What is a Racist?

Donald Sterling swears in interviews that he is not a racist.

His estranged wife says the same, as does the young woman who was heard talking with him in those now infamous tapes where Sterling said he didn’t want her to bring blacks to “his” basketball games, among other things.

He said in an interview with Anderson Cooper that he made a mistake, that it was the first time in 35 years he’d said such things.

Why does that sound like a crock?

Everyone knows by now that Sterling refused to rent property to black and brown Americans, saying disparaging things about them. He said that Hispanics “smoke, drink and just hang around the property,” and that blacks “smell and attract vermin.” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/05/12/donald-sterling-apologizes-for-racist-comments-blames-woman-for-baiting-him/?tid=hp_mm)

What is amazing is that Sterling and others say Sterling is not a racist. If that is the case, what is a racist? Is everyone who says racist things racist, or are they just ignorant, insensitive and bigoted?

A definition of  bigotry is ” intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself.”  Another definition of a bigot is one who is stubbornly intolerant against any belief that is different from his (her) own.

Racism, though, goes a little deeper. A definition of racism says that racism is the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races. That definition also says that racism is prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior. (https://www.google.com/search?q=definition+of+racism&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&channel=sb)

In other words, racism includes the belief that one race is superior to another …and a racist has the power to discriminate against a group or individual in a way that exercises power over that group or person. Racism includes the belief that one race is supreme…and that it has the right to oppress another group or individual based on the belief in that supremacy.

Can we say that we are all bigots on some level? Probably. But racism implies systemically provided and sanctioned power to oppress another group of people. From the beginning of this nation, even in the writing of our Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution, racism has been a bedfellow.

If Sterling isn’t a racist, I don’t know what a racist is. Kareem Abdul Jabbar said last week that more people believe in ghosts than believe in racism. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/04/kareem-abdul-jabbar_n_5263235.html) White people don’t want to “own up” to the fact that racist exists, that it is an American problem which goes largely unchecked and ignored. Americans seem to want to wish racism away. It is too ugly to face…

And yet it exists.

Donald Sterling is a racist. He believes in the supremacy of the white race, and he has the economic means and power to keep other races “in their place.”

He’s not the only one. He’s just one who got caught.

A candid observation …

 

 

Leaving the Cocoon

Sometimes, you have to be snatched out of your comfort zone in order to move into the next phase of your life.

I have written about myself being reclusive, comfortably snug in a cocoon of my own making. I have known for a while that I needed to come of out the cocoon, but I have been reluctant to do so. So, God snatched me out.

The will of God, I believe, is for us all to be all He/She created us to be. The recent economic crisis has resulted in not a few people realizing, or discovering, parts of themselves that they didn’t know existed. Entrepreneurs have been born out of despair and panic.

God must be smiling.

There is something about being out of a cocoon that is radically liberating. Scary …but liberating…because being out of one’s comfort zone and thrown off the cliff, so to speak, and being told to fly is a tipping point. You either fly, flapping the wings you didn’t know you had …or you crash and burn.

In trying to figure out how to flap the wings you didn’t even realize you had, you lose the time you had to concentrate on feeling afraid or angry because of your situation. You have too much work to do. To worry or give too much time to what caused you to be “out there” is to pull valuable time away from learning how to discover and then use the wings you always had.

I think God must rejoice at times like these. God must smile and say, “finally.” So many of us remain closed up in our cocoons and never get to experience the freedom that comes when one is out of it, so when some of us break free, or, as in my case, are snatched out, God surely must smile.

The late Rabbi Abraham Heschel wrote an amazing, book called God In Search of Man.  In it, he writes that “self-deception is the chief source of corruption in religious thinking, more deadly than error.” He also writes that “religion is liable to distortion from without and to corruption from within …Faith, in its zeal, tends to become bigotry.”

It occurs to me that many of us commit bigotry against ourselves, blaming religion and religious teaching for the same.  We discriminate against ourselves and hold ourselves back because of our lack of faith in ourselves and in God, who desires that we fly.  When we commit bigotry against ourselves, we are more likely to feel bigotry from others because we have created a spiritual culture in which bigotry, whether self-imposed or from the outside, can and does flourish.

Staying in a safe place, in a cocoon, is a petri dish in which self-deceptive words, feelings and attitudes multiply and too many of us do not realize how we are blocking the will of God, which is that all of us would be free.

Religious doctrine and political ideology have been blamed for a lot of the non-movement of human beings, but the fact is that many of us have prevented ourselves from moving. We don’t dare.  We would rather be holed up in an old cocoon than to burst out of it, “following our bliss,” as Joseph Campbell advises us all to do. And in not following our bliss, too many of remain dolefully unhappy and unfulfilled in these very few days we are allotted on earth.

If being in relationship with God is supposed to be liberating, which I believe it is, then many of us “cocoon dwellers” miss it., Richard Rohr writes, “… but in most of history the priestly tradition has been in control and defined religion. “Leviticus and Numbers” usually trump any real exoduses from slavery to freedom.” That phrase struck me, as I realize many of us enslave ourselves, in spite of deep religious beliefs. We humans all need a personal Exodus experience, and Rohr writes that it is as much an internal as an external journey. That’s what “liberation theology” is basically about…but too many of us don’t understand.

I didn’t understand, and so God snatched me out of my cocoon. I was so comfortable there;  I yearn for it at times …but I am kind of liking this feeling of wings that are slowly drying out and spreading. I am beginning to live my way into a new way of thinking. Wings are spreading, slowly …

It’s better than the cocoon.

A candid observation …