Racism as I see it; an essay written by Burr.

I have a basic problem with the recent Roseanne Barr controversy. What puzzles me is how it is possible to support Donald Trump but condemn the racist nature of what Rosy said. The Orange man has proven himself to be racist almost every time he has opened his mouth. What I don’t understand is the logic in saying “I want a racist to be my president but I am not racist”. That makes no sense to me. That’s like a person that is allergic to shell fish going into a restaurant and ordering raw oysters. As Spock would say, “that’s not logical”. If you don’t believe Trump is surrounded by white supremists all I can say is open your eyes and take a look around.

     When I tell a Trumpian that most of the school killings are perpetrated by white Americans who are not Muslims or immigrants or MS-13 members it falls on deaf ears since it goes against what the NRA wants their members to believe. The NRA along with the Trump Administration will say the opposite and the sheeple that support him believe what they say even though the truth is staring them in the face. They somehow can be convinced that the truth is “fake news”. They, the Trumpians, are told and believe that we, the other side, are reverse racists for not buying into their theory of white supremacy. Their idea that blacks hate white people just like the white supremists hate black people is inherently false.

     By modern definition race as a social construct, that is, a symbolic identity created to establish some cultural meaning. While partially based on physical similarities within groups, race is not an inherent physical or biological quality. It is similar to ethnicity. All of that is unnecessary to the white bigots known as the far right, the majority of Trump supporters, since they believe in only two categories; those being white and non white.

     Prejudice is the act of prejudging a person and disliking them while knowing nothing about them other than their outward appearance, using the narrow definition described above.

     I have never known a black person that was racist by the above definition. I have met black people that I disliked because they bore certain personality traits that were abhorrent to me. That is not racism. I did not prejudge. I do, however know white folks that would call any black that disliked certain whites a racist regardless of the reason for the disliking.

    For example I recently read opinions on Facebook singling out Spike Lee as being racist for producing and writing the screenplay for a movie named “Blackkklansman” which premiered in Cannes May 14, 2018 and is due for release in August. Based on the book “Black Klansman” by Ron Stallworth, it is a memoir from the early 70s of a black cop in Colorado Springs, Colorado who infiltrated the KKK.   Spike Lee made the movie from a book. It showed that racism existed 40 years ago the same as it does today. Denzel Washington should be proud of his kid who played a major roll. The main character showed prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race. I just want to point out that when a film maker turns a book into a movie it is ridiculous to think that the producer is racist just because a character in the fictional story shows signs of prejudice. If that were true then Steven Spielberg would be a Nazi for making Schindler’s List. 

     I have many friends that have been addicts, alcoholics and criminals of all kinds but they have come to their senses. It’s easy for me to say things that anger people when I am confronted with blatant bigotry. But, given time to step back and try to think rationally, I would rather convince that person that racism is wrong. Once in a great while I have been able to help someone to see that nobody is superior to any one else because of their ethnicity. Some of those people are now my friends as reformed racists. We don’t have to like everybody but I believe in getting to know people before forming opinions.

     I was reared in a community that was entirely white. The only opinion that my friends and I formed in relation to blacks came from movies where the only black actors were portrayed as being stupid. Stupid was funny back then. I remember the first time we saw a real live black person was when he rode by on a bicycle. People came out of their houses to see.

     My best friend for most of my adult life was a black man by the name of John Thomas. I met John where he worked, at the Rochester airport as a “sky cap” or luggage handler; an employee of American Airlines. John, even though unschooled, was well read and well traveled. John could tell stories and quote poetry that Harvard grads wouldn’t know. As an airline employee he had unlimited flight privileges worldwide and when I began to travel extensively for business John would often accompany me. Another sky cap “Seymour known as Hacky” who worked at Chicago O’Hare Airport often joined the party.   

     In summary: I don’t believe that people are born into bigotry. It must be learned. However people can be born into an environment where they are sure to learn to hate. It is possible for a racist bigot to be reformed although extremely difficult. There are very few black racists.   

     I have not mentioned so far the plight of the Native American. This is another group that I grew up with a learned wrong impression of. Just as with blacks I don’t recall learning anything about them in school. There were books that I could have read to learn the truth but I didn’t discover them until adulthood. My attitude about the American Indian came mainly from Cowboy stories and movies where the Indian was portrayed as a sub-human savage who attacked wagon trains of people doing nothing but moving west to steal their land.

     As an illustration I will include an essay that I have posted on Facebook under the title “A Story of a Mass Shooting”.

     Over the last couple decades there have been many horrible mass shootings in the U.S. The media overflows with stories of these terrible events, but I seldom hear mentions of the incident in which the largest number of Americans were killed. I have wanted to mention this massacre since its omission has racial overtones. Anyhow, the worst mass shooting, that I can find a record of, occurred on December 29, 1890, near Wounded Knee Creek on the Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the U.S. state of South Dakota. Because the victims were Native Americans seems to make it less important than the shootings of white people. It is not; these people were Americans.

   They were not killed by gun crazed, NRA types but rather by the US military using various weaponry including rapid-fire Hotchkiss-designed M1875 mountain guns.

   The Oglala Lakota Sioux men were tricked into surrendering their weapons before the shooting started. The number killed was 150 men women and children by the army count but a more accurate count was later determined to be closer to 300. One of the survivors described seeing the killing of a woman while she was nursing her child. It must have been a horrible scene. At least twenty soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor for their handy work.

   As a point of interest, some more recent unrest in the area began on February 27, 1973 and culminated in the seizure of the town of Wounded Knee, by approximately 200 Oglala Lakota and followers of the American Indian Movement (AIM). The town was occupied for 71 days. There was some violence but not a lot. The unrest was not retaliation for the 1890 event but rather because of ranchers not respecting Lakota land boundaries and gradually moving cattle therein. A trial followed and the Indians were eventually all acquitted of wrong doing.

   There is a marker near the mass grave site on which the following is inscribed:     

 “I shall not rest quiet in Montparnasse.

I shall not lie easy at Winchelsea. 

You may bury my body in Sussex grass, 

You may bury my tongue at Champmedy. 

I shall not be there. I shall rise and pass. 

Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.”

…….. lines from a poem by Stephen V. Benet

 

 Photographs

john1

John on keyboard
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= john2

John partying in San Francisco
On the right is my friend Dave who died young having a relationship with alcohol and heroin