Photo credit: R.H.W. Dorsey

This page is for my occasional musings.

Thoughts on Racism in America from a Hopeful Human

As a United States citizen and a person of color, inequality, racism, police brutality and the overall injustice faced by Black Americans are things I’ve been aware of since childhood. Seeing the injustices my family and other Blacks have faced remains a sad reality. For survival, one may have to learn peaceful coexistence with the hate caused by racism – but, by no means acceptance. I imagine the aim for most is to live to see another day as we navigate through systemic racism in our country. It’s evident through data and statistics[1] how racism is embedded in America’s financial, legal, educational, employment, law enforcement, political, healthcare, housing, military, and many other areas. The current head of government in these United States has done little to unite the country or address racial discrimination. [2]

I grew up concurrently in a housing project and a working-class neighborhood with varying immigrant groups and nationalities. My elementary school had a small population of non-blacks when I was in second grade. The number of non-Blacks in our neighborhood dwindled by the time I was in sixth grade. I can recall the number of non-Black families on one hand in my housing project before I was in middle school. On the other side of town where I spent the summer and weekends with close relatives, I was exposed to interaction with other races well before I graduated from high school. At the time of my youth, most of my older relatives were born in the post WWI era. Those relatives I speak of had experienced discrimination in America for all their lives. Their perseverance instructed survival to my generation. I watched my Black family and many others live their lives with devotion to God, hope, joy, and respect for their fellow man despite societal racism. The reality of racism was something I saw those around me in my early life navigate mostly with grace throughout their lives.

Learning the history of enslaved Blacks in my country during my school years sparked my curiosity. As an elementary and middle school student, I took out library books on my own to read about Blacks who changed history. In high school, nothing would be more of an eye-opener on the experience of my ancestors than the ‘Roots’ mini-series that aired on television for the first time. Before that, I had only read historical accounts of slavery in America geared toward school-age children. When I saw the graphic depiction of how African people, my ancestors, were enslaved and brought to America, my understanding of history was no longer abstract. The images I saw on my television had more of a visceral effect on me at the time than intellectual. I remember feeling uneasy as I sat in my integrated high school classrooms after the mini-series aired. I didn’t know how my non-Black classmates felt about seeing ‘Roots’ air on television and I didn’t ask. My Black friends had a lot to discuss with each other about the program. Still, I felt happy to have the non-Black friends who treated me with the same respect I gave them. I recall being allowed to go to certain amusement parks while avoiding others. My friends and I were told by our elders some places were ‘for Whites’ only [3] Those elders experienced racism in their youth at those venues firsthand. Whether the White-only label given to those venues in my city were official or unspoken, my Black friends and I followed suit in avoiding those places. It wasn’t until ‘our’ Amusement park was no longer available that we ventured outside our comfort zones. I realize there are some of my black friends who had a different experience. I can only speak for my own experience at the time. I remember the same issues with public pools in the summer. My friends and I were forbidden to travel to certain neighborhoods in my city where our parents knew we wouldn’t be welcome or safe. I can honestly say I didn’t feel less of a person with the knowledge my race wasn’t welcome in certain areas of my city. My parents raised me to be proud of my heritage and verbally told my siblings and me that we were equal with any man or woman no matter the color. The lesson from my parents and older family mentors carried me throughout my life. As I met people of different races throughout my life, it was easier to communicate and form lasting relationships knowing I felt like an equal citizen no matter if society hadn’t caught up with what the Founder Fathers proposed in 1776.[4] Back then and to this very day, I’m frustrated when I’m reminded an individual sees my skin color as a flaw in my character or worth as a human being. The frustration quickly turns to pity for the ignorance I witnessed.

It wasn’t until I worked in corporate America as a young adult that I felt I wasn’t seen by others outside my race as I saw myself. In my mind, I was an intelligent, capable, and friendly ‘person’ that was respected by my employer and fellow non-Black coworkers. The reality was that in more than one instance I found a disparity in my compensation versus my non-Black coworkers with the same level of experience, work performance, and education. My worth to the company was considered less valuable. There were also many instances of myself and other Black coworkers being excluded in events outside of work by presumed non-Black coworkers friends. As I studied for a college degree, I recall a course in Sociology I took. The course content discussed how individuals in the workplace naturally gravitate and feel more comfortable with people who share their similar backgrounds. The knowledge in the course made logical sense and gave me a better understanding of human behavior. The course gave me nothing to deal with the racism I’d face at that time and going forward in my life – as it wasn’t the intent of the course.

Growing up seeing racism and stereotypical behavior on all sides became normal since it was my experience since birth. I admit that gaining an advanced education and life experience changed my views on race from when I was younger. I realize there are still deep-seated stereotypes believed by people in our society. I’ve read many a comment from online posts as recent as yesterday where people comment stereotypes that can make your head spin. I’ve grown to know people of of different races as individuals and not as a collective group due to my life experiences. My oldest grandchild is of the Generation Z category. She said to me recently that she didn’t think of color in her interactions with friends and classmates. She went on to say if a person is a jerk, they’re a jerk no matter the color (I paraphased). I feel like the younger generation is this nation’s greatest hope. In my journey as a God-fearing person, I treat my fellow human being as I’d want to be treated until it’s impossible to do so. With all that said, I’m blessed to now have blood family and friends that consist of a mixture of different races and ethnicities.      

When I was growing up, I knew of only a few close older relatives who had served in WWII and Korea. Those veterans of the military seldom talked about their service to their country in my presence. It was a recent search of my family tree that revealed a couple of relatives had military service I’d never known about. Those older relatives are gone from this world. I’ve often wondered how they felt to serve their country, and, in turn, be treated less than equal both in the military and at home. I understand there are veterans today still experiencing the effects of systemic racism in the United States. It’s difficult for me to imagine the feeling of risking one’s life in service to a country and having your sacrifices and contributions to its success ignored. Around the age of twelve, I had the experience of being on the listening end of a man’s conversations who frequented my relative’s house. This man was a Black non-commissioned officer who served in WWII. For whatever reason, I was never asked to leave the room when he was present. I grew up in an era where children didn’t sit around grown folks while they were talking. This veteran could talk for hours about his experiences as a Black soldier in World War II. A great deal of his language was graphic when he described his interaction with the Non-Black officers and soldiers. He would discuss the racial epithets used toward him and his fellow Black soldiers. In turn, I recall this man discussing the all-Black unit he led as a sergeant. I listened as the man talked about trying to gain the respect of the men he led while having no authority over a White soldier of lesser rank – something his White counterparts didn’t have to experience. I was intrigued and asked question after question as this man gave me what I now know was a valuable first-hand account of the experiences of a Black soldier in WWII. I regret not having the foresight or maturity to ask permission to use my tape cassette recorder during our conversations. In retrospect, I feel fortunate the man put up with the naïve questions I posed as he spoke of his war experiences. He was patient and answered all of my questions – some with brutal honesty that aged me a little when I heard the answers.

The recent tragedies of individuals losing their lives because of racism, police brutality, and social injustice have sparked protests across my country and even the world. Those horrific situations that led to the recent protests, and looting are still in the news as I pen this piece. The most encouraging thing about the public outcry is seeing people of all races, ages, and backgrounds come together to protest the social plague affecting our country. There are many of the younger generations from all races who might not have experienced racism, disparate treatment, or social injustice in their lives to this point. However, those young people of all colors stand on the front lines of protest just the same. In the wake of what seems like a barrage of police brutality, racial and social injustice, I’m encouraged by the recent peaceful protests and initial policy changes individual state governments have initiated to promote healing and change. These protests need not get lost over time. As Americans, we need to remember and speak the names of the people whose lives were snuffed out by police brutality, racism, and outdated policing policies. We need to speak their names until disenfranchised people of color, sexual orientation, and all others get the same justice and opportunities as every other American. We know the names. We’ve seen the news reports, graphic videos, and will continue to read their stories. Unfortunately, more unjustices will be revealed in the future as recent history has shown.

My hope is that decent and concerned Americans strive to shine a light on racism and social injustice in our country until the non-believers understand the existence of both. As an American citizen, you can make a difference. Whether you’re physically able to march in protest, or able to join activism efforts online, by telephone or in your community, we must keep our voices loud. Many are calling this history in America today a watershed moment. Let’s move forth and not rest in our efforts for equality in America. Until we come together as a nation on one accord, we won’t achieve the promise of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address that “all men are created equal.[5]  



[3] The use of the term ‘White’ is used in the 2020 Census in the question on Race.



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