I spent all of my teenage years in the 1970’s. The world was a volatile place that had many challenges. We had the OPEC gas crisis that had people sitting for hour in gas lines for their automobiles. There was a distrust in the Government, some things never change. We also had a racially charged society. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated in 1968 and the amazing work of the civil rights movement was still in turmoil. America was not ready for a long overdue racial equity. There is still a racial tension that boils under the surface of America. We have made great progress in the years I have been alive, but have a ways to go before we can say all people are treated as equals in America. Yet, the media has grabbed ahold of this new wave of calling everything racism and bigotry. It is unfortunate they would attach names so strong to what is inconsequential events. I am not minimizing racism or bigotry, on the contrary I am alarmed at a society that wants to trivialize something as important by overusing words that should be used with caution.
First, let me start by saying we are all human and sometimes do not get along. I work with people everyday I do not like. I can tell you it has nothing to do with color of skin or gender. Sometimes, we just don’t get along with someone and there is no magic formula or deep seated meaning. I hang out with people I like, no amount of coaching from the media and other organizations will change my mind on what I look for in friendship. The overuse and overexposure of the words bigot and racist puts a block in these relationships. Can you imagine being judged on every motive and action you have ever had in your life? I taught Sunday school for years and often told my class, can you envision we come in and watch on a television your every action and word from the previous week? It would be a disaster because in the end “The best of men are merely men”. The overuse has caused many good people on both sides of this discussion to shy away from the controversy. If, I do not hang out with people of other ethnic origins and gender I don’t have to worry about these labels that are recklessly being thrown around and that would be a true tradgedy.
Second, you cannot and legislate or enforce people seeing each other as equals. I am not talking about legitimate actions such as employment, promotions or opportunities for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. You cannot legislate the way a person thinks. When you allow good people to get along with each other and correct mistakes as they occur, you have healthy relationships. When you try to guilt people into action by using words that are so far over the top, you promote desensitization of a very worthy cause. It is like the boy that cried wolf, after a while people roll their eyes and keep moving along. This is a tragedy. There are true cases of racism and bigotry that will lose the attention they justly deserve. When you overuse a word or attach it to everything eventually the word loses meaning and we are in grave danger of this happening in today’s accusatory society.
Last but not least, we forget to celebrate the progress our country has experienced. When comparison is made to a utopian society all motivation to move forward can be lost. I am not saying not to strive for improvement but we have to celebrate the progress made. When I grew up in the 1970’s in the Deep South there was a completely different mindset then what I see today. Are things perfect in America in 2019, you can say no emphatically. Have we come a long way in the last almost 50 years? The answer to that question is a resounding yes. We see a picture of the 10 percent on the news and try to apply it to the other 90 percent of society; this is a mistake made often in our 24 hour news cycle. I find the majority of Americans are good people working hard to provide for their families. Don’t lump everyone into a category because of a small percentage of irresponsible and uniformed individuals, this is getting dangerously close to the racism and bigotry being trumpeted by a few reckless groups.
To conclude, racism and bigotry does exist in America today, but not at the level we hear in our media. We have to do a better job of monitoring our words and even more so our actions. When you cry racism and bigotry every time something is said or done, you hurt the people that are true victims and need the most help. I have a saying I have used for the last 20 years: “I used to think some things are better left unsaid, I now think most are”.