Friday, June 19, 2015

The Boy Who Cried Racist

In third and fourth grade my best friend was Chris, a Chinese boy with Chinese parents. I even had my first crush on a Chinese girl named Marika. We would partner with each other whenever we had the chance. I grew up around a lot of migrant Mexican workers in Washington state during middle school who picked cherries for a living. I heard rumors about gangs and especially Mexican gangs, but I never really saw any. I played basketball with a lot of them during lunch in high school along with a Chinese boy named Dong. My best friend as a Freshman in high school was also Chinese but probably half Caucasian as I believe was his mom in an interracial marriage. I enthusiastically signed up for Spanish classes so that I could speak the language of all the Mexicans around me.

I remember watching cartoons and kid shows like Sesame Street as I grew up that showed a lot of different people from a lot of different backgrounds. I am not sure I would have been entirely aware that differences in color and eye orientation were even something to consider regarding a person's value, but the TV shows assured me anyway that we should not judge a person in such way. I pretty much saw this as obvious and I never saw anyone do otherwise.

My aunt Genevieve went on a trip to the Philippines once and told me how they only had holes for toilets. I longed to travel and see such crazy different ways of life. I remember being told about how bad life was for a lot of people in Africa and China specifically. I felt bad for them and always wanted to help them in some way.

I went to college at Michigan Tech where I met all kinds of different people including Indians and Muslims for the first time. I found it rather exciting. I never really had much exposure to black people for some reason though. They seemed to keep to themselves I guess. I saw them on TV a lot but I tended to interact mostly with other races. The interactions I did have were generally pleasant, but I kept away from the ones who dressed like the rappers I might see on TV who liked to sing about f-ing women, beating cops, doing drugs, uplifting money over everything, and wearing gold all over their teeth. Such crude behavior never floated my boat. I appreciated those who did not uplift this image though.

When I worked at McDonald's in Iron Mountain, Michigan one Summer, I met my first racist in the drive through. She wanted to know why I had given her child a black Barbie doll. She informed me that "we don't like those kinds of people around here." I was aghast and lied to her telling her that we had no other Barbies to give and she would have to be satisfied with the one she got. She drove away upset while I wondered how she could have possibly come to such an outlandishly stupid conclusion. The culture certainly never gave me that same impression. I only remember one other black person in Iron Mountain though. His name was Ashley and he worked at a gas station. He was nice enough. Without any black people around, I wonder how a person could even learn to hate them. Nobody was even encountering them to talk smack about them and TV always seemed quite inclusive. I figured it must have been a bad family.

When I visited Virginia Beach for a Summer, I found a lot of Russians around. I tried to learn how to say "smile" but apparently I could never pronounce one of their sounds properly. I still have a picture I took with the four Russians I befriended at that time.

I moved to Kansas City, Missouri for a while where I met plenty of black people. In fact, my neighbors were very large black people. One of them broke one of our dining room chairs when we had them over for dinner but we tried not to hurt his feelings by saying it was okay and silently throwing it away when it was dark since it appeared unrepairable. I attended a few black churches a couple times and I wondered why they were so black-filled with not a single white person around. There were clearly plenty of white people so why did the church not represent them? I found it odd, but they did have their own flavor and style that perhaps simply did not meet the fancies of white people. I thought it was a unique experience and the people were nice enough, but I did not care much for the flavor myself. I also went to a Spanish-speaking church which was pretty fun and had good people, but it still seemed too different and difficult to really feel a belonging.

My wife befriended a black coworker and we went out with her and her husband a few times. I still remember how hilarious it was when the server asked if he wanted a box for his food and he respond, "nah, I'm gonna kill this." They were great people.

While in Kansas City, I made friends with Juana, the bread lady at Fazoli's. She was from Mexico. She and her husband Vicente worked extremely hard in order to provide a better life for their child back home in Mexico. We became great friends despite a bit of a distance between us. We met another black lady from the church we attended at the time named Mesha. She joined us for Bible studies at our apartment along with a Chinese lady and a few other people. We all thought Mesha was awesome. She was very bubbly and friendly.

When I joined Eaton as an Engineer, I worked with many Indians and Pakistanis along with someone from Syria and a few other places. When visiting Indians would come over I would always take them out for dinner and even bring them home to meet my family. I tried to ensure that they would have a pleasant visit even though I have a really hard time understanding their accents a lot of times and the fact that I am also very introverted.  I find it difficult to do small-talk. I always tried my best to pronounce their names properly too which they appreciated greatly. One resident Indian I had a hard time with early on in my career, but I sat down and had a heart-to-heart with her and we realized how we got off on the wrong foot and we became pretty good friends after that.

I saw my second racist person while I lived in Kalamazoo. Sophie was our 80-some-year-old neighbor. We figure since she lived with dinosaurs and slavery we could probably give her a pass, but we certainly did not agree with any racist comments that she would make and we would try to encourage her to realize that not all black people were the same as she would describe. We became good friends with the Greek owner of a restaurant that we frequented by taking Sophie out on a weekly basis hoping to improve her life and mindset.

Now I work at GM. I sit in an office next to a Vietnamese, a Guatemalan, and a Chinese lady. On the other side of my wall is an Indian and two other Chinese guys. The floor is filled with others from Japan, Russia, and who knows where else. I have been trying to learn some Chinese and I practice what I learn with Xiao, Roumei, and Lisong. It turns out that my kids actually know Roumei's kids from a Summer class we enrolled them in. We often have Mexican visitors and, like I did for the Indian visitors at Eaton, I often take them out to places like to Dave and Busters. I am saving up quite a racket in points from that place with the many times I have gone now.

I started using Facebook regularly perhaps about five years ago. I started seeing these complaints about racism perhaps only a couple years ago. All these experiences I have described shape who I am and how I see race and racism in the world. Throughout my life, my experiences have shown me a great blending of races and I have made many friendships across many races and religions. I have personally come across only two obviously racist people and I work in a company that, if anything, could only be considered racist in that they prefer to hire people who are not white.

With all this, I can hardly believe my eyes when I see the news and Facebook posts. Everyone is crying racism with every passing comment and story. Some white guy was not called a terrorist when he shot 9 people in a church and yet we call a Muslim a terrorist for blowing up people at a marathon and so I see crying all over Facebook regarding it. Of course, the first I heard of the white shooter it was indeed with reference to him being a terrorist anyway. I did some research on some Muslim shooters at a Draw Mohammad contest and lo and behold they were not called terrorists either until after more information was found and they were determined to belong with ISIS, a known terrorist group. So the complaint did not ring true in the slightest.

I see police take down and sometimes kill black people who were resisting arrest and I hear the chant of racism. All I can do is wonder why he resisted arrest. Everywhere I turn I see people complaining about the racism of the white man. Even the white man is complaining about the racism of the white man. I simply do not get it. All my life from Washington to Michigan to Kansas and back to Michigan, I saw people getting on just fine despite racial differences. They had no problem with me and I had no problem with them. They are in my workplace with great careers and in leadership positions. The issues are always "in the news" and are reported as terrible events.

Everything around me for all my life has proclaimed that racism is not a problem. And then the news shows an incident here and an incident there and tells me that this is some systemic problem all throughout our nation and we somehow teach this to our kids. Well, I certainly did not learn it as a kid and all the media I watched told me it was wrong. I, too, am a product of my culture. Even the media I watch today tells me it is wrong but with the added stipulation that media is the one promoting it. I see some media fighting back against the backlash of accusations, but I certainly do not see the media uplifting racism in any way shape or form. So who is actually doing all this racism in the media then? I simply do not get it.

Now, when I talk about all this stuff and my confusion over it, the very first thing I hear is accusations of being racist myself with an added racist comment that I clearly suffer from "white privilege" and that I am the problem. Clearly, those calling wolf are not very good at determining who and what is racist. Hopefully it is clear enough from my history that I am not racist and yet I am labeled as such without so much as batting an eye from people who love to chant that there is a problem. Notably, this does not bring me much comfort that they have any amount of correctness in their position although this of course does not guarantee they are wrong. But, if they can mistake me of all people for a racist, then clearly they are blind as bats and are filled with confirmation bias from their own failed upbringing.

However, I am willing to understand the fact that my experiences are limited. I have not lived everywhere. It is safe to say that some places are different than others and cultures form around different things. I am positive that some places are indeed highly racist. But I am so entirely sick of being thrown under the bus with the rest of them. Call a person a racist for a specific racist act, fine, but do not call the entire system of the United States racist when we have a black president for crying out loud. And he won with a whopping 51% both times which apparently has not happened since 1956. So this is not the story of a single person's random anecdotal success, this is the story of 51% of our voting population that is clearly not racist enough to deny a black candidate based on skin color. The system clearly allows for people of other races to climb the ladder even to the top of our country.

Yes, I understand that statistically speaking it might be harder for some races. Statistically speaking it is also harder for people who are missing an arm or a leg or have autism as well but that does not always mean we are discriminating against them. Statistics in this regard mean nothing when there could be an extremely wide variety of reasons as to why the statistic could be meaningful. This is why it is called correlation and not causation. But the more we fight and complain about race wars, the more race wars we will actually have. We need to say "Racism is bad, don't do it" or "See this person who did a terrible racist thing? Don't be like him" rather than "Racism is everywhere! AAAaaaahhh!!!! Run for the hills!! Your're terrible for saying it's not so!!" This is not helping. Clearly. And it sounds a lot like the religious yokels claiming, "Ahh!! The homosexuals are going to take over the nation and God's going to smite us all!! Eegads, the Muslims are coming for us to take us over under the banner of Satan! Ahhh!!!" It so shocks me that the religious chants and the racist chants tend to be from opposing groups. They both express this outragism and yet mock the other for it.

But let us call an apple an apple rather than generically calling it fruit. When you can be specific, be specific or else it sounds an awful lot like condemning the entirety of the category. If someone is poisoned by an apple, we should not be saying that someone was poisoned by eating fruit and it is so terrible that fruit is poisonous when in reality it was a certain man who had an allergy to apples who just happened to die by eating one. There are 319 million people in the United States. A single incident or even 100 means nothing. And when a single source just happens to say a crazy white guy shot 9 black people in a church but does not use the word "terrorist," this does not mean we should yell, "Aahh!! The media is not calling the white guy a terrorist! They merely said he was mentally ill!! The media is racist!!" It simply means that a white guy (who is indeed clearly deranged given his actions) shot 9 people who were black. Yes, he was racially motivated. He said so. But this does not mean the entire nation is racist. Even 200 incidents in one year does not mean that the entire system of 319 million people is racist. This would not be statistically significant in any normal study that did not have a bias to fear the chant of racism and to be culturally appropriated into the high-class superiority of chanting that the country is entirely racist.

Unfortunately, the way statistics are used for the argument of racism is ridiculous. We look at the statistics of how more black people are arrested for the same crime than white people and we call this disproportionate and thus racist while overlooking that the 13% of our population who are black commit over 50% of our murders. We say that it is clearly racism when the white man's actions statistically bend toward blacks and yet we ignore that the statistics tell the exact same story that blacks are disproportionately killing blacks. One means something and the other does not even though they are the same thing. The black people are killing primarily black people so by the same logic that whites are targeting blacks we would have to conclude that blacks are targeting blacks. Of course, this is not true. Yet it is considered racist if the white person kills more black people and not when the black person kills more black people. Why does the statistic supposedly work one way and not the other? These are merely correlations. They are not causation by any means and they show a significant misinterpretation of data.

Black people kill more black people than white people because they are surrounded primarily by black people and they interact more with black people than white people. So of course they kill more black people without targeting blacks specifically. Similarly, the police could kill more black people because the officers are more willing to shoot suspects in black neighborhoods where crime and murder are at higher rates and thus they are at significantly higher risk. In such murderous towns, it is also quite possible that they have greater cause to shoot.

Statistics are great and all, but only if we make valid conclusions regarding them rather than making false assumptions and immediately running correlations to the bank as if they are causation. Again, pointing at people and claiming they are racist is not beneficial. Teaching early-on and all throughout our media that racism is unacceptable and also quite stupid is a far better solution. Enough with the name-calling and picking and choosing statistical correlations as if they truly support arguments. It makes my head hurt.

What is true, however, is that blacks do have a harder time in life. They do get pulled over more, they do not get as good an education on average, and they end up with significant hurdles to overcome. We need to get to the bottom of why this is. It is clear that it all started from racism. Very bad racism. Blacks were originally segregated and when a black person moved in near a white person the white people would move away. Blacks would also have a harder time getting jobs and being treated fairly or getting apartments and loans. This ultimately set black people up for failure in the long run. With less income, they had less taxes and less education. With less education, they became more delinquent and sensually-oriented. The police used to arrest blacks for any and all crimes in order to sell them as prison labor which took a lot of fathers away from their children. This caused maladjusted kids to grow into adults.

There is a lot of issues now with the black culture overall due to the racism of the past. Even if all racism were immediately eradicated, the culture itself could take over for itself. The lack of education, the fatherlessness, the drugs, crime, and murder, will continue the same pitfalls and create stereotypes of the culture and recreate similar racism all over again. Humans are very quick to draw patterns. In the hippie movement, it is not like everyone wore long hair but it became stereotyped anyway because enough people did it. We will never get past stereotyping and thus it is important that the significant majority of blacks are well-adjusted adults. What we need to focus on then is education and providing an extra hand to those in particularly impoverished areas. I do not mean that we help "black" people because that would be racist as well. We need to help all poor groups which will indeed disproportionately help black people while not withholding support from white people in the same position.

We need to stop with the complaining about non-factual things, however, which promotes more racism and bitter opposition to the real problem. All the false cries will turn the entire problem into the boy who cried wolf. Few people will believe there is even a problem with racism at all if so many people are pointing the finger falsely. In the end, the solutions have much less to do with race than with education and support for struggling people. The cries of racism need to end and the concern for those in need must rise which will fix any racial injustice or disproportion.

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