For many many people it seems to be a hard leap to connect comments and actions to evidence of racism. Apparently, the same goes for the President of United States.
By Charles Griggs
“People tell us who they are, but we don’t believe them because we want them to be who we want them to be.” – Don Draper
Last week I attended a social gathering of some old acquaintances. It had been awhile since I’ve seen these people, and admittedly our connections aren’t that strong. Oh and by the way, I was the only Black person in the room. I have grown accustomed to this scenario, given the frequency of my travel and business activities.
As I was engaged in a conversation with one of the female in the room, another one approached. She heard that we were comfortably discussing politics and wanted to join in. As she entered the conversation her question to me was, “Which one are you, the good side or the bad side?” Before I could respond, the other woman tried to interrupt as the question seemed to make her feel uncomfortable. Yet, she persisted, “You’re not a Democrat are you? I can’t believe Democrats are calling Trump a racist.”
At that point I simply replied, “He is.”
Now we were rolling, as both women stood frozen at my response.
Typically, I weather these events and activities by becoming an observer. I listen more than I talk to be sure that I have learned something new upon my departure. Now I was about to be fully engaged in a political conversation with people who don’t follow politics, but were clearly Trump supporters.
First of all, I knew that my words would not change any hearts or minds during that conversation. However, I started my follow up with, “The reason we are so far apart on issues such as racism is because White people will never understand a Black person’s experience with it.”
Then I gave four examples of my personal experiences with racism and how they led to discrimination against me. At that point I added, “If you like could go on. There is plenty more where that came from.”
I wasn’t dreaming these things up. I have plenty examples of how racism has impacted me in my lifetime. And when the President of the United States uses language and policies that make perpetrators feel comfortable and empowered to practice overt racism, that makes him culpable and responsible for its spread.
I think it’s fair to honor our differences. Be they political or cultural, I believe our differences give our country the best opportunity to lead the world in liberty and freedom. Frankly, people who believe in party over country scare me. And when I encounter people who would rather know your party affiliation than your name, they scare me even more.
When similar situations occur, I try to challenge my White friends who are reluctant to believe racism still exists to talk with a Black person and ask them about their life experiences. I promise, the stories will come in all forms from minor occurrences to blockbuster doozies.
And while Black people are willing to share personal stories of racism, we do so knowing they are the reason for discrimination and mistreatment but not an excuse to give in to it.
Yes, Donald Trump is a racist. If he were not a racist, he would realize that words matter. And as the leader of an entire country (not just his political base), he would communicate to unify and to inspire people to make America great…together.
We don’t have to agree on everything. There is room for healthy and inspired debate on policy issues across the board. No one is always right as this president seems to believes only he can be. And no one should have the ability to play fast and loose with the truth as this president often does. There is plenty of evidence to prove that because of his rhetoric many people are feeling less accountable to the moral and humanistic qualities that encourage us to be and do better.
This country is at its best when we take a moment to have compassion for the life experiences of others. So the next time you get the urge to believe America and its president is free of its systematic racist values, let’s talk about it. Every citizen owes it to themselves to have an informed and clear understanding of racism and its impacts on African Americans.
But you can’t expect us to get anywhere if you want to lead the conversation with racist rhetoric.
Not even the President of the United States.
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