Racism alive and well in America
When it is time for me to sit quietly with my thoughts, research, and opinions of those whose views I value, I open my laptop and I’m ready to begin; but this week is different. This week I feel conflicted, and the opinions, research texts and the voice of my father are all swirling into a milky whirlpool pulling me into a place I am not sure I want to go — but go I must.
As a young child growing up in the South with a Pentecostal Minister for a father, I often witnessed racism first hand. As we drove through a down in Alabama, I must have been about five, there was a crowd of people standing around a large tree celebrating — there was a black man being taunted and he stood with ropes around him and was being pulled from one side of a platform to the next. I will never forget the sadness that I felt that day. Daddy tried to explain the hate and racism that existed within the crowd of people, but I didn’t understand then, and I don’t understand now.
Racism may have been at its height at that time, but it still exists today. There may not be actual lynchings like those that took place in the fifties and sixties, the Ku Klux Klan may not be as visible, the White Supremacists may not be seen as a serious threat to many, but racism is alive and well right here in the good ole’ USA and even in Chautauqua County and most definitely in the city of Dunkirk and village of Fredonia. And please understand that racism encompasses people of all colors and ethnicities.
What is racism anyway? According to Webster, “Racism is prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.”
Times have changed, however. Back in the early years of the last century it was the African Americans who were the primary targets of racist attacks; today that is very different. Today we see acts and “words” of racism against the Hispanics and those who are traveling from other countries, territories, or provinces seeking a better way of life. We hear “dog whistles” about the white race no longer being the majority, and if we are “white” we need to “protect our future” for our children and grandchildren. We see statistics telling us that the “America our forefathers worked for is disappearing” and comments have been made likening a moral equivalence between the white supremacist marchers and those who protested against them in Charlottesville. Before I get too far into the weeds here, let me state that I am not in any particular political corner on this issue — I am of the belief that “all men are created equal” and racism is based purely on fear and hate — a toxic combination. Fear is nothing more than false expectations appearing real, and hate is a cancer that if given its head can destroy all manner of humanity and reason.
My father was probably one of the most tolerant and unbigoted men I have ever known; he did not have a racist or bigoted bone in his body and he made sure we didn’t either. As children we were accustomed to sharing meals with people of all races and beliefs; and we never thought anything about it. I feel blessed to have met many different people of all walks of life. In Americus, Ga., as a young child we were visited by Dr. Martin Luther King and I sat on his lap and ate pancakes from his plate.
Throughout my lifetime I have had many friends of many different races, ethnicities, and religions. Yet I am still caught off guard when I hear words of racism, or see signs and read articles depicting hate and offering protection against the loss of our “white” community; and I wonder what is wrong with those who express these feelings.
I’m truly color blind. Not in the sense that one might think; I see actual colors without any problem whatsoever, greens and blues don’t confuse me, and I can spot the difference between burgundy and purple and green and turquoise. But when it comes to the color of one’s skin, they’re all the same to me; I am not a racist.
I will close with the words of a song my sisters and I sang during many of my father’s worship services as the five of us stood in stairstep fashion … “Jesus loves the little children, all the little children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
As Sam and his Barker friends learned, just because we are different doesn’t mean we can’t be friends.” According to the Bible, Genesis 1:27, “We are all made in the image of God.” If Jesus loved people of all races and colors, shouldn’t we?
Have a great day.
Vicki Westling is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org