Racism isn’t getting worse, it’s simply being documented and shared on social media. It isn’t the first time that documentation occurs, a simple google search will show you historic photographs of the Tulsa riots, the MOVE bombing, Japanese internment camps and the hanging of Mexican Americans through the 1920’s. Why are these interactions being so widely shared by white people now and not in the past? Obviously technology plays a huge part but I believe that it also has something to do with the fact that in today’s society enough white people, not all, have no issues to contend with and live a very sheltered life. They vicariously experience hardship and oppression through somebody else’s pain. Their outrage is their version of suffering (I will admit I’m probably being cynical here.) Pressing a re-share button is certainly an easy way to make any event known to the world, an advantage we did not have before, but it isn’t enough to create the collective psychological change needed to transcend the issues of racism and xenophobia. Once the outrage is over most people will go back to their regular programed distractions but many other people will be trapped in that reality for the rest of their lives.
In my own experience living in this county as a Mexican immigrant I have had encounters that have always left me thinking, what if that had been a psycho with a gun?
One time during one of the multiple occasions that I had to go searching for my dogs after they took off on one of their adventures, a concerned white citizen blocked my car demanding to know why I was driving up and down the street. The same street where I lived. A fact that he found hard to believe and proceeded to use the same argument I’ve heard more than once before: “We’ve had a series of burglaries around this neighborhood and I’m calling the cops.”
Only 6 months ago I was driving back to work after lunch hour when a truck started following me. He caught up with me at a red light and started yelling. I couldn’t tell what he was saying, I was blasting music really loud. At first I thought I had cut him off or something but when he caught up with me at the next light he was wearing his MAGA hat and then I understood what the problem was. He had a problem with the fact that I was listening to Mexican music in my own car.
One time I was told at the gym that a concerned white woman wanted the front desk to call the cops on me because I looked “too threatening.” We used to live next to an old lady that would yell at my mom “go back to your country.” I’ve had security guards follow me around stores, Starbucks employees demanding to know why I’m there, bank tellers refusing to cash my checks because they did not believe that they were mine. I mean, how often does someone like me goes to the bank to deposit a large check from a multi-million dollar golf company? One time a team of immigration agents ambushed my parents right outside their home, surrounded my dad’s truck and came out ready to draw their weapons only to find out they had the wrong house.
I have 20 years of stories like that. I am very lucky I live in Southern California, some of these interactions could have gone very different if I lived somewhere else in the US. But I’m quite certain everything would have gone terribly wrong if I was black.
In the last few years I have encountered a type of racism that I think is relatively new to the culture. Racism from the same people that claim to be allies against xenophobia: far left liberals. I have been accused of being a republican and in one instance I was even told I had nationalistic ideas simply for disagreeing with their white savior arguments. They seem to think that because I’ve achieved a certain level of success (success as defined by their American standards) I am exempt of being a target of racial biases, that because I belong to a certain group I’m supposed to think a certain way and my experience must be a specific one.
The far right wants us in containment, the far left wants to protect us but only if we never disagree with their ideas. I don’t know which one is worse. In any case there is no room for a free existence for minority groups except for the spaces that we create for ourselves. Completely devoid of any type of interference from the predominant culture, be it a conservative or liberal culture it doesn’t matter, any interference yields the same outcome: the dilution of our identity.
Unfortunately racism isn’t getting worse. It’s been this way for a while, it’s only being shown in social media.
The good news is racism isn’t getting worse. There was a time in this country’s history when restaurants had a sign outside their doors that read “No blacks, No indians, No mexicans and No dogs” I do not fear that those signs will ever come back. There was a time when children of color would walk outside their homes to find their parents hanging from a tree. I do not fear that those times will ever come back. I do not believe that I live in the most racist country in the world. I believe we are living in the decaying momentum of a machine that is slowly bleeding to death.
This issue is so complex that I can’t say that we are near an answer anytime soon. Just as I’ve experienced racism from white people I have also experienced the same from my own and from other groups. I have engaged in the behavior myself with the excuse that since I’m not white it’s OK for me to do and half of the time I truly believe that.
At times like this what is most important, for me personally, is to remember that I have also experienced great acts of unconditional kindness from white people and people in other groups regardless of political leanings, socioeconomic status or religious affiliations. The people who intervened in my life and saved me when I desperately needed to be saved were all white. Sometimes I don’t know what to do with that fact. But I know that my individual experiences are nothing in the grand scheme of things, they’re nothing more than anecdotal evidence, not everyone is fortunate enough to meet people that will completely change your preconceived notions of their particular group and your own. A lot of people will go their entire lives without ever having such an experience and that includes racist white people.
As always, I don’t have any answers. I leave those for better, more educated people than me. People like James Baldwin:
“Americans are as unlike any other white people in the world as it is possible to be. I do not think, for example, that it is too much to suggest that the American vision of the world-which allows so little reality, generally speaking, for any of the darker forces in human life, which tends until today to paint moral issues in glaring black and white-owes a great deal to the battle waged by Americans to maintain between themselves and black men a human separation which could not be bridged. It is only now beginning to be borne in on us-very faintly, it must be admitted, very slowly, and very much against our will–that this vision of the world is dangerously inaccurate, and perfectly useless. For it protects our moral high-mindedness at the terrible expense of weakening our grasp of reality. People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster. The time has come to realize that the interracial drama acted out on the American continent has not only created a new black man, it has created a new white man, too.”