I will never understand what it is like to experience racism, but I do understand discrimination. Many that live with disabilities understand what it is like to experience discrimination. From searching for a job, getting life insurance, eating at a restaurant, and getting medical care, discrimination shows itself around every corner. Just as discrimination because of one’s disability is unjust, so is racism. The problem with both is no one wants to talk about them, and if we don’t, we as a country will never move forward and truly live in a just society.
Just like any form of discrimination, any type of racism makes me sick. Jesus Christ gave two commandments; to love God and to love others. He didn’t say to love others if they look like us or talk like us. He just said to love others. The only way our country will heal is if we love others. At its core, racism starts with feelings of superiority and is the greatest form of ignorance in our society. According to Dictionary.com, racism is defined as a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.
Racism and discrimination have been around since the first societies existed. People with diseases or disabilities were ostracized and not allowed to take part in the community. People who came from different heritages were looked down upon and excluded from everyday life. I would hope that in 2020 we would be living in a more enlightened society, but alas, we do not. Except for a radical few who believe they are superior to others, most consider that Hitler murdering millions of Jews an abomination. If we, as a society, know that this was wrong, how do we still look down on others that are different from us?
Years ago, when Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem, I thought it was unpatriotic and didn’t comprehend what he was standing up for. When I saw the face of the police officer that murdered George Floyd, I understood. We have an epidemic in America of racism and discrimination, and it has to be discussed if it is ever going to get any better. I have family and friends that have participated in Black Lives Matter protests. Although I do support this movement, the reality should be that ALL lives matter. My wife told me about a talk she heard on the radio last weekend. The speaker said that Jesus left the 99 sheep that were safe to go after and save the 1 sheep that was lost; he said this is Black Lives Matter. Everyone should be treated equally, have the same opportunities, access to healthcare, education, and other social opportunities.
Racism isn’t just a southern thing. It is prevalent throughout the entire country. As a whole, people are afraid to have meaningful conversations about it, and until we get outside of our comfort zone, admit our shortcomings and prejudices, we will never have a significant change. I grew up in a mostly white neighborhood, went to primarily white schools, so I was, for the most part, sheltered from social injustice. Even in college, in south Alabama, I was somewhat isolated from the problem. Now I had friends from different races, cultures, and backgrounds, but I never had the conversation with them of what they had experienced growing up, so I never understood. It wasn’t until I started having intentional conversations about racism in America that I began to understand the problem. When I first experienced discrimination myself because of my disabilities, it became more real to me.
I consider myself fortunate to have many friends from different backgrounds and cultures. I have intentionally tried to expose my children to other cultures so that they grow up understanding that we are all one race. Still, we have different backgrounds, ethnicities, beliefs, and world views. I believe they and I are better for it. They understand that any form of racism or discrimination should never be tolerated. We must seek to understand the problems that we face in society if we are ever to have meaningful change. Racism and discrimination are very polarizing topics as many believe that those who follow the Black Lives Matter movement are just overreacting, but when you see your fellow men and women being murdered in the streets of America, how can you not react passionately. If my health allowed, I would be out in the streets with my fellow man demanding social justice.
Do I understand discrimination? Yes. Do I genuinely understand racism? No. I don’t think anyone that is not from a minority ethnicity can truly understand the effects of racism. I can empathize, I can support, I can have meaningful conversations, but I can never truly understand. But what we have to do as predominantly white America is become more educated, recognize our differences, and love one another. America is on the verge of mass riots and hate crimes, and it shows how little has changed in the last hundred years.
If you have ever experienced racism or discrimination, I would love to hear from you and further the conversation. I believe there is hope, and that change is possible. I pray that we can see past our differences and learn to have tolerance, acceptance, and love for our fellow men and women that we live with, work with, and stand by our brothers and sisters during times of injustice and that we demand radical change.