I have different views on racism, depending on what aspect of racism we are addressing. It is an issue that is complex and intertwined with many other social issues. Here I address one aspect of racism.
As some may have read in my previous blog entries, I was born in Cuba and came to the United States when I was five. My parents, while not racists, were separatists in the sense that they did not believe that different races should intermarry and have children. I remember constantly arguing with them about this growing up because I didn’t see what the big deal was. We all have the same body parts and we bleed the same color. Their main arguments were that society did not treat children who were a product of a bi-racial union the same, and the concern about which race would bi-racial children identify with. My response was always “who cares what society thinks?”. The injustice and unfairness of it all made me defend my stance on this subject. Interestingly enough they had black friends who visited our home, and some relatives on each side who married blacks and Asians, and had children.
Something that is different from other cultures to the Cuban culture is that to most Cubans, black Cubans are not considered “black”. They are considered Cuban. They may refer to them as “el negro”, but its used as an affectionate, and friendly term much like how the term “gordita” is used to address an overweight or fat woman in an affectionate manner. Translated to English “gordita” is the equivalent of “fatty” that has a totally negative connotation.
As a young adult, I would watch the news and read articles about the demonstrations and protests by the blacks against racial issues. Being a white person it was really difficult to see what the need for any of this was. Blacks could live anywhere, and had the same freedom, and opportunities, so what was the problem?
Through the years I had more interactions on a closer social basis with blacks from many different countries, not just Americans, and my suspicions were right. They are like everyone else. I also had the opportunity to ask questions, which is second nature to me because I’m very inquisitive. I asked some of my friends if they ever felt discriminated, and if so why or how. I received several examples of how they experienced “feeling different” or singled out in their daily lives. Even the black Cubans. Most indicated they were watched in stores while they were shopping, or had been passed over for a job by someone who was less qualified but white. I think what I expected was more severe examples, actions that would enrage anyone into wanting to protest out in the streets. What I learned is that the subtle instances that go imperceptible to those of us who are not black are what eventually nag at you when they are directed at you. So I got it. I understood the anger and feeling of helplessness and unfairness at being singled out, even in an almost imperceptible manner.
Then I thought about shootings and gang related deaths, they usually take place in inner city neighborhoods where even the police don’t want to go. Whose fault are these? Is it the white man that is coming in, and taking over, and selling the drugs to black kids or creating gangs? No, it’s black men who are doing this. It is black men who are making the wrong choices to be criminals, to be drug dealers, to put black children’s lives at risk over, and over again. It’s their choice to belong to gangs, to not go to school, and to want an “easy” way out, by selling drugs or engaging in other illegal activities. They do nothing to improve their situation. You can call it stereotypical and racist to portray a black man this way, but it is not. It’s not because there are whites, Latinos, and Asians that engage in similar behavior, and there is no excuse for it. But you don’t see whites, Latinos and Asians protesting about their lot in life, they accept that their choice to be losers is why they have done nothing in their life, they don’t blame black people or any other race or cultural group for their lack of motivation and bad choices.
The reality is that slavery can’t continue to be blamed. Discrimination and racism at this point are just excuses used by black opportunists like Al Sharpton to promote race versus race problems in this country. I find it offensive that every time a black man dies in an incident related to gun violence people like Sharpton come out of the woodwork, and start protesting. Where are they when these kids are growing up in impoverished areas? Why aren’t they supporting their fellow blacks to improve their situation instead of constantly complaining about it on the national news? People like Sharpton make me sick because all they are is opportunists who really don’t care about other people, only their own agenda. And yet, he has the gall to equate himself to Martin Luther King, and call himself a civil rights leader, when all he wants to do is continue to promote hatred, and separation. If he invested as much time helping black children, and black men succeed as he does in getting them riled up, and keeping them down by filling them with anger, resentment and an unreasonable feeling of never ending entitlement, then all blacks living in those circumstances would be in a better place, not burning up and destroying their own neighborhoods, and ending up arrested.
Instead of being a motivational speaker, they are demotivating their fellow black Americans by making them believe that they should be receiving entitlements because their ancestors had to endure slavery, and that white men owe them something. Unfortunately it is easy to influence those who are angry, and feel that they are owed something. Look what happened to Cuba with Castro, and look where it got them.
So definitely awareness of the issue is important for conscientious change. But is that enough to solve the racial problem? No. In my life whenever anyone has ever told me that they have a problem, or even when I have had a problem, I have always tended not to focus on the problem, but to immediately focus on solutions. I strongly believe that as humans and as Americans we need to become less problem focused and more solution oriented or we will never move out of the current mindset.
So, in my solution oriented mind, I think to resolve the racism issue in this country and the divisiveness that exists we have to first get to the bottom of the actual problem. Getting to the bottom is not rehashing slavery, ad nauseam. So that needs to be put to the side, and not addressed as a present issue, because the reality is, it is not.
As time has gone by we have seen a great majority of black Americans succeeding in life, graduating from universities, being gainfully employed at good jobs, owning their own businesses, acquiring wealth, basically living the American dream. Why were these black Americans able to excel and fulfill their goals? They are not genetically different. They were not born into rich families. They are just average Americans taking control of their own lives and achieving their goals. This demonstrates that there is opportunity. This demonstrates that racism isn’t such a detrimental factor that you can’t overcome whatever racism you feel you are experiencing to accomplish your goals.
Since our focus here is to change things the first place I would start to make changes is in our neighborhoods and schools. Money definitely needs to be allocated to improve inner city schools, that is a given. Another important move would be incorporating black history into regular American History. There is no reason why the contributions of every single person whether black, white, Latino or Asian should not be incorporated into American History, and taught in our school system. We need to have a sense of unity as a country. Something I find counterproductive is everyone’s hyphenated nationality. At this point in time, if your parents were not born in Africa, then you are not African-American. You are an American. Same applies to everyone else.
As Americans we also need to loosen up and accept that each race and cultural group living in this country has their basic differences, and that in order to respect each other, and see each other as equals we have to acknowledge the differences, be able to joke about the differences without being offended, and embrace the differences.
I listen to Power 96, a local radio station in Miami. They have 3 morning radio hosts. One black man, a woman of Cuban descent, and a man also of Hispanic descent, who were all born in this country so they are American. They have this segment called “Black, White, Hispanic or Other”. During this segment they read an article about someone who committed a crime of some sort and were arrested. Most of the crimes involved some action that can be generally attributed to a particular group. The listeners then call in to win prizes if they can guess if the person committing the offense was Black, White, Hispanic or Other. In the beginning I thought this only promoted racism, and stereotyping but after listening to the show almost daily, I realized that what it does is portray the differences that are inherent to each races and/or culture. It’s this type of openness without fear of being labeled or criticized that promotes unity. Everyone laughs on the show, makes jokes about how stupid the person was to get caught doing whatever they did, and they move on. Unfortunately the television media is not as open. Problems, tragedy, and heated issues keep people plugged in and watching. I don’t think that it’s a stretch to say that the media has played a very important part in the continued divisiveness in this country, but that’s an entirely separate topic.
In summation we need to let go of the past, clean up neighborhoods, improve education, and respect and acknowledge the differences in others. This is accomplished through relaxed open communication, not skirting around the issue in order to not be offensive. Since it is impossible to brainwash closed minded people of any race into acceptance or change, we need to start with the younger generation so that we can work towards better future results. Any positive change will inevitably improve the situation.