Racism should be dead, but it’s not

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By GENE H. McINTYRE

I live near a golf course but consider it a waste of my time to hit and then chase a small white ball along nine to 18 fairways from tees-to-greens and then go into the clubhouse for a strong drink or two to pacify my wounded ego.

I recognize, too, as another example, that it’s a waste of my time to think racially hatred thoughts.  Based on what I know of my fellow Americans, however, there are many who do not share my view about other races: In a word or two, they come across as close-minded to the idea of a brotherhood or togetherness of the races in America.

I was born and raised in Astoria, a community of some 15,000 persons back in the 1950s.  A racial mix it was not, as, among its mainly white population, was one unmarried older man of African-American descent who held the only shoe-shine job in town.  Then there were two families of Chinese descent.

Since “Jack” was always polite, offending no one, ever, who was there to hate?  The Chinese-Americans kept strictly to themselves other than enrolling their kids in Astoria’s public schools but did not participate in civic affairs or school social activities.  There were no Hispanic-Americans and the only American Indians ever seen were played by whites in the Liberty, Riviera and Viking, the city’s three local movie houses.

My mother grew up on the west end of the city, having a father who immigrated to Astoria from Finland and a mother who arrived about the same time from Norway.   The Scandinavian-Americans, who numbered all our neighbors, did not practice or preach racial hatred while I recall my mother mentioning over the years of my growing up how terrible she thought it was the way other races were treated in the U.S.

The issue of racial discrimination gradually came to my attention when the efforts at trying to establish civil rights for blacks under storms of protest and violent reactions began to occur in the deep South.  We received our news on the matter by way of The Oregonian and the Daily Astorian.  Interestingly, high school classes did not offer an opportunity to discuss race relations.

Nowadays any course on an introduction to human psychology or sociology in high school or college is going to address the causes of racism.  Typically, four causes of racism are identified:

One: Stereotyping. When motion pictures, television, books, the press, or whatever means of communication, display other races in negative portrayals, then it’s real easy, especially for inexperienced youth, to assume or conclude that all members of a race or society or religion are that way;

Two: Another common cause is unfamiliarity. People generally fear what they do not understand.  Without real life experience while fed negative information, the chance of racist sentiments is increased.

Three: Selfishness is a third cause.  Humans can develop a caring only about themselves and their own kind at the expense of others.

Four: The environmental cause of racism has to do with the fact that we are all made differently, biologically and genetically, and that condition can serve to prejudice one in favor only of himself, concluding superiority in the absence of additional information.

Meanwhile, it’s commonly said that we Americans have a long way to go to achieve anything like a nation of brothers and sisters, where the cut of one’s character trumps skin color, regardless of race, ethnicity and religion, I’ve concluded that a true melting pot in these United States is a pipe dream that will never be realized.  To me, this matter has been underscored most recently by the election of Barack Obama as the country’s president and the persistent racism among other national politicians who represent millions of American who can’t get over a black man as president and sabotage his every move.

The March on Washington happened 50 years ago but has brought little real change to Main Street race relations (Laws, yes, have been added to the statute books but millions of American hearts remain intransigently and hatefully unchanged).

Any cross section of members of all races in this country finds those who hate irrationally and harbor no desire to give up those sentiments to make for a community of tolerance, acceptance and a desire to live together in peace and harmony.  Further, personal experience overseas through travel and work has disclosed to me that such a place does not exist, anywhere, that is, where a mix of races occurs.

In our films, TV shows and some literature, we are given the impression that Americans get along well with one another, regardless of race.  Examples abound on a fiction of good race relations that are non-existent and mere wishful thinking on the part of those who would really like to see a more civil and accepting society here.

The face of America is darkening with minorities growing rapidly in numbers, soon to become majorities.  The next president will likely not be another African-American but there will be one again or a member of another race in the years to come while the sometimes quiet, sometimes overt war of the races in America will continue undeterred and unabated.  My view is that race relations are worse now than at any other time in my life.  Hence, the American experiment in a democracy welcoming all has only proven that the races on this planet cannot co-exist in harmony and cooperation.

So, the racial discrimination beat goes on and on.

(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)

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