Top 10 ways to be less racist
When it comes to racism, white guilt is good. Indeed, putting aside all those self-love TED talks, a dose of shame is in order. This country is founded upon the slaughter and enslavement of Indigenous and African peoples and the decimation of their cultures and family structures. And what little was done to address this during the Civil Rights era has been clawed back in the decades since. Affirmative Action. Head Start. School integration. Voting rights. The highest court in the land has codified the neutering or outright destruction of these mild fixes.
The more flailing noise on the white left, the more jaws set, boots strapped and guns locked and loaded on the white right. And it's time to stop congratulating ourselves for voting for Obama, or his vice president, or his vice president; cheering at the Derek Chauvin verdict; and growing somnolent in the sweet-sugar haze of Biden's narrow victory. It's time to do something, anything, to be less racist.
Number Ten: Attend a worship service at a People of Color congregation. It doesn't matter if it's not your religion or if you don't have a religion. Go humbly, to learn and acknowledge that these faithful, whether meeting in a storefront or a cathedral, are grounded in suffering, loss, disenfranchisement, and yet saturated with hope. Listen to the music, the language, notice the colors, the families, the individuals. Don't compare. Just experience.
Nine: Stop rationalizing, part 1. "I didn't have anything to do with slavery or the Indians." "That stuff happened years ago." "Not my problem." Racism is America's cancer, and we're way past the early detection stage. This cancer cannot be eradicated unless we acknowledge it. Statistically, white people live longer and are healthier, wealthier, better educated, better fed and better employed than people of color. And those realities are a direct result of racism.
Eight: Frequent minority-owned businesses. Salons, barber shops, grocers, technology centers, clothing stores, restaurants, bars. Use the internet if necessary, but chances are that anything you want to buy is being sold by a minority-owned business. Find them.
Seven: Don't tell, listen to or tolerate racist jokes. Respond swiftly and surely: "Racism isn't funny. This kind of humor is hurtful and disturbing." That's the response regardless of whether it's your boss, mother-in-law, or kid's coach spewing the poison.
Six: Stop rationalizing, part 2. "I'm not a racist, I've never even lived in the South." If you think racism is a southern problem, have a chat with the Mystic hotel staff member who was the victim of a racist beating and invective at the hands of a New York couple. Last year. After witnessing the virulent response to his civil rights movement in Chicago, Dr. Martin Luther King said he'd not seen such racial hatred anywhere in the south.
Five: Practice subversive Affirmative Action. If you are in a position to hire, select, or advance a person or child of color, Just. Do. It. The Supreme Court probably won't notice.
Four: Do not, under any circumstances except for comic relief and even then, only if you are well-loved and considered hilarious by the person you are meeting, initiate a complicated hand-shaking, fist bumping, half-hugging greeting with a person of color. Whites have already stolen their music, food, art and language. Do we really need to co-opt the hellos as well? And seriously, it's just not pretty to watch.
Three: Don't cross the street. When you encounter a person of colors of any age, anywhere, engage, smile, nod, say hello. Make the effort. Repeat as often as possible.
Two: Send your child to an integrated school. Despite numerous court cases attempting to desegregate Connecticut schools, this will not be easy. If you worry that an integrated urban, magnet, or charter school is not as highly "rated" as a typical Connecticut suburban majority white facility, consider the advantages your child will gain in experiencing different languages, traditions, cultures. Consider how well prepared he or she will be for the real, colorful, complicated world they will meet in the future. Consider the difficult truth that without real educational integration, racism will continue to be endemic in America.
One: Choose to live in an integrated town or city. If you can't up and move, advocate for good public housing in your municipality. This goes hand in hand with the last point; together, integrating housing and education are the cornerstone policies that can break the back of racism in this nation. And breaking racism's back requires white people to show a little spine.
Marci Alborghetti is a writer living in New London who focuses on social issues.
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