The Racist Button

A classmate in grad school was recounting her semester in Seville, Spain, where she met up with a group of American guys.  They invited her to an island for the weekend and she went.  With these strangers.  I was a bit shocked and asked if she was in the least bit afraid, to which she batted her long lashes and replied in her wispy voice, "They were really nice and they were American!"

Lest anyone judge her as being shallow and foolish, I find there are many who associate superficial appearances with deep character traits.  "Character flaws" like being a rapist, or murderer.  We want our crazies to look like Ted Kaczynski, not Timothy McVeigh. We want our crazies to be unkempt, rambling incomprehensibly; not like the nice young man at the Sunoco down the street. 

Most of us have learned that looks can be deceiving, but it seems when faced with it in our lives, we forget.  Maybe we want to forget.  We want life to be simple and worked out for us.  If you are bad, you will look scary.  A scary "badge," as it were.  It's almost an urban lore to have the murderer/rapist/molester's neighbor say, "He was pretty quiet.  Seeemed like a nice guy."

I think we have a primal instinct to identify people that are like us, and therefore deemed safe, while we look at others dissimilar to us and automatically get our guard up.  I talked about this with respect to race before.  But we have evolved, haven't we? And being in an integrated culture, don't we have to think a little harder?  Maybe just even think, for a minute, instead of going to the automatic place?

Sin knows no racial, ethnic, class, gender, or national border.

When the Nazis were rounding up Jews, the neighbors watched.  "Neutral" countries turned their heads.  We'd like to think those German neighbors were hate-spewing, racists sneering at what was going on.  Some were, to be sure.  But I'm betting they were neighbors and merchants and just like you and me and your aunt and your neighbor.  The one that is so nice.

Because you know, no racist thinks they're racist.  They consider it Truth.  Guised in Right and Wrong.  Some dare to base it on the Bible.  The Europeans who ruled Africa did not see themselves as racist.  They just knew that the black natives were lazy, not to be trusted and violent with no rule of law.  It was a Truth.  And to rule over them and force European Law on them, to make them work the land to benefit Britannia was a matter of Right and Wrong.

Do you find people that are a little too quick to believe a story about an angry black mob attacking an innocent white man?  Shake head, "Those blacks...."  They're a little too quick to believe the myth of the "urban single mom," who sucks our taxes by popping out babies for welfare money.  [I grew up in central Pennsylvania and I saw a lot of women with food stamps at the grocery store and none of them were black.]  Do you know someone a little too vehement about illegal immigration?  Now don't be accusing me of approving the breaking of the law. I'm talking about the heart, here.  Have you heard a contempt in their voice for the illegal immigrants themselves, instead of the laws and processes?

Racists(and murders and rapists) don't all live in southern Georgia.  They don't wear uniforms, although there are some that wear those sheets.  Or Nazi paraphernalia.  They don't wear a button.  They wear Dockers and polos and live down the street.  They play with their kids, attend a house of worship.  And seem like a nice person.

...behold! a great multitude that no one could number, **from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages,** standing before the throne and before the Lamb...                                                               - Revelations 7:9

1 comment:

Haley said...

Very interesting post. And yes, even the good looking, clean cut, American guy can be bad. I sat next to a super cute, wealthy, "All-American" guy in my history class my freshman year in college. 2 weeks into school starting he got busted for raping a girl. Last person I would have expected. Regarding race: I grew up in a predominantly white town. The only minorities we had were the migrant workers during the summer. It is hard to not grow up racist when you grow up in a community such as this. Mainly it is because EVERY other culture other than white, catholic, middle class is so foreign to you that you don't know how to take it. It is something that I deal with on a day to day basis, overcoming my pre-programed thoughts about other cultures. Sometimes it is difficult for me to do, especially when I am getting yelled at by a patient who does not speak English and calls me a "White Bitch". Racism is definitly alive and well in America. It seems to be everywhere...