I found myself confused so I put pen to paper as that can often allow me to work through things. I’m a bit of a news/information junkie. I follow the news here and overseas and appreciate that each culture colours events, reactions and reasons. I’m also an intellectual that tries very hard to divide emotion from arguments of race-, class-, socioeconomic- and all the other –isms you can think of. I think of myself as a modern mind, someone who is able to see both sides, who knows that racism goes both ways, that whilst a form of white privilege exists, it does so in a more institutionalised manner as opposed to active. I believe that people hurt each other but the inherent reasons quite often are bigger than their own heads. That in the nature versus nurture argument, it is often put aside as inconvenient the actual nurturer. We speak about teaching kids to hate as if that is the part at which this needs to be fixed but brush over who taught them and how many others are they teaching.
This came to a head when I started to follow the Charleston shootings in the US. A white young man walked into a historical black church’s prayer meeting, sat down for an hour and then calmly got up and shot just about everyone in the room, most of whom were women. He left some alive to “pass on his message”. That he had to do this because black people needed to go, that they were raping “our” women. That they were taking “our” land. A senseless, shocking and hateful act reminiscent of crimes from more than 60/70 years ago in that part of the States (and quite a few others to be fair). Surely things have changed, surely this is an isolated event with some sadistic history buff who refuses to join the future. The equal future.
Now, I’m not American. As a Bermudian, there is some assimilation due to proximity, tv, etc. We travel more to the States and a lot more States people travel here than any other nationality. More often than not, if the US sneezes, it is definitely time to pull out the Airborne. So I feel as much or as closely connected to them as I do to the UK. And when it comes to politics and daily news, I keep more on track with them than the UK. I’ve been paying attention to the spree of cops killing black people and the prisons being overwhelmingly populated by majority black even though statistically that is out of sync to total country population. And I hate it. Here like there, you can feel the steam inching its way up to blowing the top off this keg of repressed emotions.
When either here or there had their civil movements and blacks became truly free and legally equal, everyone sighed a sigh of relief and got to work being equal in all eyes of the law. They weren’t at first, mind you. But in order to move forward to true equality you have to let go of the past, to stop looking behind so as to see every opportunity in front of you. And blacks did, for the most part. They entered every door that opened to them and they changed the way many saw them. They became educated, prosperous… they assimilated. Not all obviously but a lot of them parked themselves in the middle class (some even higher) and created a new future and in time a nicer history. And I’m right there. I understand that, I am that. There are many black people here and elsewhere that didn’t or don’t have that luxury and, whilst I feel for them, I don’t truly understand that. I was always taught that you make of yourself what you want to be and the only person that can truly keep you back is yourself. And my environment not only allowed but nurtured that viewpoint. In Bermuda, we are lucky that the majority of blacks sit in in that middle to high range. We can be what we want provided what we want isn’t too high or too expansive. And honestly, I am kinda okay with that but then I’ve always been a bit scared of heights. And then there’s the ones that don’t understand me. Luckily in Bermuda there is a much smaller percentage than that of the US. It’s disingenuous of me to pretend I truly “know” how they feel and I’m actually a sympathizer! One that sees the struggle and knows it is real. How hard then must it be to understand if you don’t see the problem.
In this event, the Charleston shooting, there are a lot of opinions floating around. Fox News called it an attack on faith, that it isn’t necessarily a racial hate crime but a religious one. Other news outlets proclaim that he must have been mentally ill, that he wasn’t right in the head. What many failed to say was that this was a crime based upon racial hate that has been allowed to smolder underneath all the efforts made to become equal by people to whom the concept of legal equality will never make you truly as “good” as them. We made a mistake. We tried to see assimilation as equality. We tried to cover emotion with logic to believe that since times have changed and many have changed and racism is no longer “proper”, that it is in fact been eradicated, except for pockets of “those” people.
Don’t get me wrong, equality is happening. People, black and white, do see less of the skin and more of the person. But that has largely happened by working on those you could change and leaving the rest to continue as they were. Is there less racism in America and Bermuda? Yes. Is America and Bermuda less racist? No. Because those who chose to stick their feet in and purposely believe us less than them have never truly had anyone put them and their beliefs into the light, to make them feel shame for their actions. Because we middle class and educated blacks have the ability to surround ourselves with the intelligent people that truly know that equality is a human right. Because some black people are just as entrenched in their hatred, anger and fear of white people as some of them are of us and both groups tend to belong to the same social strata and thus have each other to rail against. And because refusing to look at something never makes it go away.
My kids are half white and half black. They live in a world that will never look down on them for being so. Bermuda is largely becoming populated with these children that straddle both colours, both worlds and that are given the educational opportunities to allow them not have to really “see” racism. They have that luxury. But that luxury as it is will only allow them to stay in their bubble. And hope to god, that their bubble isn’t burst by someone outside of that world who sees racism up close and personal…. and hates because of it. Someone who could walk into a church and kill 9 people for race or those that will inevitably riot soon for race. Hate is hate and it has no colour, just a target.
“Americans have internalized the idea that racism is bad, without ever accepting that they’re racist. So, the average American’s thought process goes something like this:
Racism is bad
I am a good person
Therefore, I am not racist
Once that line of logic has been completed, all the arguments in the world can’t overcome their rationalization and willful blindness.”