Regardless of your politics, having a black man running for president has been good for one thing: it has sussed out all the secret racism that has been seething under the surface in this country for years. People who felt unable to express their nasty views publicly seem galvanized by the knowledge there are others just like them and are now willing to put their racism out there on display. Terrorist attacks too have brought the issue to the fore, letting racists vent their hatred against people from the middle east all in the name of supposed fear of terrorism.
Obvious loathing for Mexicans isn’t even a secret. Public officials and citizens claim to want immigration reform to “protect American workers.” They tout limited Spanish instruction in southwestern schools and propose English-only referendums sold under the patronizing aegis of wanting to help Mexican children assimilate into American culture. It’s all just racism.
I have often suggested it has not been publicly okay to be racist against blacks, but a person can get away with being racist towards Mexicans and Arabs. Hating blacks is moving back out of the closet. Perhaps the acknowledgment that it is going on will help kill it once and for all, although I don’t expect this to happen overnight.
Racism is the epitome of ignorance. It is the Parable of the Cave come to life. It is the philosophy of The Other. It brings some sort of pitiful security to the hater who feels some protection in perceived superiority, unwilling to admit base and immoral fears. I personally cannot fathom why someone’s skin color should scare someone enough to hate them, but it happens. It happens all the time.
Racism is confusing. There are members of my family who are blatantly racist. My mother was the oldest of seven children. When my mom was six, my grandmother divorced my biological grandfather. With three children in tow, she married a Navy man and had four more children. When the youngest child was 8, my grandmother developed cancer. Over the next four years, she lived and died a harrowing death, her body completely eaten by the disease.
By the time my grandmother died, my mom had moved out, married my father, and had two little girls. The rest of the children were in various phases of growing up. My mom’s step-father was the man I called Grampa. He was the generous person we visited on every holiday. When my biological father physically abused my mother, my Grampa helped her out, offering financial and emotional assistance. He did not date or remarry until his youngest child was in her early twenties and married. He was a Navy man who fought in World War II. He was a good man who worked hard and took amazing care of his family. And he was a racist. He is still a racist.
I know others with similar family members, the grandparents who give them everything yet hate black people, the step-father who was kind, but rails against Mexicans in restaurants. It is such a complex problem. Interestingly, in all of the cases I know of good people with loving family members who happen to be racists, none of us are willing to do much about it except to sit silently, thinking these people are old and will never change, that they have good in them too. Perhaps in our complicity we are perpetuating the problem. I don’t know. It is truly a conundrum.