I’ve known Josh for almost ten years. We met in San Diego through mutual friends and bonded over our love of hip-hop. Within the past four years, as I studied and wrote about racism/white supremacy, he and I began to butt heads, in regards to my beliefs and the current racial cauldron that is America.
Through conversation, he and I started to see eye to eye. I like talking with Josh because at his core, he is a very understanding person. Josh is able to see the other persons view, and like myself, wants the truth, no matter who tells it. He and I decided to collaborate on this piece that has a Black guy and a white guy honestly talk about race. We chose three questions and gave our answers. Check it out and tell us what you think.
Q: Do you feel that Trump is racist or just an act and why?
Josh – My feeling is that Trump looked at how the Republican Party capitalized on the white Christian vote for decades and decided to turn it up a notch. Instead of going after the Christian vote, he decided he can win by targeting the enormous poor white population. There are over 60 million white people that make less than $35k a year.
With only 131 million people voting last year it’s easy to see how he could believe he could win the election on their backs alone. His campaign is perfectly aligned with the primary concerns of poor white people. He’s talking about a wall and deporting people. He’s talking about using the 2nd amendment to protect the 2nd amendment. He’s talking about bringing jobs back from overseas. He’s even mocking people from the Middle-East. I don’t necessarily believe these issues reflect his top concerns but I don’t think it an act, either. I think it’s just his strategy to emphasize the parts of his philosophy that he knows will excite poor white people. In answering the question about whether he’s racist, I’m challenged to imagine what the counter argument could be. The guy is on stage generalizing Hispanic immigrants as rapists and murderers. He’s painting pictures of Muslim-Americans as jihadists. He’s got a history of statements about how blacks are inherently lazy. Yes he’s racist.
LeRon – Absolutely I believe Trump is a racist. I think Trump is like a lot of white people – white men in particular that believe their right, their lot in life is to be at the center of everything. To have priority over every race. Their entire existence has revolved around this, so when life changes – the emergence of the Barack Obama, first Black President and arguably the most important person in the world; the inevitability of whites being the minority in the US due to the influx of Latino immigrants; this signals a transition in the United States that many whites do not like. Trump senses this and plays to deep seated fears and racism that many hold. His entire campaign is built on “The white man is losing the country.” Trump knows that most whites hold these beliefs and he is able to zero in on them. I believe Trump is the most racist politician since American Nazi Party leader George Lincoln Rockwell.
Q: How does race affect you?
Josh – It’s easier to talk about how race doesn’t affect me than to talk about how it does. I grew up in a lower middle class neighborhood outside of a military base. Because of the various military bases in my town, it was quite diverse. We were kids who lived in the same neighborhoods on the same streets. We didn’t see color (that came later when we all went out into the world and learned that we were White or Black or Asian or whatever). We had a lot in common. Our parents held similar jobs and had similar problems. We were in the same cub scout groups, same little league teams, listened to the same music, went to the same parties, drove the same cars, wore the same clothes. I was lucky in that I liked school and was good at it. Although nobody in my family had gone to college, I always knew I would. I had every reason to think it out of reach, except for the fact that everyone always told me it’s what I’d do. Meanwhile, many of my friends didn’t feel that way. Certainly not my minority friends. They would say that they couldn’t afford college or that they couldn’t get into college. That used to frustrate me.
When I started college I was in for quite a culture shock. I was an engineering major, not because I was passionate about it but because I was always told I’d be a good engineer…so I thought that’s what I was supposed to do. I’d estimate 90% of my new classmates were white males. I’d say the same percentage went to nice schools in nice suburbs of bigger cities than I’d ever been too. They had two years of college level classes beyond what I’d taken. I was one of the only kids with a car because I was one of the only kids that had to work. In fact I had three jobs. I hated it. I had never felt so lonely or isolated and I was intimidated. Not only did I have to catch up to all these kids but I also had to deal with not liking any of them and not fitting in. There were a handful of girls and even less minorities. Most of them transferred majors. I didn’t blame them. If I was feeling out of place I couldn’t imagine what they were thinking.
In the end, I stuck with it. I caught up with my peer and even passed a lot of them. I no longer feel intimidated. But it can still be quite lonely. I’ve been able to fill in that void with a social life that I can afford for the first time because of my degree. Where before I had a hard time building friendships with my college peers, the challenge now is to build any sort of relationship with people similar to where I came from. They now see me the way I saw those privileged white college students and I don’t really blame them. We have a son now who just started school last year. We made the decision to send him to a school based on it’s demographics. In fact it’s a third Black, White, and Hispanic. I volunteer at the school as much as possible and haven’t missed a PTA meeting yet. And for the first time in fifteen years I find myself working with diverse people again. It’s been humbling to say the least to be back with the same sorts of people that I grew up with. I’m face to face with people who weren’t being told they were going to succeed regardless of their resources. They were instead being told not to get their hopes up. They entered the world expecting to be a statistic. And that’s exactly what happened.
LeRon – The question should be “How does race not affect me? LOL. Seriously, every decision, choice, and interaction I am a part of is affected by race. As a Black man in America, I am reminded every day that I am a second class citizen. It could be from an individual encounter with a white person saying or doing something racist, a casual micro aggression that I experience daily, a story that a non-white person and I share about them experiencing racism, viewing negative stereotypes on television, reading stories that showcase non-white people in inferior or subservient positions, and of course interactions with law enforcement.
I understand that who I am, I could not escape race even if I tried. There have been negative situations that I have been a part of that I had to question, “Is it because I am Black?” Case in point, I was having a conversation with my partner about me being overly scrutinized on a project I was working on. I felt that if I were white, these questions wouldn’t have been posed. My partner had asked, “Do you think it was because you are Black?” I replied, “Yes, but I don’t know for sure.” That is the thing: You never know. It could be and it couldn’t be, but Black and other non-white people ask ourselves these questions every day, and for me, I err on the side of “Yes, it was because of my race.”
Q: Some might say that there are different levels/types of racism? For example, membership in the KKK could be considered a different type of racism than when somebody assumes that a black person must have been doing something wrong if they were shot by a police officer. Are both of these examples of the same thing? Is one more damaging than the other?
Josh – I think this is an important topic. We (white people) have gotten to a point where we think that if we’re not a card carrying racist we’re not a racist at all. Over the last twenty years we’ve embraced hip hop music, we’ve put posters of our favorite black athletes on our walls, we’ve made black friends, and so on. We should be good, right? The problem is, we’re also accepting imbalances between black and white people as merely residuals from the days of widespread racism. We treat black people like their reality is exactly like our own and assume their success or failure is the direct result of their own actions. We assume success is just as attainable for them as it is for us. So when we read about a black man that was shot by a police officer we say things like ‘if he wasn’t committing a crime he would never have been in that position’ or we see the size of their rap sheet and say ‘well, he must have been doing something wrong’. For the most part I believe this is mostly naivety on our part.
We don’t understand what it’s like to be black. We don’t realize how, from an early age, black people are harassed for ticky tack laws and how it can quickly snowball into a life of crime. However, it’s not purely naivety. There’s an element of racism there. When we’re accepting that black people are disproportionately harassed, arrested, incarcerated, and even shot, we’re essentially saying that black people must be predisposed to committing crime. If we were truly thinking of black people as equals, we’d immediately be suspicious and start asking questions about why they are being harassed more than us and why they are being thrown away more often than us. I would never suggest this sort of racism is nearly as destructive as the sort that involved burning crosses and lynchings. I wouldn’t even put it up against the sort that resulted in Jim Crow laws. But it’s still racism none the less. The result of this sort of racism is far more destructive than most of my peers understand. It’s what allows the disproportionate harassment, incarceration, and income distribution to remain in place. And, therefore, it’s the very first thing that needs to change.
LeRon – This is a really good question. I believe racism is racism, but how people choose to practice it is the difference. KKK and skinheads are overt racists, publicly letting their views known by their words and actions. Groups like those represent what racism is to many and that confuses white and non-white people. There are some whites that think, “Well if I am not saying a racial slur or having a swastika tattooed on my body, I cannot be racist” but that is not true.
White people can practice racism by silencing non-white people when we talk about race, denying applications for home loans, discriminatory hiring practices, not giving adequate health care to non-white patients, giving Black people in criminal cases sentences that are 20% longer than their white counter parts that were found guilty of the same crime, discriminating being dismissive when people of color bring up race, and automatically believing that a non-white person is guilty or “had to be doing something bad” when we are accosted and arrested by the police. These examples of racism are not thought of as racist, because our view is of an evil person with a hood or a maniac running around shooting people because of their color. We need to realize that racism is systemic and more complex than someone calling me a nigger. Racism is the complete subjugation of a people; it stops them from growing into what they want to be, what they could be.
What’s your take on what you just read? Comment below or write a response and submit to us your own point of view or reaction here at the red box, below, which links to our submissions portal.
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