Racism and the ‘wrights’

28 June 2015
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Let me start off by saying I am a white American. But I am certainly not a “wright” American.

MANILA, Philippines – Let me start off by saying I am a white American. But I am certainly not a “wright” American.

A “wright” is a “white, far-right” individual. You want a snapshot of who the “wrights” are? Just think “Tea Party” and you have pretty much nailed it on the head. The man behind the Charlestown Church massacre (I refuse to even mention his name here) is a wright. Very likely some of the policemen implicated in the recent incidents involving mistreatment — or let’s call it outright murder — of African-Americans, are wrights.

Polling suggests wrights constitute a mere 12 percent of the US population and yet they claim to represent the heartland and American values! They are, indeed, an angry, noisy bunch. In a new world of diversity and inclusion, they have lost their preordained standing in the world. And never have we seen such a minority dominate the national scene as the wrights seem to do now. Particularly when the discussion has anything to do with the legitimate issues of any group other than the wrights.

I know many wrights. Some of them are acquaintances. Some are even in my extended family. And never in my life have I met a wright who would openly admit they are racist. No, they are like many people. They jump to defend themselves from the label. They justify positions and start sentences by saying, “I am not a racist but….” They will offer as proof the fact that they actually have an African-American friend. Or they always say hello to “That African-American fellow at work.” As many church leaders have said, “Just because you go to church does not make you a Christian.” Well, the corollary is also true: “Just because you say you are not a racist doesn’t mean you truly aren’t.”

You see, at the core of the wright outlook and anger is fear mixed with hatred. Fear of losing status. So wrights hate just about anyone who is different and trying to better their life, and in most cases, they are quite vocal about it. They certainly despise liberals, who constitute a solid 23 percent of the US population. They are also clear about their views on the LGBT community, through every effort to deny these people equality in treatment under the law. Scratch off another 10 percent of the population. Given the hard stance on immigration reform, well, it’s also obvious how they feel about Hispanics, who represent 16 percent of the population. Muslims? That’s a no-brainer! The three percent of Americans who are Muslim know where they stand with wrights.

And the 12 percent of Americans who are African-Americans? Well, this one is trickier. The wrights will tend to be politically correct. They know this is a minefield. They will say all the right things. They will avoid direct confrontation. But every time another incident of police brutality against an African-American occurs, the wrights say nothing. What they do is claim they are not racist and embrace diversity because they use the era of Jim Crow laws and segregation as their reference point. So, because they no longer call for “White Only” restaurants, they are free of racism? They fail to acknowledge that the subtler forms of racism are still racism. Distrusting and keeping a watchful eye on any young African-American boy in a hoodie, or purposefully avoiding the African-American teller at the bank — all forms of racism; it’s just a matter of degree.

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In this vein, what the wrights may do is post on Facebook a picture of a white police officer who was shot or killed by an African-American, and ask, “Why is there no uproar over this?” I guess the fact that the African-American shooter was arrested and convicted — whereas time and time again, the white assailant of an African-American gets off scot-free — is conveniently forgotten! Add it all up, and do some rough adjustments for duplication, and yes, it is a sobering fact that wrights stand at odds with, and hatred of, somewhere between one half and two-thirds of their fellow Americans. Sad.

Let’s admit reality. If the Charlestown shooter had been Muslim, and the victims white, well, the wrights would be calling for the military to fuel up the F-16s and get ready for war. But since the shooter was one of their own, and the victims were African-American, all we get is shoulder shrugs, maybe a “this is a terrible thing” comment. We write it off as one more crazy person. We ignore the sickening, repetitive trend. And why?

Racism.

Do wrights even watch videos? I don’t know how any sane person can watch the video footage of Eric Garner being choked to death by police for selling cigarettes, and gasping for breath saying over and over again, “I can’t breathe” and not see the injustice in this. But where is the massive call for justice beyond the African-American community? And why do the wrights bristle so much at the outrage in the African-American community? Can any reasonable individual be anything but outraged and demand justice? Do we really expect African-Americans to stand by silently? This is a country built upon free speech and outright rebellion against oppression. So why are wrights so upset and why do they need to defend everything, tit-for-tat? Nobody is saying all police are implicated and guilty. But let’s face it, there is an issue with outright racial profiling in law enforcement. How many cases like Eric Garner or Walter Scott being shot in the back multiple times do we need before we acknowledge an underlying issue?

Racial profiling is alive and well and, make no mistake about it, this is racism. It’s pre-judgment of someone based on their “look.” It’s assuming all Muslims are terrorists, which they are not. Some of my dearest friends and the best people I know are Muslim. It’s assuming the young African-American male in a hoodie is a criminal.

A few years ago I was coaching the Nigerian National Marathoners when I was living in Lagos. We all agreed and signed up to run a prestigious, world-class marathon in one of the world’s leading cities in the west. A highly respected and “attractive” city. I arrived for the marathon two days in advance of my runners. Each morning I would rise, go to the breakfast buffet in the hotel. I would walk the streets and browse the shops in the area. I would have lunch in a café on the sidewalk and people-watch. I was treated in what I would call a “normal” fashion — cordial and nice, like any service should be.

My Nigerian runners arrive. And suddenly I am one white man among a group primarily comprised of Nigerians. And did my world change in an instant. I got a small dose of what African-Americans actually have to live with every single day. It changed my world and my perspective on things.

We meet in the lobby to have breakfast. We entered the buffet together as a group and, as I had on previous mornings, simply walked in. Well, this time it was different! The head of the restaurant came over to our table, basically accused us of not being guests in the hotel, and demanded to see our room keys. Even after we showed him, he refused to believe it, and in front of every guest we were marched out to the front desk for full validation. I called it out to the hotel manager exactly what it was — racism.

We went out to walk around and browse. We went into the same shops I was in the day before. Except this time, after a whisper between the staff one of them trailed us around the store, aisle by aisle, like a doting mother. Why? Because — clearly! — somebody was going to steal something! Racism. Pure and simple.

We had lunch. We took a seat at a sidewalk café. Suddenly the service was not so great. We had to wait 20 minutes in a nearby empty restaurant to order our meal. We waited an hour before the food arrived. We didn’t get any check-ups to see “How is your meal?” or the like. We were just “tolerated.” Ignored. Whilst at a neighboring table, customers were treated like visiting royalty.

My Nigerian runners told me to “relax, Coach”; they were used to it. But this only made me angrier. Why does anyone have to “get used to” this kind of treatment? No, they don’t. I got a small taste of what African-Americans go through every day. The fear they must feel when a policeman approaches them. To sense the different treatment they get in a store or restaurant. It’s terrible. It’s pre-judgment. It’s racial profiling.

It’s racism.

One of the most glaring examples of profiling is the treatment of the President of the United States. We don’t have to like our President. We certainly don’t have to agree with him or her. But, like we treat any person, we should treat the person, and the office, with respect.

I personally did not like the “Cowboy” persona of George W. Bush. And I certainly did not agree with him on nearly anything. But I was respectful. I never questioned his desire to do the right thing (in his view) nor did I ever question his patriotism. We “agree to disagree.” But I think he loves his country and that he tried his best. And I thank him for that. So we did not agree; that’s democracy at work!

Never in history, though, has a US president taken the abuse that Barack Obama does. And never has a president been more presidential and graceful under such withering assaults. The wrights, led by visible leaders like Sarah Palin and Donald Trump, continually attack the man as an individual, which is personal and lacks class. They don’t disagree. Or even dislike. They hate. And they go way beyond disrespect. They question his citizenship. They create wild theories about birth certificates! They question his love of country. They ignore the terrific signals — like a record high Dow or near-record low in unemployment — and call Obama out as one of the “worst presidents in history.” Obama was the president who “got” Osama bin Laden in a daring raid, a White House-launched mission that even the generals in the room called an example of “the finest leadership by a president they had ever seen — decisive, calm, and courageous.” But the wrights give him no credit whatsoever. You study again and again this treatment, and you can only come to a few clear conclusions. First, if Barack Obama had been white, he likely would be going down in history as a fine president who got America’s economy back on track! Given the economic mess he inherited, this is no stretch. And, the sole explanation for this selective treatment of our president can only be explained by one dynamic.

Racism.

There is no other explanation. And when you look at the origins of this, so often it comes from the wrights. America clearly has a race problem now, which is sad given our history and our values and principles. The “Land of the Free” is perhaps not so free. Even in 2015.

History indicates major societal conflicts arise from the fringes of society. African-Americans aren’t the issue. Yes, when someone makes a call for “war on the police,” this only makes things worse. But this is hardly representative of African-Americans’ views. From my experiences, I have seen mainly mature and balanced calls for calm, dialogue and justice. Nothing wrong with this at all. It’s totally appropriate and warranted.

Edmund Burke famously said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

In this light, many in the west have called upon moderate Muslims to speak out against Islamic fundamentalism and to voice their opposition to terrorism. Because silence is tacit approval, as Burke implies.

It’s time for moderate whites — the “mights” — to voice their opposition to the position of the wrights. “Might versus wright,” if you will. It is time for moderate Republicans to stop coddling the fringe of their party and take it back to a centrist, more representative position that represents the majority of Americans.

It’s time for doing the right thing. For courage and acknowledging wrongs. It’s a time to put aside the silence and the sound bites and call out the real issues. Only in this way can we heal.

It’s time to look in the mirror and enter the fray. It’s time to walk the talk.

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