In My World

In my world racism is non-existent. I understand in the real world there are bigots, and unfortunately racism will never be completely extinct. It’s a regrettable, unintended consequence of our God-given free will. The good news is I don’t think racism is running rampant in America as what is continuously being purported by the media and a select group of talk show hosts, celebrities, and even a few of our country’s representatives. I tend to agree with what President Barack Obama said recently, during his weekly radio address, concerning current race relations in the United States. Our nation’s Commander in Chief said, “I know that for many, it can feel like the deepest fault lines of our democracy have suddenly been exposed and even widened. But the America I know…is just not as divided as some folks try to insist.”

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that 63% of those asked think race relations in the U.S. are generally bad, but I personally have not witnessed any prejudice against minorities in all my 50 years residing on this earth. In my world racism did not exist in the small Iowa town I was born and raised in. There were only a handful of minorities living amongst Newton’s population of approximately 15,000. My initial exposure to a different race, that I can remember, was when I was in elementary school, and one day a foreign boy sheepishly entered the classroom. He had moved to town from either Peru or Panama (I know the name of his country started with a “P”), and he instantly became just another classmate. I can’t say as the Peruvian or Panamanian ever became my best friend, but we did get along swimmingly. Even though the new kid looked, dressed, and spoke a little differently, than everyone else, I certainly never considered him to be “less than.”

My next encounter with different nationalities was during high school. There were now a couple of handfuls of minorities in the same small town. Among them were Black siblings, and both were in my graduating class. I didn’t have much contact with either of them because although the male was into sports he didn’t play high school baseball (my forte), and his sibling was a girl. My senior year I enlisted the services of an Asian professional photographer to take my graduation pictures. The kind, soft-spoken, local business owner somehow managed to make even my mug presentable enough for the Class of 1984 yearbook. I never once felt an indifference toward my Black peers or Asian photographer, and I assume they felt the same about me.

In my world I believe the perception of a racially divided country was ignited in the summer of 2013, with the inception of the Black Lives Matter movement. Now I’m sure the members of Black Lives Matter couldn’t care less what some White guy has to say in regards to their organization, but I highly value my thought-provoking input (pause here for chuckles); therefore, I cannot remain silent on the subject. I think the majority of those involved in the extremely loud and sometimes disruptive movement are misguided in their transparent us (Blacks) vs. them (Whites) mentality. Additionally, the organization’s obvious blatant disregard for others is quite evident with their numerous attempts at shutting down major infrastructure when protesting. Any sympathy one might have for the Black Lives Matter movement surely diminishes once they become a nuisance and risk the safety of others. It’s one thing to knowingly cause an upheaval, but putting officers’ lives even more at risk, with the uprising of extremist cop killers, is reprehensible.

I sincerely believe the recently exposed shootings of Black men by White police officers are almost entirely of a peace officer vs. alleged perpetrator nature rather than a race related issue. Sadly, each new reported case erroneously gets lumped together, by the Black Lives Matter movement and the media, with all the prior police involved deaths instead of rightfully being examined individually. In my world the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Alton Sterling, and Philando Castile aren’t related whatsoever. Martin was killed by a neighborhood watchman…not a cop (and not White). Brown had committed a robbery and assaulted the store’s clerk shortly before being fatally shot by police. Garner was placed in a chokehold (forbidden by the NYPD) while resisting arrest which resulted in his death.

Gray’s demise came at the hands of law enforcement while intentionally being negligently transported in a police van (driven by a Black officer). I don’t think the public has enough information yet on the Sterling or Castile shootings to adequately determine whether the officers involved were justified or not in taking such extreme measures. Some of the aforementioned situations, ultimately ending with a person being killed, seem defensible to me while some don’t, but all are tragic. There is one common denominator in almost all of the incidents mentioned: resistance to authority. I cannot help but think the majority of those who died would still be alive today if only they had fully cooperated when being questioned.

Much has been said lately, and YouTube videos have been made, about the need for parents to have “the talk” with their Black sons. No, not the talk. Parents are being encouraged to teach their children what to do if ever they’re pulled over by the police: stay in the car, turn off the engine, roll down the window, and keep your hands on the steering wheel. However, many in the Black community seem to think it’s unfair that they should be singled out and forced to bother with such a thing, and some are even irritated by the measly suggestion. In my world proper protocol when being pulled over by the authorities is not a Black or White issue. This White guy was taught to stay in the car, turn off the engine, roll down the window, and keep my hands on the steering wheel by both my father and my Driver’s Ed instructor. It’s just common sense.

Time and time again I’ve heard the tiresome argument, mainly from those most vocal in the Black community, how a White person especially a White man can’t fathom what it’s like to be Black. I suppose I can’t – not completely anyway. I certainly can relate though when it comes to being followed around by a store’s employee for apparently no other reason than due to one’s appearance. There’ve been many times throughout my life when I’ve sported long hair and earrings, and during those times I was treated differently (whether real or imagined) by others. I reckon my tattoos don’t suggest I’m a straight arrow either, but I am (for the most part). In addition, I’ve been pulled over by the police and left wondering why even after the officer drives away.

I don’t pretend to entirely grasp the plight of the Black man; however, I assuredly can empathize with anyone who has ever been treated unfairly due to the color of their skin. In the 90’s I was turned down for a small business loan mainly because I’m a White male. (Thank you affirmative action.) The media, especially The Arizona Republic, continuously insinuated that if a person was White and did not vote for Obama, during his initial bid for the presidency, then that individual must be a racist. As a White male I have often been made to feel as though I was a problem, an obstacle if you will, preventing minorities from achieving success. In my world the implementing of quota systems and the numerous “no Whites allowed” award shows tend to make me feel “less than.”

I have lived in Peoria, Arizona, for the last nine years, where the city’s population is well beyond 150,000. The Valley is much more diversified than the Midwest town I grew up in, and in my world racism is still non-existent. My lovely wife and I were at Desert Ridge Marketplace a mere three days after the nationally reported White cop shooting of a Black man, Philando Castile. We were enjoying FREE live music at the mall’s outdoor stage, amongst other ethnic groups, and it was obvious everyone was having a splendid time. I noticed the mix of people dancing to the funky sounds of the Thaddeus Rose Band in particular a Black gentleman near the stage who was partying like it was 1999. (Prince would’ve been proud.)

A couple of young White girls joined the older Black man on the concrete dance floor presumably to learn his choreographed dance moves. The man tried earnestly to teach his eager students (who by the way – in stereotypical fashion – had no rhythm) how to properly “bust a move,” but to no avail. It suddenly dawned on me that here we were, lost in the moment without a care in the world, while our televisions at home were reporting on broken race relations and a country deeply polarized. I leaned over to the missus and shared how difficult it was for me to comprehend all of the recent negativity in the news, concerning alleged racism, when in my world I just don’t see it.

I’m thankful to be part of the 32% listed in the Washington Post-ABC News poll, which includes President Obama, who think race relations in the U.S. are generally good. Obama, also during his radio address, eloquently proposed, “If we can open our hearts to try and see ourselves in one another, if we can worry less about which side has been wronged, and worry more about joining sides to do right…then I’m confident that together, we will lead our country to a better day.” Well said, Mr. President. In the real world we can only hope that one day racism will become extinct.

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3 responses to “In My World

  • Barry Blackstone

    Jim, I have a little different take on whats happening. I was a police officer in Michigan in the early 1970’s. Back then no one I knew wore a bullet proof vest while on patrol, it wasn’t necessary. I also have believed if people would comply with what they’re told to do , by someone in authority, I don’t believe they would be shot. I have to take issue with the officer that had a vehicle stopped, and the driver started running and was shot in the back. I agree there was no probable cause to shoot the driver that was running away.

  • LESLIE KOHLER

    Jim, it is refreshing to hear from someone who feels, as I do, that all ‘races’ are equal. I do my best to adjust my feelings toward an individual according to how I perceive his values. In other words, I could not care less what color a person’s skin is! We are all the same under the color of our skin, and Father God loves us all equally. It is sometimes difficult enough for me to determine a person’s values without having to also consider skin color.

    But, I also agree that I sometimes see what I call ‘reverse racism’ in our country. Such things as Affirmative Action have indeed had a hand in this situation. On the other hand, I feel extremely angered when I hear a member of the ‘white’ community use the “N” word when referring to a black person or black people. We are all precious in the Lord’s eyes, as we should be in each other’s eyes. Even if I find a person to be one with whom I’d rather not associate, I cannot understand a mentality that says that I should be ugly to him/her.

    And yet, I am one of those ‘white’ Americans who was accused of being racist simply because I chose not to vote for our current president. I made that decision due to many of my political beliefs being different than his. I have always believed that each American citizen has that right AND responsibility!

    I also agree that most people will not have problems with the authorities if they will simply cooperate. Are their some law enforcement personnel who get carried away with their authority? Yes, it does happen. But, in my thinking, most officers are simply trying to correctly do their jobs, while trying (sometimes in vain) to protect their own lives! And, I very much liked your statement, “In my world, proper protocol when being pulled over by the authorities is not a Black or White issue.”

    It really bothers me is that during the last 7+ years it seems that a lot of Democratic leaders, as well as the media, in our country are trying to make race relations go backwards instead of forward. That is probably also true of some Republicans. Can we (meaning ALL Americans) not simply do our best to be respectful of one another?

    Okay, I will get off of my soapbox now and simply thank you for another interesting blog.

    • LESLIE KOHLER

      Jim, while re-reading my reply to your current blog, I found a typing mistake. My sentence should have read, “Are there some law enforcement personnel who get carried away with their authority?”

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