For years I patiently listened to members of ethnic minorities direct accusations of racism against anyone by whom they felt slighted or injured. Internally, I would roll my eyes saying to myself that their description of the offending slight sounded more like the actions a rude individual might inflict on anyone regardless of race. However, I would never voice that thought because I am well aware that as a white man it would be disingenuous of me to presume that I can sympathetically speak to their concern.
The tables were turned however, when I was living in Costa Rica and utilizing public transportation. On one occasion I found myself in a sort of perfect storm. Late for an appointment I was waiting at a crowded bus stop during rush hour in the middle of a driving rainstorm. There were no orderly lines; it was a chaotic every-man-for-himself struggle to board the overcrowded buses as they inched there way through the stop. At one point I was just about to step on to the bus when two people took my place in the bus doorway by knocking me off the step. My initial reaction was to say to myself indignantly, “They only did that because I’m an American!”
As quickly as the thought entered my mind I remembered the countless complaints I had ignorantly endured by those who had experienced exactly what had just happened to me.
When one stands out or when one is aware of his or her difference from the perceived norm it affects our perception of how the mainstream population treats us. I knew intellectually that the rude mistreatment I experienced trying to board that bus had nothing at all to do with my skin color or my nationality. Somebody else wanted to board that bus as badly as I did and I was simply an obstacle – nothing more, nothing less.
It is imperative for all of us regardless of race to center our perspectives and mutually work to first understand the position of our perceived adversaries and second to detach our personal experiences as much as possible from our worldview. It requires a level of clinical understanding devoid of as much emotion as possible allowing just enough passion to focus on finding solutions to racial insensitivity and injustice.
Granted, despicable acts of racism occur every day against both minorities and whites but solutions lie in collaboration and mutual respect acknowledging that racism has happened and that it continues to happen. But we all need to take a united stand against it for more headway to be achieved.
Will racism ever be fully eradicated? Sadly, I don’t think so. As long as man is capable of hatred we will find excuses to hate. But if we can work together to eradicate the culture of racism then vast improvements can be gained.