of five signs that you may belong to the group of people struggling with racism.

1. Confederate memorabilia – The inability to separate fact from fiction when it comes to slavery and the Civil War is highly apparent with those who continue to have the image of the Confederate battle flag on themselves, their vehicle or even flags at their home. At a minimum this flag represents treason, and anyone who celebrates treason can never claim to be a patriot of America, they are opposing ideals. For anyone who is not white and is knowledgeable about American history, this symbol is nothing more than a flag for those who support white supremacy, which creates racist attitudes that have resulted in the oppression, slavery, exploitation, violence and death of black people. It is not a representation of Southern white culture, unless that culture is only associated with white supremacy and racism. The confederate statues and other structures dedicated to them were not built or installed during or immediately after the Civil War to honor confederate military members who entered a war to keep millions of Africans as slaves. They were only installed or built when black people fought for freedom and equality after the Civil War, as symbols to impose fear and intimidation. The same is true for all of the confederate flags located at parks, government buildings and any other public places. It was also the official flag of the Ku Klux Klan and the Dixiecrats who actively fought against the freedom and equality of black people, which involved violence, torture and murder. To display this symbol on one’s vehicle, belt buckle, t-shirt, hat or to display it at one’s home serves as an undeniable beacon of bigotry to everyone that is aware of it.

2. Police brutality - Police brutality has been one of the oldest challenges for black people in America, with police created in America not for crime, but to maintain control over enslaved Africans and indigenous people. The original police force existed in the form of slave patrollers and night watchers. Eventually, police became centralized to combat crime after rich people conned poor people into paying police to protect businesses and help with crime. Since police became centralized, it became more obsessed with targeting black communities with violence and murder, which is why it is not a surprise that SWAT Teams were created to target black people with military-grade weapons and equipment. Police brutality was the initial reason for the Black Panther Party to begin their activism in California, just it was the initial reason for the Black Lives Matter Movement to combat police brutality and police killings in 2012. Since 2012, it became more known that police assault, kill, and shoot black people at higher percentages than any other demographic in America, with the majority of those interactions involving black people who were not committing any crimes or suspected of committing any crimes. Which is why for many people to support the blatant violence and murder of black people at the hands of those sworn to uphold the law that forbids murder and violence without consequences is an obvious hypocrisy. Those who blindly support “blue lives matter,” “back the blue” or the “thin blue line” are supporters of violence and murder without consequences which is against the idea of America being “the land of the free” and democracy. More than anything, to support police brutality is to support crimes against humanity and support white supremacy. For many people, always siding with police in matters concerning police brutality and always blaming black people as a whole is sincerely racist, when there is data and research that proves disproportionate rates of police brutality and murder occurring with black people, even when no crime is involved. In a time where information is easily accessible on the internet, there is no excuse to be willfully ignorant on topics worthy of opinion.

3. Language – When we talk about racial slurs in our country, there is no greater racial slur than the “n-word” because it is so offensive and egregious. It is such a horrible word to repeat for those who are not black, that it is only referred to by the first letter. Any person who is not black that uses the n-word is committing an act of racism. There is no appropriate excuse for the use of this word by any person who is not black. Despite the never-ending sense of white privilege and entitlement, it is also off limits to any parents of black children who are not black. Whether or not you are friends with black people who use it frequently, it is still off limits, it is not a generational stigma, it is a cultural offense. Along with the n-word, other phrases like “the blacks,” “animals,” “ghetto,” “thugs,” “blackie” or any variation of the n-word is completely off limits to those who are not black, to do so would immediately give room for people make justifiable accusations of racism. Even in the case of music, repeating any lyrics to a song that contains the n-word is still considered to be an act of racism if the person repeating the n-word is not black. Within this realm would also exist the language that is anti-black, whether it is intentional or not. As in the example of police brutality, when non-black people use the phrase, “they should have just complied,” or “they got what they deserved,” signals to others that there may be comments and behavior that are more racist. If it is not something that you would say in public to a room full of black people, it is more likely to be an unacceptable line of thinking and language.

4. Cultural appropriation – Cultural appropriation is the theft of some aspect of a minority culture for the social or financial profit by a member of another culture that previously despised that culture and/or its people. For decades, mainstream America has made derogatory comments about black women, their behavior and even their fashion. Now, what is visible is the embracing of fashion trends that were created by black women, when it is being displayed by women with white skin. These trends include everything from hair specific types of hair braids, dreadlocks, long and decorative fingernails and many other fashion trends. In terms of behavior, the most notable appropriations by dance and speech. Through Instagram and TikTok choreography created by black content creators have been stolen by white viewers and creators with no credit given to the creator. Before social media, twerking was labeled as a hypersexualized dance created by black females without values in previous decades, now it is performed by white females with little to no criticism. Like so many other aspects of black culture that were labeled “ghetto,” they only remained ghetto until someone white found a way to profit from it. It is also an insult for non-black people who have racist attitudes or have a history of racist behavior to use words or music created by black people. It is hypocritical to hold racist attitudes against black people or to make derogatory comments about the black people protesting or fighting for equality while benefitting from black culture.

5. Movement – Far too many times have black people been made to feel less important for no other reason than their skin color. When Black Codes and Jim Crow laws came into existence, that feeling could never be denied. Even though those laws do not exist anymore within the legal system. Some people still practice them, even in Russellville. This is something that has been observed in town on multiple occasions by multiple people of color. It is the refusal or failure to see people of color when shopping, walking on sidewalks or even walking around at a public place where people of color are run into, forced out of the way or nearly ran over by white people. Many times, it is overlooked and branded as a courtesy, but so often people of color are felt required to move aside for white people on sidewalks when they actually have the right of way. When white people feel entitled for people of color to move out of the way for them or continue walking forward knowing they will bump into that person, it is racist. The white privilege within causes people to not deem people of color important enough to wait, walk around, or go a different route when available. This is an interaction that I have witnessed firsthand and was completely avoidable. It is the assumption that people of color are expected to move out of the way because white people are more important, and they deserve to have access to everything at anytime due to their whiteness. It is almost a throwback to the Jim Crow Era, where people of color could be pushed or moved out of the way at a whim.

The age-old rule of treating others the way we want to be treated remains true. It is a rule that preserves humanity and decency, which every person deserves. When it comes to racism, whether it is conscious or not, it effects people and it does not matter if it is intentional or not, it only matters how people are made to feel. In the end, nobody wants to be seen as the bad person and nobody wants to feel disrespected, especially in public.

Cliff A. May



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