We are all racists and once you accept that you can be part of the solution.
The way our brains work is to compare whatever we see, to whatever we already know. And the way we process this comparison in any situation is affected by the emotional weight of our previous experiences.
Whoever you grew up with has a great influence on how you perceive the world. Anyone who is unlike those who you grew up with are naturally going to make you feel uneasy. It’s how the brain works. Until you can know for certain that someone is not a threat, then evolution has taught us to be wary.
Not much more than a hundred years ago some people were slaves, they were not educated, could not own anything, had no money and were not afforded the protections of the rest of society. Fifty years ago, certain people were still excluded from some places by their color or race, they were still excluded from many levels of society including education and finance. Even today there are still explicit barriers placed in the path of some people based on their race, ethnicity or sex. The criminal justice code has been tuned to impact some ethnic groups more effectively than others. There are schools with no children of color, and others with no children of European descent. This hasn’t happened by luck, but by social engineering.
There are still poor neighborhoods and rich neighborhoods. Poorer neighborhoods have higher levels of broken families, higher mortality rates, lower length of life and greater levels of anti-social issues. If your grandparents didn’t go to college, there is a lower likelihood of your children going to college. It takes an act of society as a whole to accelerate the removal of such disparities.
As a white man, I get to enjoy the benefits of these disparities every day. I don’t get a second look from any law enforcement officer. Shop and service staff assume positive intent in any action I take. In effect my life is boosted by my skin color, because others are actively discriminated against for theirs, giving me an explicit and implicit advantage.
My grandparents and parents actively supported me through childhood, through school and through university. I grew up in a great neighborhood surrounded by many levels of family, friends and people who saw me as “like them”. I learnt the skills of learning and was always being trained to be a valuable member of society. No relative of mine was imprisoned, I’ve never been stopped by the police, my trips through airports are simple, I never get followed in stores, I’ve never had an issue with financial services, I’ve always been able to get medical services wherever and whenever I like, I’ve never been turned away from an interview, I’ve never been denied by a buildings coop board. I can always use a premises bathroom without question. I like policemen and women and enjoy meeting them on the street. I’ve never been followed by security or neighborhood watchmen. I have what is called white privilege. I didn’t choose it, but by my inaction I guess I support it.
And I recognize that depending on the color or your skin your experiences may be very different, and I’ve never really done anything to change that either.
I am truly amazed by the decency of the millions of people of color who have not screamed at this injustice. If I was the one being discriminated against, I’ve not sure I’d be as serene.
It really is time for this injustice to be righted, and the generation that is just now gaining the right to vote, may well be the generation that resolves to make everyone truly equal.