Racism in the U.S. continues to be a common topic in media and a less common topic on the street. I live in an integrated neighborhood. I shop in shopping center near my home which is patronized predominantly by people who are not Caucasian, like myself. I do not hear open discussions of race on my streets. I do hear racially based slang, often descriptive, muttered by people here and there.
I often think, "What constitutes being racist really?" Those who are relentlessly politically correct, mostly well-off white people, seem to think simply noticing someone has a certain skin color is racist. This strikes me as simply stupid. Yes, I am prejudiced against stupid people who have no excuse to be stupid.
Is a Black or Latino person racist when he rationalizes turning his back on education and hard work to pursue crime because he feels racially oppressed? Is the Jewish parent racist who brainwashes his pre-pubescent child to only marry another Jew? Is a Catholic parent guilty of a form of ethnic discrimination when he threatens his child with damnation for marrying a non-Catholic. Is the Asian parent racist who chides his Chinese-American child for marrying a Vietnamese-American? Is paying attention to genetics at all a racist act?
"Racism" has come to mean "any consciousness of racial or ethnic differences" in many circles. It once was used to describe unjust behavior based on race. This is an example of deterioration of both common American language and the general level of conversation in our society. I lay the responsibility for this largely on a media which has traded ethics for cash. Exploiting racial dynamics has become a saleable product. Making stories race-based, when they are actually about crime, social integration, poor public education and widely unscientific law enforcement, is exploitative and cancerous.
My thinking about race grows from the ground of my experience as a gay man born sixty- five years ago. I grew up in one of the most densely populated cities in the U.S. and one of the most blue-collar. I lived through the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. I lived through the Gay Liberation Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. These movements were not about establishing racism and homophobia as permanent self-limiting fixtures in the minds of the different. Not at all.
These movements were about discussing differences, seeking understanding and demanding equal justice. These movements were about empowering the individual to liberate himself from the yoke of racial difference and sexual difference as perceived and acted against by the ignorant and brutal. In other words, it was about being a whole person with a determination against social resistance to be an integrated and contributing member of the greater world.