Changing Racism Through a Simple Gesture

I love this letter/article!!!!  It is a perfect example of a small change that can have a massive impact.  A white resident was the only white person in the neighborhood.  His American Flag was stolen, and later he found the note below.

 Note

I am so inspired by this, because the author of the note saw an opportunity for change.  In a simple gesture of kindness that took merely a few minutes, the author was able to prevent any racial tension and future conflict.  Furthermore, the author was able to cause readers of the note to begin to question and doubt any stereotypes they may have had.

Racism exists today, and it is very unfortunate.  We have become divided by our differences, and it is because of this division that we are not able to move forward.  We instead find ourselves trapped in a conflict that is fuled by ignorance.  If we could just learn to work together, we would be able to move forward.  We don’t have to agree on everything, we don’t even have to like every aspect of different cultures.  However, if we can learn to respect one another, to put our differences aside and work together, we would find that the things we have in common far outweigh our differences.  If we could stop focusing on our superficial differences, we would be able to see the true cause of so many of our common problems.  We would be able to combine our resources and talents, and face our greatest challenges together.  But in order to make that change, it needs to start with the individual.

I have often said that in regards to the anger, hatred, pain, and frustrations caused by racial tensions, somebody has to let it go.  Somebody has to rise above all of it in order to move forward.  Someone needs to extend the olive branch of peace and state: “HEY!  I am ready for something better!  I am willing to start over with a clean slate because I believe in the future of this community.”

I was recently part of a discussion where someone referred to my “White Privelage.”  I was initially angered and confused at this term, and it frustrated me.  I certainly don’t consider myself to be privelaged, and the referral left me feeling like I was being accused of something racist.  But I spoke to a friend of mine who gave me an example that helped put things in perspecive.  He told me that frequently throughout his life he’d be in a store or public place.  He is a well dressed, educated, middle-class black man.  (I make the last distinction only because of its relevance to this story).  He told me there have been several times when the customer service representatives immediately go to the white customers, always assuming the white customer was there first.  This alone would be frustrating.  But what frustrated him even more was when a customer service representative would offer to help the white customer and the white customer would accept that help instead of advising the representative that the black customer was next in line.  Now the black customer is faced with the dilemma: Does he speak up or sit back quietly and wait?  If he speaks up, no matter how polite and well spoken he is, he will be perceived as the “Angry Black Man,” furthering a stereotype.  If he is quiet, he again finds himself waiting longer than he should have to in order to get some assistance.  Had the white customer spoken up and advised the representative that the other gentleman was first in line, the black gentleman would not be forced to make such a choice.  Furthermore, the white customers simple action would cause the black customer to question any stereotypes he may have in mind, and terms such as “White Privelage” may simply disappear.  In that situation, both cultures win.

Our first step towards change needs to be an acknowledgement that racism, or at least racial tension, exists within our communities.  If we refuse to acknowledge its existence then it is impossible to address it and change it.  To bring about change, we only need to extend ourselves a little bit by showing a basic human courtesy.  Sometimes going slightly out of our way for someone of a different race sends a major message.  It shows that you refuse to be a part of a stereotype or believe a stereotype, and want to move forward together.  It says that we all have and deserve an equal opportunity, and even in the face of racism we will stand side by side because in the end, we are all members of the same family.

I am thankful for the writers of that note, and I am thankful for the recipient of the note who saw the value in sharing it.  We have an obligation as members of our respective cultures to bring about change.  Whether we want to be or not, we are representives of the skin we wear.  When we are involved in something offensive, the world watches and judges and forms it’s perception.  But we can change that perception by demonstrating all that is positive.  We can change that perception through simply showing respect towards one another.  Change is possible, and it starts within each one of us.

 *Image & background of story can be found at: http://www.amazingoasis.org/2013/11/hes-only-white-guy-in-his-neighborhood.html