America and race: 318,881,992 shades of grey

DOTHAN, Ala. – I chose the title because the current population of the United States according to the U.S. Census is 318,881,992 people. However, I choose to call the country in which I live just America. You might say: no, it’s the United States of America, but I beg to differ. How can we call ourselves United when we live in a country of such hatred that’s filled with racism? Doesn’t United mean a people that are together or combined into a single entity? We are neither! So I will call us America, untiI I am convinced otherwise.

For far too long there has been such racial dissension and oppression in this country. Mostly from the white population. I am from South Alabama where it’s far too apparent what white people think about the minority, and I am not just talking about the bigotry shown towards blacks either. Racial bigotry is being shown towards the Mexican, Asian, Middle Eastern, and black people. How can a country as powerful as ours expect to continue its power and longevity when it shows a fundamental weakness in the intolerable hate we show towards each other as a people?

I recently went to a tobacco shop here in Dothan where I walked into a most distasteful conversation among a group of older gentlemen. Eavesdropping on their conversation I heard one of them say, “These damn n—–s are stealing our tax money because they are all on welfare and receiving government assistance.” The Mexicans are stealing everyone’s jobs, and all the Arabs are insurgents and terrorists! Being the non-confrontationalist that I am, I hesitated to say anything, but uncontrollable rage got the better of me.

I told the man, “Well, sir, I know just as many whites that receive government assistance as I do anyone. The Mexicans are working jobs that Americans are too prideful and lazy to do, and the Arabs wouldn’t be over here if we weren’t blowing up their homes in our wars.” I then told the man that they have as much right to be over here as we do. He kept on using the word n—– and i simply explained to him that the word is used by a person who’s ignorant, used as a disparaging term for a member of any socially, economically, or politically deprived group of people, and that the way he was loosely using it was just out of ignorance. He became angered with me and left.

See, there are three types of racist down here in the South:

1. There are your generational (or hereditary) racists. They are the ones who have had the seeds of racism passed down to them from family who don’t know any better. They keep to themselves about their thoughts and views on anyone that is not of white skin because of the fear of backlash from the community or fear that they might work for or with someone of a different ethnic background.

2. You have your Klu Klux Klan racists who hide behind their racism but will cause harm to any minority if they have the chance and know they can get away with it.

3. You have your fascist (or Third Reich as I like to call them) racists, who will openly admit their ways and cause harm or malice to anyone despite the consequences.

To me all three forms are despicable and intolerable. This country will never gain ground in any way, shape or form if we can’t simply walk hand in hand and learn to love one another. I think of all the great leaders of racial equality through the years like Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, John Brown, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass, Thurgood Marshall, Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Russell Means, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm Little (or Malcolm X) and many others who have defended social equality and justice. I think that it will not take just one great person to overthrow the bigotry and racism in our nation, but that we will all have to see 318,881,992 shades of grey in order to finally put the past behind us and move forward to a future that’s bright and filled with possibility in order to achieve true success as a country.

Photo: Mural in San Francisco. Jay Galvin/Creative Commons