Since the death of George Floyd over two weeks ago, I’ve been observing everything that’s unfolded. The protests and the riots, the discussions and the debates. I’ve listened and learned, reflected and researched, prayed and processed.
The issue at hand is racism in America.
I haven’t said anything on the matter because I wanted to first understand all sides before seeking to be understood.
Last week on Limhi Live, the community had a conversation about racism and the use of the word thug. Some members of the community explained that the word is being used by racist individuals as a substitute for the N word.
Other members of the community were surprised, even incredulous, that this is happening. They felt it stupid that the word thug is now considered a racial slur. One individual commented that “words are only as bad as people make them out to be…if people want to give a word that kind of power it’s on them.”
The ones making words bad aren’t the ones being called those things, it’s the ones using the words in that way.
A racist person who hijacks a word and starts using it in a racist way, that’s what’s wrong.
We can’t just sit back and say “oh you were called a faggot (a word that originally meant a bundle of sticks), that’s on you for allowing that word to have that kind of power.”
When I was a teen, I used to say faggot a lot when I played Halo or COD. It was common. But even then it had a strong anti gay meaning, to say the least. As I grew older, I realized that using that word was out of line and insensitive and hurtful and hateful. I began to understand how inappropriate it was to call anyone a faggot. So I stopped.
Just as some would use language to further racism or division or hatred, we have the power to learn and to change and to adapt, and to use language to unify and to treat all with dignity.
We have a responsibility as members of society to be aware of how language is changing, how racism can infect and pervert our language, and to be aware of how it helps or harms others.
The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, documents written by some of the best minds in the 18th century, speak of freedom and liberty and justice and happiness. Yet despite their inspired language, those documents are fundamentally flawed in one respect above all others, they were written with the belief that a black person is not human.
The U. S. Civil War was fought 159 years ago. It was fought because of racism. It’s 2020, and here we are still fighting the same fight.
We’re fighting the same fight because we are unwilling to open our hearts so we can understand the pain, the anger, the frustration, the betrayal, the rage, the disappointment, the suffering, the sorrow, the grief, the fear, and the mistreatment of our black brothers and sisters.
Our nation is still divisible and unjust because there are many who see our black brothers and sisters as not human. America’s greatness has never been achieved because liberty is not extended to all.
One of the challenges with racism is that we often look at it “in my experience” and “how I see it”, as opposed to seeing it from the point of view of those who are the target of racism and suffer its mistreatment.
We must look at racism from the perspective of black folk. Rather than rely on our own experience and perspective, we must seek to understand theirs. Instead of telling them how they should feel, we must listen to how they feel.
When we do that, we will begin to see and understand that racism in America is prevalent and systematic.
The next time you talk with someone about racism in America and what is happening right now, listen first before being quick to chime in with your opinion. Especially, listen to our brothers and sisters who have been the targets of racism since before the founding of America.
Photo by Cooper Baumgartner on Unsplash.
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