There has been a lot of controversy over NFL players protesting racism in America. Now there definitely is systemic, institutionalized racism in the United States, that is a fact. It is clear in the schooling system where some schools are rich and white while some are poor and black. It’s obvious when the overwhelming majority of the prison population is black and yet white crimes are equally (if not more) prevalent yet less likely to get punished. Look at the Wolf of Wall Street, Jordan Belfort made a career out of his crime. Even after he got caught he served a minimal sentence and now is cashing in on his previous crimes with books, a movie and seminars that teach people how to be better scam artists. A high school in Jackson Mississippi had a segregated prom until 2008, changing that caused an uproar in the town (see the documentary Prom Night in Mississippi). Racism in America is a very important, very relevant problem that needs to be addressed. Colin Kapernick is doing what every American should be doing by peacefully protesting racism and using his elevated platform to do it is all the better.
What’s Really Going On?
Ok, well let’s lay it out… Cops are shooting black men in the streets for no reason. Are they racist for doing that? Yes, but so are you and me and everyone. The uncomfortable truth we don’t want to deal with is that we all make assumptions based on skin colour, nationality, religion, sexuality and gender. Part of what makes humans more advanced than animals is that we have evolved to have the ability to make judgments about our environment very quickly. Like a deer that assumes every noise in the woods is danger, except our assumptions have evolved to be much more complex. It isn’t necessarily wrong for a person to think that maybe a black guy is armed and dangerous. Given the media we consume where every black man on TV is armed and dangerous, given the cops frequency of dealing with armed and dangerous black men, given the fact that prisons are filled with black men (unjustly) and that most black men are in poor desperate neighbourhoods where crime is the norm (unjustly), I think it is pretty reasonable to think that. Those are true facts, which is why I said racism is institutionalized, so how do we fix it? Furthermore I think all of us would make those assumptions too. The police officer isn’t being racist, he’s scared. The problem comes when you give that person a gun, tell them they have to use it to defend themselvess and their community, then militarize them with tanks and swat gear (Jon Oliver video) and pump them full of fear.
The Root of the Problem
Many claim Racism is the root of the problem but that’s not entirely true on its own. The real root is fear. Americans are terrified of Islam and ISIS, guns, crime, schools shootings, Y2K, killer bees, SARS, west Nile, Zika, bird flu, suicide, car accidents, heart disease… You name it and Americans are afraid of it. They have an alarm on their locked house and a safe in a locked room inside that house. The media reports every scary thing that ever happens, which causes fear, which causes everyone to assume the worst which causes more scary things happening and the cycle continues. When people live in fear, they act out of that fear and act in irrational (racist) ways.
So what cures fear? Peace. The only way to have peace in society though is to find an inner personal peace. A peaceful heart brings about a peaceful mind, which can bring about a peaceful society. Now I sound like a Buddhist…. I work in a Catholic Church because I believe it is the answer, or one of the answers to this problem of fear and this unpeacefulness we all feel. We are focused on the wrong things, power, money, honour, fame… Rather than faith, family, friendship, truth, goodness and beauty. Parents will bring their kid to hockey 6 nights a week because they care more about having the next Sydney Crosby than having dinner with the family. What are we teaching the next generations? The good news is that we have the power to change all this, so let’s get started!