I rarely post about politics and current events.
But as a writer, I often feel moved to comment on the state of things in our world. Please note that this post isn’t an endorsement of any political ideology or politician. It is simply a reflection on the broken state of communication between Americans, and how deeply it grieves me.
THE RACE CARD
Earlier this week, I participated in a Facebook debate in which the term “race card” was used. Since then, I’ve been troubled by this term. While my words won’t change the minds of those who use it, in light of the man we honor today and in light of the men we DON’T honor who fought alongside (and often in opposition to) him, I wanted to share a thought.
There is no “race card.” There is only race.
Our perceptions of race have plagued this nation since before it was founded. Our optimistic founding principles proved to be two-faced, as “All men are created equal” did not mean all men, after all. This was due to race, and the false belief that one race was created innately inferior to the other, built to serve and suffer.
Those false beliefs persist today. They don’t just exist in a president who possibly said or implied that some countries populated by dark-skinned people were “shitholes.” They exist in the many who defend him because, in their words, “those countries ARE shitholes.” In these folks’ eyes, the president is just “telling the truth,” refusing to be loathedly “politically correct.” That is why many voted for him.
Of course, this false belief is based on a long history of lies about the inferior ability of dark-skinned people to lead civilized lives. It is the false belief that justified trading black lives as cattle, murdering black lives without due process, raping black women without consequence, and disenfranchising black families up to this very day. It is the belief that black drug dealers are “thugs” while white drug users are “troubled” or “making poor choices.” It is the innate fear of black men, and not of white men. It is evidenced by the disproportionate population of our prisons, where black lives wait behind thick bars.
It is the false belief that black people are SUPPOSED TO do bad things, and that white people are SUPPOSED TO do good things. It’s the nature of each, some believe, and so it is written by nature – so the false belief claims, ever so quietly or discreetly.
There is no “race card.” There is only race, and the way it paints our beliefs about other human beings one way or the other.
Martin Luther King Jr. gave his life to argue against this historic and evil false belief. So did many of his contemporaries who used different, less marketable techniques.
We don’t celebrate Malcolm X Day, because he had the temerity to wonder what would happen if black Americans did to whites what white Americans did to the British: overthrow the occupying oppressor.
Nor do we celebrate Huey Newton Day. He had the audacity to found his own neighborhood watch, to police the police, and to stand up to J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI.
Neither of these men were saints (and neither was MLK), but they were crucial figures in the fight for greater American justice. They, too, opposed the lie that black people were in any way naturally inferior to their white counterparts.
I write this because our nation is unique in its challenges. We made a promise in our Constitution: To protect EVERY citizen’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
But the definition of “every citizen” has changed over the years. We are not a homogeneous nation like Japan or Saudi Arabia or even Haiti. America CHOSE to be heterogeneous when it colonized an occupied homeland, imported slave labor from Africa, conquered Spanish territories to the south, and welcomed immigrants from Europe. It sowed the seeds of this challenge long ago when it tried to prosper from the suffering and slavery of others, all based on a lie.
Now the reckoning for that lie is before us.
America is not a nation of whites who gradually “got the picture.” It is a nation of many people struggling for the human ideal, an ideal that has never been achieved in all of human history: Harmony of all kinds.
While Martin Luther King promoted a beautiful and achievable brand of Harmony, there are many martyrs to recognize along the way, of all races and all genders. There are victims of white, black, brown, red, and yellow.
But the most important thing to take away today is that there is no “race card.” It is an idea, created by our ancient ancestors to help them profit off the whip-scarred backs of unwilling servants. It is a lie told over the generations, a lie that many of us believe without ever speaking it, because speaking it “sounds” awful, and it is. No one likes to feel bad, or that he or she is a racist. Our current president pushes back against that bad feeling, and almost wears the badge of “racist” with honor, as if his honesty brings him and his followers virtue.
Yet I don’t believe any of us are “racists.” That word has lost its meaning. To call someone a “racist” today is too broad of a stroke; it invites the question, “So what?”
Rather, we are all part of a race, or several mixed races. We are a part of this struggle for Harmony in this unique and beautiful country, unlike any other on the planet.
To ask a so-called racist, “Why do you believe that?” or “What makes you think that is true about [people]?” is to begin the dialogue that must happen. Sarcastic Facebook comments burn relational bridges to ash. Emotes mean nothing. Insults and repeated terms from CNN and FoxNews only alien us from one another more and more.
We need to ask genuine questions, and listen to the answers. We have to build bridges that lead to our so-called enemies.
It will be difficult. But so was crossing the bridge in Selma, Alabama, over and over until justice was accomplished.
We all have a part to play, and the first step is to lay down our defenses and arguments against the “other.” To resist the urge to judge other groups, communities, countries, and cultures. To welcome and listen, while still cherishing, upholding, and protecting ones own life and beliefs. To protect all lives and races and the right to live as one wishes without harm to another, all without lessening the respect and value of any chosen race or belief, is the ultimate American ideal.
This Martin Luther King day, choose not to defend. Choose not to believe in a false America, an America that a god supposedly decided should be white. Biblically, the new heavens and earth are filled with every tribe, tongue, and nation, after all. If God was picking an ideal nation, it would be colorful, and it would be beautiful.
May you have a blessed day today, with whomever you spend it.