First Posted 27-Feb-2015
I’m a Nascar fan. You say race to me and I’m thinking stock cars and oval race tracks. But, I’m not an idiot. I know that a synonym for race refers to the genealogical heritage of some folk and how that heritage affects their lives. Racism is tribalism writ large. Race is one way we select who is in, who is with us, and who is out, who is “other” and thus, worthy of exclusion and derision.
This needs to be one of my “not news” posts. It should not be news that discriminating against someone because of their skin color is a bad idea. God called us to love kin, neighbors and enemies. I don’t find an exception to that allowing us to declare that folk with a different skin tone from ours are to be shunned or treated as chattel. I’m repeating this because I feel like I need to say it again. Maybe I’m being stupid, thinking that if I say it enough more people will listen. It is a foolish way to argue–repeat something, louder and angrier each time, believing that the repetitions with more feeling will persuade the target of the verbal battery. It is how my son’s Mom & I used to argue. We were stubborn and stupid about it.
I should just let it go. I am not letting it go. For a couple reasons. One, a good friend of mine is deeply wounded on this topic. His misery, his bitter experience with being shunned because of his ethnicity, is something that colors the world shit-brown for him. He explains a lot of his misery based on it being caused by the accident of his birth to his parents. And here is where I should say he’s black. It’s the obvious punch line to this paragraph. But, believing misery is caused by a chance birth into an ethnicity isn’t a hangup that only African American’s have. So it’s not relevant to this essay whether my friend is black. What is relevant is that he has this habit of explaining his troubles by saying it is because of this ethnicity. He won’t let go of this. So I find myself wanting to say again that ethnicity and skin color say nothing about the character of us.
It’s not news except that ethnicity and skin color as characterizing attributes is something that gets repeated when it should not be a defining characteristic. Also not news, I hope, is that the labels “black” and “white” as markers of skin color are misnomers. Most of humanity is some shade of brown. Even I, ethnically “white”, am a shade of beige or light brown. Skin color as a measure of who is and isn’t in the tribe is a bad choice of discriminating characteristic. We are all brown. Some are darker brown than others. It’s a question of degree rather than a binary black/white choice. If anything, I and my fair skinned kin, are a minority. We are in charge because we tend to win wars. It’s been true for a while. 10,000 Scotts-Irish guys on a battlefield is not an opponent you want to face.
We don’t win honorably either. We defeated the Chinese by making them addicted to Opium. We hurt the Native Americans deeply with our new diseases. We cheat and win. We control most of Europe to this day. We may win ugly, but we win. Which . . . pisses some folk off. I get that. I know that the whole sordid affair of slavery was an ugly partnership between tribes in West Africa, my British ancestors, and my kin here in Richmond, VA.
It’s been nearly 50 years since the Civil Rights movement. The Emancipation Proclamation was 152 years ago as of this post. We’ve come a long way. Not saying we are done. Pockets of asshats exist. But the days of broad cultural assumption that we are divided along racial lines are gone. So, staying pissed off starts being a bit stupid. In any case, there are three trump cards that end the whole conversation on a good note. The first is that we need to continue the habit of remembering that whites are the minority, actually, and we should be grateful for our success and humbly serve as we are able out of that success. The second is the greatest commandment: Love God with all our hearts, minds and souls and second, love kin, neighbors and enemies alike. Third, the golden rule, treat others as we wish to be treated. Three simple principles to live by that can end racism where it reappears. Three simple things we can all do regardless of ethnic origin. I started with Nascar. Joey Logano won the Daytona 500 this year in a Ford. Maybe his victory isn’t connected. So be it. Congratulations to Penske Racing and Joey Logano for a great win.