Ferguson, MO.

Okay, please don't roll your eyes and think "Here we ago again. Another blog about police brutality, police states in America, and racist bashing." I'm not going to be analyzing the events of Ferguson, per say. I am writing about a larger picture here. No speeches about how important it is to train our public servants to be more tolerant in the face of natural human behavior. No diagrams showing how our tax money inappropriately funds militarizing of the police forces across the United States. These are important issues in Ferguson, Missouri, but not what I want to talk about seeing how everyone else already has.

No, I just want to discuss the underlying issue: Aversive Racism. In case this is unfamiliar to you, and it could be since it is a concept born out of a study from the 80's, the practice of aversive racism has to do with essentially agreeing everyone should be equal, but you are still judging and treating groups (minorities, religious, etc) differently because of their differences. Most folks that fall in this category, specifically DO support the efforts of egalitarian views, but do not necessarily walk the talk due to subconscious reservations. This behavior is why we see Moff's Law nowadays. The open forum for discussion of the effects of aversive racism in our daily life has brought about a quick blanket response to any discussion that ruins the feel good atmosphere we share with other races and religions.

Everyday I encounter at least four to five people, at least three being white, who will argue that there will always be racism and that it is a natural part of being human. This is the response I get when discussing racist tendencies amongst all races. Of course, it isn't much of an argument, it's just an excuse. A pretty ill thought out one at that. To fill in the accountability slot with the perpetrator called human nature is very disingenuous. Science has clearly shown the innate behaviors of organisms can be altered, so why be so aversive? Is RACISM such a boogey man?

Aversive racism in our culture enables escapist attitudes. Escapists are the usual "just trying to live my life how I want to" crowd who doesn't really want to get their hands dirty in the issues and see how their lack of action is contributing to the more noticeably explicit racist societies in our country. Escapists have a tendency to hold on to some type of fantasy, whether it is a future release into the arms of their God, or racism is natural and won't ever go away so let's just learn how to tip toe around it. Trying to really get these folks to participate in political thought about their views is often met with resistance.

I've literally been told "Why do you make everything such a crusade?" or "You can't fix everything wrong with world." I've had friendships withdrawn when I try to point out how that individual could make a difference in the cultural divide, and probably affect at least two others into correcting racist behaviors, and the results could then potentially keep trickling on. All I get is an insulted attitude, ad hominem attacks against my own imperfections (which I gladly absorb), and usually being told that I am actually the racist since I had the nerve to even THINK about such a topic.

I am not even suggesting we go on a witch hunt, handing out an inventoried list of everyone's racist behaviors. That is not the right approach. We need to be giving clear cut examples of what racism is, yes, but not in a demonizing fashion. This just feeds in to the stock pile of examples that belong to those who don't know how to let go of their flawed views. It is so much easier to blindly defend oneself against perceived insult. Education is a wonderfully conducive realm for such discussions, and teaching the denizens of our planet what self awareness and accountability are should be made an essential life skill.

It should be pointed out that aversive racism also means the outright denial to even approach the inner workings of racism in general. Common arguments against such pensive thought includes the guilt tripping excuse. Now and then I manage to have a conversation with an acquaintance about the guts of the racism issue, but even then you can see the painful hesitation all over the person's face when speaking. It's like an invisible recorder is in the room and somehow the discussion might be made public, and oh my god my reputation has been ruined because I wanted to really think about this problem! It's hard for these talks to not fall apart quickly. Nothing like pathetic attempts at explaining why we have racism instead of talking about why we won't let it go.

I allude racism to a double edged sword, you know. Racism is a double edged sword that many are still too addicted to using for personal gain, even in subconsciously assessing others you interact with. I have been there, done that, and now make a conscious effort to refrain from doing so. One might ask how can a person who is the one being discriminated against possibly have a gain? Escapist rationalizing. Like religious escapism, sometimes, internally holding onto the pain justifies the inaction and perpetuation. I am not going to lay the hope and change on the feet of only the majority.

Stamping out racism has to be a willful effort. It doesn't just appear over night, and often, one must always be reminded to not practice such things and learn to be self aware. Have you ever looked at how we view our history not just as Americans, but as humans? There are so many myths and blatantly misunderstood (and wrongly taught) history, I don't see how we can expect our children to figure it out on their own.

Aversive racism is a real issue. I think Ferguson highlighted that on both sides of the fence with spotlights so bright, to ignore the revealed truth would be blatant escapism. This problem goes to the core of our nation, our world, and our humanity. Too often there are lengthy speeches of tearing down racist ideologies, but do we see any talkers actually trying to literally INCLUDE other races in activities to blunt racism's divisive sword? Very rarely. I notice that all sides say they want racism gone, but damned if any backers of the issue seriously join together to do so. Each side is too addicted to holding on to their own pain, when instead they could be looking past the battlefield to the ripe pastures of community that could be built.

Personal accountability is a key factor in this problem we face today. I think we have already established that wrong has been done. I am not sure if all the damage that has been wrought has been accounted for, and while it does matter to acknowledge this damage, when do we stop dwelling and just start remembering? When do we stop pointing out examples of racism, and live the non prejudicial example to teach others? When does one quit looking for their fair share of recompense, and put that aside so EVERYONE can get their share of healing? When do you stop judging your fellow human on his differences to justify your means?

Is this line of thinking really so politically incorrect and selfish? Judging by the disaster in Ferguson, it would seem it were. So many people, black and white, were eager to take out their emotional baggage and prop themselves up above one another, treating the other as insignificant members of society.

If the people of Ferguson, Missouri, really want change, they are going to have to actively pursue it in a way that invites EVERYONE to help it be possible. They are going to have to unite against the correct issues which would be overreaching law enforcement, personal accountability, and degradation of their fellow man. They have to be willing to put their fellow man in his place when he is wrong, despite the wounded history they have in common.

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Comment by Luara on August 23, 2014 at 4:03pm

In regards to inluding other races to uniting activities, why assume it would be a white majority?

Just the situation I've been in. 

Comment by Bluegrass Skeptic on August 23, 2014 at 3:26pm

Sentient some examples of equally diverse cities include VallejoCA and Jersey City, NJ.

Comment by Bluegrass Skeptic on August 23, 2014 at 3:25pm

In regards to inluding other races to uniting activities, why assume it would be a white majority? Could't churches intermingle during community events. Civic leaders from all racial communities could work together to start programs that involve all members of communities. It can be done.

Comment by Luara on August 23, 2014 at 11:08am

My blog post Anxiety and Racism was along similar lines.  Social anxiety contributes to the tendency to racially discriminate.

And, I wrote about the anxiety white people have about racism, which tends to make them avoid black people and act weird around them and can end up excluding them.  So the heavy-duty blame about racism often perpetuates racism. 

White people seem to shy away from the subject to such an extent that they seldom even ask black person about their cornrows.  And it's natural to be curious - how long do the cornrows last, is it a lot of work to get it done, etc. 

do we see any talkers actually trying to literally INCLUDE other races in activities

Doing this - as such - would tend to be offensive in itself.  Nobody would want to be invited to a mostly-white event because they are black.  Someone of any race would probably appreciate being invited to a mostly-white event because of who they are as a person. 

I went to a party once that had all white people, except for one black person.  I did make a point of chatting with him, but that wasn't because of his blackness, it was because I thought he might be feeling weird being the only black person there. 

It's crucial above all to see people of other races as people, not in terms of their physical appearance. 

Comment by Daniel W on August 23, 2014 at 10:19am

Thanks for the introduction to Aversive Racism.  I looked it up on wikipedia.  I don't have a lot of patience for academic discussions, but skimming the discussion it made sense.

My own tendency is to be get down to the nitty gritty and go with some action.  That is not necessarily the right way, but I am not big on philosophical discussions.

The articles I read about Ferguson showed that the situation was kind of socially engineered, with patterns of mobility being influenced by real estate covenants, other forms of exclusion, people with more money moving further out, and lack of investment in towns like Ferguson that changed demographic from overwhelmingly white to a higher percentage of black residents.  Meanwhile, it looked like the voting districts were gerrymandered enough that it was hard to get demographic representation.

I agree with you that all involved need to be face to face, side by side, and recognize one another as fellow human beings with the same goals and aspirations, for a prosperous and peaceful community.  It's going to be hard.  Detroit demonstrated that a large community can utterly fail.  I don't know off-hand examples of communities that have succeeded in racial harmony - is Atlanta one?  Such examples would give precedent and guidance as to what to do to build racially interwoven communities that work.


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