There is racism in the United States.
Actually, there is racism everywhere. And there are so many kinds, so many bases – Religious, ethnic, nationality, non-citizenship, class, shape of the nose, skin tone…
Looking at the surface, I think our minds are designed to promote groups, segregation, classifications, classes, categories. We categorize each other, and ourselves. In general, this helps give us a manageable view of our world. It helps us retain a sense of control, sometimes a sense of security, sometimes a sense of superiority. Does it not feel great, even euphoric, to be better at something than another person?
I think it does. But only superficially. And, it is short-lived. It attracts resistance, and at some point violence. It retards cooperation, relationships, communities, nations.
In the United States, racism and discrimination are evident everywhere. In housing, community and school segregation; in restaurants; in employment; in sports; in entertainment; in policing.
With policing, African Americans are targeted, often suspected, stopped, harmed for no reason other than prejudice. Courts are disproportionately full of African Americans. Prosecutors want to teach lessons. Judges oblige and steal freedoms, imprisoning individuals because ‘resisting arrest is not right,’ or ‘failing to obey a lawful order’ is against the public. This is even when those arrests and orders are unlawful.
The system intentionally breaks up families. Children grow up distrusting police altogether, to the point of being constantly hyper alert, often thinking, ‘I am going to die’ when a police officer is nearby. Imagine this for a second, thinking I am going to die over and over, at least once a week, every week, all of your life.
In the United States, the term ‘people of color’ is still used to divide the population into two groups. The insanity of it assumes that some people have skin with color, while others have skin without any color. The history behind it all is so offensive and heartbreaking that the country as a whole often looks the other way and does not want to think about it.
Today, in the United States, this problem is even more exacerbated by one person, one person who is so excessively and disorderly insecure, that he is constantly pretending to be a leader, perpetuating racism and goading violence only to show that he has control. The pretense has been so good that millions of Americans are convinced he speaks the truth when he speaks his mind.
The problem, however, is not only in the United States, and it is not new. It is in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Israel, Syria, Mexico, Canada, Nigeria, China…
It is us. People. Humans.
It is the need for a sense of security. It is the need to maintain security through the familiar status quo.
In spite of this need, I believe that we are actually inherently good. I believe in us. We have to believe in us. We are not inherently racists. It’s just that too often we succumb to our immediate instincts, those instincts of insecurity, the immediate instinct of fear that we will not have control, of fear of a person unlike me because I cannot predict what he will do. The fear of changing our systems.
I think it comes down to choice. Choosing not to be afraid. Or choosing to treat the man in front of me as I want to be treated.
I want others to trust me, to respect me, to value my humanity and my life.
To receive this trust, I must choose to trust and value the person in front of me, to value his life, to consider his life as precious and as important as mine.
About the Author
Issa Al-Aweel advocates through lawyering and writing. All the while, searching the world for its forgotten workings, knowing it’s just an eye’s blink away. His adventures have trespassed on engineering, computer work, medical research, visiting ruins, discovering nature… under the guise of attempts to focus.