There's Room for Racism in this Country

There has to be.

Posted Feb 23, 2019

Like it or not, we have to make room for racists, sexists and homophobes, ageist, lookists and luckists, sectarians, partisans and every other kind of prejudice known to humankind. Why? Because we, the people, are humans.

We can’t eradicate the hate but we can manage it. Each of us and together. We have to. No nation was ever exempt from that task. Many have failed at it. Horrifically. But that is the task – to manage human nature.

It’s in all of us. There’s not a racism-free person in all humankind. People of other cultures make us wary. Sexism? It’s us too, in any direction to some degree or another. How could it not be? There will be gendered attraction and wariness, aversion and perversion.

Ageist? It’s hard to even define. We all have double standards. Children can’t drink or drive. Adults can do both. Where do you draw the line on drawing lines based on age?

Lookism? I doubt there’s a person alive who doesn’t feel more drawn to some people’s looks over others. Luckism – prejudice against the unlucky? To open yourself fully to those less lucky than you is to open yourself to a potentially bottomless investment of your finite resources and attention.

There has to be room in this country for all the prejudices and all the supposedly absolute sins too – lying, hypocrisy, self-centeredness, passive aggressiveness, PC, manipulation, cattiness. – the list goes on. Since these behaviors are in all of us, there better be room for them. To say that you’re above these supposedly absolute sins is itself lying and hypocrisy.

And anyway they aren’t absolute sins. Each of them has its place. There are times to lie, times to be hypocritical. We are a nation of people with all of these traits as would be any nation. No one escapes human nature.

Today, racists feel like there’s no place for them in the US. They’re being iced out, told they better change what to them, can’t or doesn’t feel worth changing. They feel under siege.

You don’t have to feel sorry for them. After all, they’re racists. Still, recognize that they too have a seat at the table. Like family. You may loathe some members but they’re yours like ‘em or not. Racists are citizens too. You may wish the country was purged of them. They wish the same about others, probably about you.

We have to live together, we have to accept the mixed, often ugly bags that humans are and we have to manage the ugly.

We’re all at least a little bit racist. It’s a question of degree. Think of it like Tourettes. If you have a mild case, just bite your tongue – it’s easy enough to manage. If your case is more severe, try to vent it in private. You know, go to your man cave or wherever, get your yayas out – really get into it, but know that you’re venting in private so you can curb it in public.

Keep your racism out of your speech and decisions, and when people say you’re leaking, guess that they’re probably right. Compensate against your racist tendencies, as you do in managing your sexuality. You don’t go around humping whatever you want. Discretion is also in human nature. Be discreet and concede when someone calls you on failing to be discrete. Don’t pretend you’re above it. No one is above human nature.

And of course, guidance like this doesn’t work well. It’s not like we can hear it, act on it and ping, we’re suddenly straightened up. There have always been and will always be lapses. That’s what laws are for. That’s what social norms are for too and when the norms get eroded we need more laws. Just part of managing human nature.

Some of us don’t care for sweets. Some of us crave them desperately. Those who don’t care for them may seem the most self-disciplined, but really, for them it’s easy. Compassion then for those who have an unlucky anti-social craving and manage it effectively. Even if they show less discretion, they have impressive self-discipline.

Compassion even for the pedophile with strong urges. At least one has killed himself because he couldn’t get a handle on his anti-social behavior. It’s a hard life when you're driven; it’s a hard life when you don’t have enough discretion to manage your own human extremes.

What’s the alternative to tolerating the existence of the prejudiced, impulsive, sinful? The one that comes most readily is outrage. When we’re outraged about some trait in others, we instantly lose any recollection of ever having exhibited that trait. Nothing feels as self-sanctifying as righteous indignation. Nothing vaporizes quite so fast as awareness of our dark side when we’re scolding others for theirs. People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones but when they do, as they will, facing outward they don’t look back. They assume that their house is a fortress, not a glass house.

A nation of factions outraged at each other and what do you get? A nation of factions indulging in self-sanctifying righteous indignation, each hoping to purge the nation of the sinful others in order to have an idyllic country populated exclusively by fine people like themselves.

The horrors of prejudice are real and they’re really in all of us to some degree or another. Differences of degree matter. Don’t go to the other extreme, pretending that the first stone can only be cast by he who is without sin. Ridiculous. We have to cast stones and none of us are without sin.

Cast stones. Scorn those who aren’t keeping their prejudice to themselves. Shame those who take human nature to its darkest extremes, but still, make room for them in our country. None of us get to banish any of us. We all live here. This is our family, the family of humankind, even at its most unkind.