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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Well, Since We're Having So Much Fun Let's Talk About Race

I got Socialists mad at me last week, and I got a whole bunch of people mad at me about the Boycott Diane & Co thing, so I figured why not ride the momentum and talk about race this week.  Honestly, ad nauseum discussions about race bore me to tears so I would probably not bother to read the blog this week, but maybe you've got nothing better to do, or maybe we're not so alike afterall.

The first time I was a victim of racism I was in my early twenties. I am American of German and Irish descent, pretty standard stuff. I was marrying into an Italian family, and this mixed-marriage-from-the-view-of-small-minds really opened up my eyes to the ignorance of racism. I was called names and had cliches about drinking and laziness thrown my way for about six years. (To this day that entire family doesn't speak to me, but I think it now has less to do with race than it does with divorce.) I realize this was probably not racism per se. It was probably more like culturalism or ignorance, but whatever it was it was real. I have been friends with many, many people of Italian heritage since then, and I have always felt accepted by them, but whenever I meet a new Italian person, always in the back of my mind is I wonder if they are judging me and my Irishness. Please insert thought "Oh he's kidding!" here.

I was also the victim of racism several other times over the years and we'll explore them more deeply as the week unfolds.

But there is one other time I witnessed racism at its ugliest.

I got into a discussion with a rather ugly-minded person in Belfast about a decade ago. This was right as the Troubles were ending and there was still a lot of underlying violence of thought. This person, a mother of a toddler, who was Protestant and loyal to the Crown, began to explain to me how she felt about Catholics. Dirty, stupid and not worth the space they take up still stick in my mind as she explained her view of Catholics in particular and the Troubles in broadview. I ended our conversation and have not spoken to this person since, not just because of her views of Catholicism though - she was ugly-of-thought in many ways.

A few years later, I was preparing to take my family on a holiday to the Republic of Ireland that was coinciding with Spring Break and the Easter holiday. I was speaking with a co-worker of sorts and his wife. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, they were very proud of their own cultural heritage and their strong Catholic faith. "Why do you want to go over there during Easter?" she asked. "They're all dirty Protestants over there." I will say for the record the husband of said wife was embarrassed in the extreme. I didn't bother to explain to this fine lady about the religious or political traditions of the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland. It's also interesting that both women used the word dirty to essentially denigrate each other.

Granted, these examples are more a form of culturalism than they are strictly racism, but for the sake argument, they are pretty much the same - they both rely on stupidity for propagation.

My point? Racism, in all its forms, is real. It festers among the minds of people who are not able to look broadly at their world. You need not be of African heritage to suffer its barbs. In one form or another everyone suffers the slings and arrows of ignorance disguised as racial superiority.

This, more than anything else, makes the races more similar than not. It also points out that what also needs to be discussed openly and honestly is culture.

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