By Richard Bleil
Editorial note: In my ignorance (of which there is plenty), the original post used the term “transexual”. These terms have been changed to “transgender” after a friend of mine informed me that the original term is considered to be a slander by some people.
My friend and I were on a drive when I mentioned how ashamed I am. He listened as I told him that I was raised in a racist family and some of the issues with which I had dealt as a result. He just smiled, and told me that I should be proud.
“It’s obvious,” he explained, “that you are not racist. You should be proud that you overcame the teachings of your family.”
It meant a lot to me, especially as he was himself a minority. But, the reality is that I am racist. In fact, we all have racist tendencies. Yes, all of us.
Today I had a very strange social media exchange. On my friend’s post, one of her friends asked if transgenders should be included in the LGBTIQA+ community, and the “Pride” movement since transgenders are not homosexual. A plethora of comments followed, including those pointing out that transgenderism and homosexuality are not mutually exclusive and many arguments about how uninformed it is to try to exclude them and so forth (which, by the way, it truly is).
An argument can be made that I should not have gotten involved, as a white heterosexual male, but I couldn’t resist. I suggested that perhaps, while all of us have our own personal battles and struggles, the “Pride” movement is helping to shine light on those in our community that are facing such problems because of prejudice, judgment and the belief in our society that we have the right to tell people who are different from us how they should live despite the fact that their lifestyle has no effect whatsoever on others. I went on to suggest that with recent assaults on the reproductive rights of women, perhaps the Pride movement should even include anybody with a uterus.
In one of the most bizarre responses I’ve read, I was scolded by somebody saying that the Pride community has fought too hard to create a safe and inclusive group that they would never expand it to include women.
Wow. How could I argue with that kind of, uh, what…logic…I guess.
I don’t know where racism comes from. Is it genetic, or taught? Looking at babies playing, I cannot believe it is genetic, but it is so ingrained in our society that we cannot deny it. But whatever the source, we cannot truly fight racism until we acknowledge it. By admitting to myself that I have these tendencies, it gives me the power to keep an eye out for racist decisions and behaviors, to correct them when I see them, and to apologize for them if I miss them. I truly hope that my actions have not hurt others, but if they are, I can promise that I have done what I can, and will continue to do, to atone for them.
One of the most insidious examples in ingrained racism, in my humble opinion, is forgiving people for their racist or improper behaviors based on their age or past. I’m not quite there yet, but I’m approaching an age where people make the all-too-common statement, “well, he’s old, so it’s okay if he’s racist. It’s just the way he was raised.” If we can be honest for a moment, there is a distinct difference between being too old to change, and being unwilling to change. I was raised in a racist family, I saw the inherent lack of logic in it, and I made the conscious decision to change, and it all began with a desire to change. Now, perhaps there is an age where racism just doesn’t matter anymore; maybe the individual is too old to be of any significant influence on society or individuals, and the effort to change them is no longer worthwhile. But the decision to be racist remains with the individual.
It is also too common to “forgive” certain acts because of the way somebody was raised, and therefore never learned better. A certain pop star that is no longer with us had considerable evidence of molesting children, and his fans tended to use this as a defense (“Well, he never had a childhood, so…”). Regardless of how he was raised, however, there comes a point in time when you must learn right from wrong, and being an adult means taking responsibility for your own actions. It might sound harsh, but I don’t care how somebody was raised, and adult who rapes is a rapist.
Anybody using their upbringing to justify their behavior as an adult should not only be held responsible for their behavior, but frankly, for lacking the maturity to learn as well. By accepting our weaknesses and taking responsibility for our own actions and intolerance, we can improve, and frankly, I’m not convinced there is another path to do so.