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Shawn Nelsen


Being Afraid

It is a scary world that people live in today.  It seems like everyone is in danger one way or another.  For instance, there is that Muslim guy that is going to kill everyone when he gets those weapons of mass destruction.  There’s that black guy who is going to steal cars as well as commit various other felonies while running from the cops with his shirt off.  And, if the innocent masses manage to survive these perils, then there is the border hopping Mexican guy who is out to steel all the jobs from those good, hard working Americans.  It’s true!  Well, maybe not quite true, but, at the very least, it could seem that way to anyone who watches the evening news.  These fearful and racist ideals are poorly disguised in the headlines.  Everything form the war on terrorism to the declining economy, it seems, has to be blamed on someone and apparently, according to the media, the best people to blame problems on are the American minorities.  The media will show a black man steel $80.00 from a woman’s purse but neglect to show a white man steeling $80,000 from a woman’s retirement fund.  The media will discuss the frightening acts that could be committed by Muslim extremists, but rarely mentions the terrifying acts committed by the C.I.A.  The news talks of how Mexican immigrants are robbing Americans by accepting welfare, but not of how the price of fresh foods would skyrocket if it were not for the fact that farmers are able to exploit Mexicans for cheep labour. 

It may appear, then, that fear and racism are the fault of the evil media, but alas, this is not the case.  White people have, it seems, always been afraid of other people.  In a superficial reading of world history one might notice that when white people arrived in the Americas they got scared by the native people, so they enslaved and killed them.  When white people arrived in Africa they got scared by the native people, so enslaved and killed them.  When white people arrived in India, again, they conquered and kill the natives… and the list goes on.  It even goes all the way back to the crusades when white people became afraid of the Muslims so they had to go and try to conquer and kill them.  Fear appears to be a recurring theme in the history of white people so it only makes perfect sense that white people would still be afraid of other people today.  So, going back to the media, they are probably not creating racist ideas, but instead just taking advantage of them to get people to watch the news.  Now the question becomes “where does this fear and racisms come from?”  Well, the most simple and obvious answer is ignorance.  It makes perfect sense.  Although it my appear like an overgeneralization, it certainly seems that when people do not know about something they often become fearful of it.  When people are afraid of something they tend to become angry with it. And then, to tie it all together, when people are angry with something they tend to avoid learning about it, which leads to more ignorance. Basically then, what it all comes down to is that ignorance leads to fear, fear leads to anger, and anger leads to ignorance and it is this degenerative cycle that leads to racism.  

It is sad, but true that many white people are ignorant. They are ignorant to lots of thing, but to be specific, they are ignorant to what it is like to be a minority in America.  It is hard for many whites to understand why black people act black, or even what acting black means.  Many whites don’t understand why Mexicans want to come to America just to speak Spanish and act like their still living in Mexico. In doing so though, they are ignoring the fact that Mexicans may love their country and culture, but come to America because they need jobs.  Ignorance even leads some whites to go as far as believing that white people are somehow superior to other races.  “If blacks, for example,” asks Thomas Jackson, an apparent white supremacist, in his article What is Racism “are equal to Whites in every way, what accounts for their poverty, criminality, and dissipation?”  Jackson later goes on in his article to state that the only way to explain this poverty, criminality, and dissipation is that black people are inferior to white people.  Sadly enough Jackson, although in his mind probably has good intentions in what he is saying, is demonstrating complete ignorance when it comes to black history and reality.  One should start with black dissipation.  If working in the service and retail industries has taut me, and most likely many other people, one thing, it is that black people are no more dissipative than anyone else. Sometimes white people can be worse as a matter of fact. Next one should take a look at black poverty.  It is not hard to see where that came from, for one does not need to look too far back in the history pages to find out how black people came to this country; packed in the bottom of a slave trading boat.  How were blacks supposed to create a foot hold in the great American economy when they were forced to do all the hard work for no money?  The fact that black people have come as far as they have in American society should, in fact, be strong evidence of their resourcefulness and strength. 

Lastly, one should take a look at black crime.  Are black people really the ones committing all the crime in America?  It is an undisputed fact that black people do commit some crime, but defiantly not all of it.  For instance, as Michel Moore points out in his movie Bowling for Columbine, During the Columbine Shootings, the boys that went into the school and shot all those people were not black, but White.  In another example, The man that killed all those people in the Oklahoma City Bombing, Timothy McVeigh, he was not black either, once again he was white.  What about the people at Enron who stole millions of dollars from their workers, they were not black, but, again, white. In one last example, although the list could go on, one does not hear of hooded black people going around in the south and “lynching” white people for no good reason, but instead almost every one knows of the K.K.K. and how they tortured and killed innocent black people for fun. Even with all these easily notable facts there is still wide spread ignorance amongst many white people regarding the American minorities and this ignorance is leaving white people afraid.

It is sad that many white people are afraid of the American minorities.  It is not that the American minorities are really all that frightening, or that there is a good reason to be scared of them, it is just that white people are afraid.  Many whites may attribute this fear to such events as the L.A. riots several years back, but the truth of the matter is that minorities destroying their own neighborhood is no reason for white people to be afraid.  Furthermore, the people involved in the riots were just reacting to the misconduct, namely the beating of Rodney King, of some white police officers along with the anger of years of oppression.  No matter what the reasons are to suggest that minorities are not all that frightening though, many white people are either ignorant of, or choose to ignore them. For example, in Los Angeles during the 1950’s when black people started moving into the upper class neighborhood known as the West Adam’s District white people were horrified. This, even though there was nothing to prove that having a black neighbor is any worse than having a white one. It must have been a scary thought for them though, to have black neighbors, for most of them left.  White people fled from The West Adam’s District so fast that the movement became known as “white flight” and furthermore white people, it seems, are still afraid.  Many white people today, for example, live in gated communities in which the only way in is past a hired security guard.  Another example of whites being afraid is racial profiling by police officers.  This takes place when an officer pulls over a car, more or less, just because the driver is a minority and therefore, in the eyes of the police officer, more likely to be up to no good.  Unfortunately this takes place much too often.  In one survey in which speeders were categorized by race it was found that around 74.7% of the speeders were white as where only about 17.5 % were minorities.  In contrast it was found that 79.2% of the traffic citations were given to minorities.  This is obviously not justice.  One must keep in mind that it has been proved that white people commit crimes as well.  One last example of white fear is how it is unheard of for white people to walk the streets of Compton alone at night, although rarely will a white person actually know anyone that was attacked in Compton, or for that matter any one that has spent much time in Compton. This just does not make much sense for most of Compton, although it has a bad reputation, is actually a perfectly pleasant city.  On top of everything else and building upon this white fear of minorities, many white people are also afraid of being seen a racists.  They believe, once again according to Thomas Jackson, that “whites must also champion the racial interests of non-whites. They must sacrifice their own future on the altar of ‘diversity’ and cooperate in their own dispossession.”  This attitude though, just leads to resentment, fear, and even anger.  Although it is a good thing to respect the cultures of other people, whites by no means have to give up their own cultures nor do they need to give anything to the minorities other than an equal opportunity to succeed in this American life.  Still, sadly enough, many white people are still afraid.

Much of this white fear can and does lead to anger and this anger leads to further ignorance, this, in turn, leads to racism.  One broad example of this is noticeable when looking back to the earlier example of the city of Compton.  Although this example may be a little broad, there just seems to be no other way to some up such a broad topic. Anyway, many of the white people that are afraid of going to Compton can become resentful and angry that Compton is supposedly an unsafe city to go to.  They are sometimes afraid and angry that the crime and poverty imagined in Compton might spread into their own supposedly safe neighborhoods.  This can be seen in my own step-mother along with, undoubtedly, many other white Californians.  With this fear and anger that many whites hold regarding Compton, most of them decide never to go to Compton and see how the city really is, leading to further ignorance.  So, without ever, and because of never stepping foot in Compton some whites are prejudice, in other words pre-judging what Compton and its people are like.  Furthermore, because most whites rarely ever see the kind of crime and poverty that they imagine Compton has in their own neighborhoods they can start thinking that their white neighborhoods are better than the ones with minorities. Continuing down the line, believing that white neighborhoods are better than ones with minorities can help lead to the belief that white people are better than minorities.  If one takes the time to apply this example to other things such as the cultures and religions of minorities, not just their neighborhoods, then it should not be hard to understand how many whites have found them selves in the realm of full fledged racism.  

So, how does one stop this awful cycle of ignorance, fear, and anger?  Well, if only there was a simple answer, but unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be one. Perhaps if the media stopped reinforcing racist ideas it would all be better, but that seems too easy. As a matter of fact racism was around long before the media and it is not hard to believe that it would be around long after the media as well.  One could take the stand that the famous sixties rock band the Beatles took and say that “all you need is love.” With this idea though, it should be very pertinent to recognize the importance of whom the love is being shared with.  Sticking with the theme of song lyrics, in the song Where is the love by The Black Eyed Peas they claim “if you only have love for your own race, then you only leave space to discriminate, and to discriminate only generates hate…” So apparently unless the love is directed to the right source it will only serve to reinforce the awful cycle.  Maybe the best way, if there is one, to brake the cycle is to nock out one of its components.  Although anger is too easily fueled and fear can be much too consuming, with ignorance on the other hand, perhaps there is a chance.  The simple key to knocking out ignorance is education.  If the white majority could learn more about what it is like to be an American minority then perhaps there could be some sort of understanding.  With an understanding maybe the fear could be conquered. With the fear extinguished whites might realize that there is nothing to be angry about. With the anger gone whites could be more open to learning, bring about a much better cycle of understanding, compaction, and tolerance that would squash racism for good.  So although there may be no simple and obvious cure to racism, by all mean it sure seems that education is a good way to start.