It's almost midnight on Sunday, but I saw something on the local news that really got my brain going. A little later I was talking to a friend on the same subject and it's really bouncing around in the space between my ears. Here's the sitch:
(I really wanted to give you a link to the story, but the station I saw it on does not have any trace of the story on their website. Here's a link to the same story from an Arizona station.)
A neo-Nazi group "put on" a march in Phoenix protesting illegal immigration. Most of the video shown on my local station was muted, so I don't really know exactly what was being said. There was one quote that they played that got my brain going. I will paraphrase: "Just because we are a white group, people are calling us racist. They can come out here for Black pride and Brown pride, but we come out here for White pride and we're racist."
Normally I would just ignore anything like this. This is America, they are entitled to their opinion, and to express it, so God Bless America. I don't agree, and I don't have to, so God Bless America.
But it got me thinking.
Technically, I am "white". I rarely think about my "race" unless I am confronted with it on a driver's license application or a medical form, and normally I don't give it a second thought, I just check the box and go on. But do I define myself that way in my head? No. I don't. In my mind and my heart I am not "white". My ancestry is Danish, Irish, German, and I don't know what else. I am a product of the Great American Melting Pot. I'm a mutt. But over all, I am American. (I know for medical conditions there are times that doctors just want to know "white" or "African-American", I understand the reasons for that, but in my inner being that is not how I think of "me".)
But the neo-nazi guy had a point. When a bunch of middle age "white" guys gets together for any purpose, and they intentionally or unintentionally exclude "minorities" (which is a funny term to use in this situation because middle-age white guys have been a minority for some time now) they are automatically assumed to be racist, even before it's known what they call themselves or what their purpose is.
But there is a reason for this. Like it or not, for much of American history, "white" guys have been racist. I'm not talking individually, but over the course of the history of this country, "we", the average white guys, have been the oppressors. I don't like it, but it's true. From the moment our founding fathers chose not to make a choice on slavery (until much further along), to the policies enforced by our military in regards to those we call "Native Americans", we were the racists. I think there are those who have a right to be nervous whenever they see a bunch of us together.
We are a long way from Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream. A long way from "... that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!*"
I don't know why that is. I don't know why there is still an "us" and "them"; why we still have "red and yellow, black and white". When are we going to just be Americans? There are so many other things that we can fight over, that are WORTH fighting over, why must the shade of melanin in our epidermis continue to be an issue? To anyone?
*as transcribed at http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm