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If racism was a religion, it would have the greatest following

By Kendal Sheets
July 31, 2002
The Iranian

"Don't let the niggers git ya" my grandfather told me as I was leaving. Worse than the vicious gossip about the in-laws, worse than the snake-ish meddling into personal lives, even worse than eating at McDonald's when I had to travel with them (when they know I'm a health freak) was the invariable use of the "N" word by the older generations among my relatives.

Not that Blacks were their only target of verbal abuse, just the most prevalent. Anyone that was non-pasty-white was a problem to them. Foreigners? Forget it, they are the cause of the high American unemployment and the reason our country is in such a "bad shape", whatever the hell that means.

It amazingly expands to many Americans, too: but mainly to anyone who disagreed with any of my relative's opinions. Since race couldn't be called into question among my fellow WASPy (White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant) Americans, they would target appearances ("She's just so ugly"), or Catholics ("That Kathleen Kennedy-Smith is so ugly"), liberals ("That liberal Kathleen Kennedy-Smith is so ugly"), etc.

When I was younger, and naive, I used to think I could easily correct all these bad beliefs of theirs. Boy was I wrong. Years of episodes ranging from yelling, arguments, to silent treatments ensued. Being a Christian, I figured a way to reach them might be to give my best impression of a southern Bible-believing preacher. After trying this I finally gave up the whole thing.

I remember reading them a story from the Bible where Jesus told of a Jewish man who was mugged, beaten up, and left to die by the road. No other Jews passing by would help him. Then, a Samaritan passed by, fixed up the poor victim, took the Jew to a hotel, and gave the innkeeper money to keep him while promising to pay any other bills upon the Samaritan's return (This is where we get the term "good Samaritan").

The key to the story is to understand who a Samaritan was. They were hated by the Jews. They were unclean vagabonds because of their race and class. The Samaritan was everyone's racial and economic victim rolled into one. Jesus told us to go and love the same way.

Now, this story, coming straight from the mouth of Jesus to my fellow alleged believers would surely convince anyone to give up their bigotry and embrace all God's children. Right. Did I say I used to be naive?

I've tried studying this racism so many of us believe in so strongly. Where does it come from? How is it passed on? Why doesn't it die out like so many other fads in this country? What I learned was that it is just as prevalent now among the younger generations as it was in the older ones. Bummer, I didn't want to hear that.

Taking a "Racism and the Law" class exposed a lot of what I did not know about our country's current and historical legal biases, but didn't help me find any solutions. It's as if racism was taken out of the public spotlight so that "Whites only" signs aren't up in front of stores, and it was driven underground so that the same signs are only posted mentally now at businesses, weddings, churches, courts, and of course family reunions. So my search continues and meanwhile, racism continues.

What happens behind closed doors is that most Whites want to exclude everyone else. Most people wouldn't believe it until they experience it themselves. Sometimes it is institutional, like a business only hires or only promotes White males, excluding women and any other races.

Sometimes it is direct; not being served at a restaurant, people saying something rude to you on the street or getting into your face at a bar, or that "look" of disapproval. If you know what I'm talking about, I've had all that done to me, too. Or, if you are a White American family member living in a White neighborhood, and in a White dominated career with only White friends, I doubt you have any clue as to what I'm talking about. The most you will know about racism is the racist jokes you tell to friends. I've heard all those told by my White friends, too.

It seeps into everything - your job, the law, social circles, housing, cities, governments police departments, even our beloved American Constitution has it in there. It gets down in your mind and into your gut, and can really get to you, if you let it. Racism has a broad spectrum of believers cutting across all socio-economic boundaries. If it was a religion, it would have the greatest following in the world.

I've heard the classic backwoods Klansmen out touting their ideological equivalent of vomit, but I've also heard the wealthy and educated speaking basically the same stuff, more eloquently of course. Everyone wants to look down on someone, I guess. It makes us feel better about ourselves.

And it's not just this country. Europe is just as bad, no matter how much of a socialist face of equality they try to paint on themselves. A friend of mine in Europe had to shorten her foreign last name recently to get a job. She had something like twenty prior applications with her original name, and got hired on the first one after she changed it. All I could tell her was welcome to the real world. Pick any country, and its there because people are there.

Why am I different than any other American? If anyone should be a racist, you'd think it was me. I grew up in it for one thing. I guess I started young. My Black friend who was my high-school tennis double's partner (who was also the son of a wealthy professional basketball player) wasn't allowed to come over to my house. Back then I didn't know why. I still don't know why. I guess having a Nigerian as my best man didn't help my reputation among my relatives, either. I never got to hear how many "N" words were passed around about that.

God said we must accept his love as children if we want to enter heaven. I was walking by a park the other day, and I saw his heaven. There were children of more races than I could keep track of, all playing together and climbing toys, swings, and sandboxes. None of them knew racism. Hopefully, someday, we will all be children again.


Kendal Sheets is a WASPy patent attorney from Maryland, USA.

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By Kendal Sheets

Please come back
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