Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Racism: By a Conservative White Woman

So apparently it's Blog Against Racism Week.


What I want to know is when are we going to stop talking about racism, and actually stop being racist?

My answer: Not during my lifetime. Possibly never.

First, because I have my doubts that those who in positions of power on the race issue really WANT to stop talking about racism. It's an attention getter. It gives them press to be able to shout racism, even when it's not justified. Look at Gates-gate. Gates shouted racism, President Obama shouted racism, but as the facts come out it appears racism was not at the core of it, or at the heart of it, or on the surface of it. But we racist humans assumed that it was, didn't we. All of us. Of every race. Did we want it to be about racism? On the outside you might say, "NO!" But somewhere deep inside were you perhaps hoping that a white racist would get his comeuppance? In my own sphere, I have a beautiful story I wrote four years ago. I watched a dear friend of mine cry as she read this story. A noted author critiqued it and praised it highly. However, it is unlikely I will be able to sell it because it is a story of a Pre-Civil War American male slave, and I, the author, am a white woman. Never mind that the story is less about slavery and race than it is about being human and wanting desperately to be loved and accepted. It is not uncommon for such stories to be rejected by publishers simply because the author is white. Or because the author is a man and the main character a woman. Is that right and good? To discriminate in THAT way? If the author was black, and was rejected for her race, would that be right and good? The answer to both questions SHOULD be no.

You might say that a white person can't possibly understand being black well enough to write about a black person. But to say such a thing is nonsense. It's racist. It's the opposite of what those who seek an end to racism purport to be after. I am human. I can write about the human experience in any shape or color. It's the author's enigma. If I can only write about my own narrow experiences of being, then my stories will inevitably have to be peopled only by white women. In which case I would be branded a racist for NOT including people of 'color,' possibly a sexist by men's groups seeking a reversal of the destructive radical feminist prejudice against males of our species, for doing exactly what those seeking to end racism demanded that I do. And what other ways might I have to narrow my 'field of acceptable subject matter?' Only religious women? Only women who were virgins at marriage? Only women with three children? Only women who live in Utah? Only women who graduated with a degree in Fine Arts? Only women whose parents never divorced? Only women with sibling? What happened to freedom of expression? What happened to being color blind?

Racism can only end when everyone, of every color and creed, is willing to lay aside the past, let bygones be bygones, and replace prejudice with compassion, replace exclusivism with inclusionism.

But the second and most important reason is simply that it is part of human nature to be racist--and sexist, and religionist, and culturalist, and classist, and on and on and on. To NOT be one of these we would have to rehardwire the human brain. Even infants, before they can possibly be influenced by society, react differently to different faces--in color, shape, features. It is a fundamental of the human experience to be wary, though I tend to think 'wary' is too hard a word, of people who are different from ourselves. We can't legislate or punish it away. Even compassion can't entirely eliminate a tendency that is part of our humanity, to be conscious of the differences in others. Some like to dream of a 'color blind' society, in which our differences magically disappear. Well that could happen, I suppose, if we all wore masks, and identical clothing, and did the same things, and lived in the same houses, and worshipped the same god, and, ate the same food, and watched the same television programs... Oh. No. Never mind. That would be 1984, wouldn't it? Is that what we want? I, for one, tend to enjoy the differences in others. I sometimes wonder if those who shout 'DIVERSITY!' don't really mean 'CONFORMITY TO MY WAY OF THINKING!'

I'm certainly not espousing hate, though I believe hate to be protected under the Constitution. We can't and shouldn't legislate what someone thinks or feels. We can and should punish people for the crimes they commit. But should we make racism a crime?

Of all the liberty-robbing slippery slopes we've slid down in past 150 years, that one feels like the slipperiest of all.

The answer is not to force an end to racism. It's not to whine and complain and shove the 'racially oppressed' in the spotlight while they prove themselves to be racist in their own rights. It's not to feel guilty over our own self-perceived racism. It's to accept that we see others who are different from ourselves as, well, different, and we can't change that. But what we CAN do is rise above our natures and seek love and understanding, AND be equally compassionate toward those who choose, by their God-given free will, to hate.

When Christ said "Love your enemies," he meant it. In loving, we soften hardened hearts, change angry minds, change enemies to friends, and change the world in way that PRESERVES our liberties, instead of destroying them.


Mary Robinette Kowal said...

I think that you have never been truly exposed to racism if you think that ignoring it will make it go away.

I'm also deeply, deeply offended that you think I'm choosing to talk about it because it's "an attention getter."

Vincent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vincent said...

Dear Mary,

I am deeply, deeply offended that you thought I was attacking you. Are you not above your own -isms against people who think differently from yourself? I'm a conservative. I will always be a conservative. If that is too much of a barrier between us, then I am grieved beyond measure to lose your friendship, but the barrier is on your side of the mind. Not mine. Despite my knowing something of your political and philosophical leanings, I have followed your 'life' via your website and Facebook with much delight and a sense of pride in being able to say that I know Mary Robinette Kowal, the soon-to-be published novelist. I still plan on buying a copy of your book when it comes out, come what may. I can't wait.

I appreciate that your comments on FB got me thinking, and writing, about this.

But I don't think I said to ignore the problem of racism. I think I said that we should accept our human nature, use our very humanity to rise above it, and to combat racism, and all society's -isms, with compassion. If such a tactic is considered ignoring it then our world is in a hell of a lot more trouble than any of us think.

I also don't believe I addressed you directly as someone using racism to get attention. I believe I pointed to Mr. Gates as an example of those 'in positions of power' who do just that. There are, most certainly such people. I never, in any way, said you were one of them.

I may not have been exposed to racism, but I've certainly been exposed to, and the target of, other -isms. Our society suffers for all of them, and we don't help solve the problem of racism by elevating it above the others.

Take care.