Being racist in America

I’m sure you saw the news a few weeks ago of a bus full of University of Oklahoma fraternity students who were caught on video chanting the following about their fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon:

There will never be a n*** SAE!

You can hang ‘em from a tree, but they’ll never sign with me!

There will never be a n*** SAE!

The uproar was swift and the consequences thorough: the fraternity shut down, all members required to move out within 24 hours, and the two young men shown leading the chant promptly expelled from the university. One thing was clear from this episode: we no longer tolerate blatantly racist words in our country.  Much has changed since the 1960s and the preceding decades (centuries).

What is less clear to me is whether we, white Americans in particular, really understand all that racism actually is. Continue reading “Being racist in America”

Why I Don’t Treat My Kids “Fairly”

From the American view of things, my family should be very concerned with fairness.  Not only do I have three daughters who are close in age, but two of them are identical twins.  Many would assume that I should strive greatly to pursue perfectly fair treatment for my kids at all times.

I don’t.  In fact, when one of my kids whines, “It’s not fair,”  my standard response is “I’m not interested in fairness.”  Why?

There are two main reasons that we don’t do “fairness” at our house.  First, “fairness” is understood by American children to mean exact sameness.  Continue reading “Why I Don’t Treat My Kids “Fairly””

Something That Needs To Be Said About Ferguson

My daughter, age 3, adoringly playing with her doll house figures
My daughter, age 3, adoringly playing with her doll house figures

In the past several weeks, there has been a ton of great writing on the black experience in our country and on the history of widespread violence against blacks that continues up to this very moment.  I have also seen a bit of commentary and writing that desires to defend law enforcement and describe the very difficult job police have in protecting the public.  In my Facebook feed and in the comments on many articles I’ve read, I have seen numerous white people, like myself, discussing, arguing, and trying to persuade each other of what is true and what is just.  I am glad this conversation is taking place, especially among white Americans.

I believe both sides are saying true things.  Along with many others, I believe that black men are treated differently in our society, that they are subjected to questioning and suspicion at much, much higher rates than their white and Asian peers and that very often when they have been killed without cause, justice is never served.  I also agree that police officers have very challenging jobs, and that the rest of us cannot quite understand how tricky it is to protect the public and make split second decisions in what feel like dangerous situations.  Further, I agree that there is cause to look at each case individually, as we cannot determine what is just without an understanding of the details.

In the midst of all this writing and talking, there is one simple fact that I think needs to be stated even more plainly: police officers are simply reflecting our entire society’s ingrained prejudices.  In them, the assumptions and fears we hold societally about black men are simply put on display in the most vivid (and tragic) way possible. Continue reading “Something That Needs To Be Said About Ferguson”