My thoughts on our current state of racial divide and how we should address it
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few years, you have noticed the racial tensions heating up in our country. It seems that every week there is something else in the headlines that fuels the fire between black and whites. The most recent being San Francisco 49ers Quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, kneeling during the National Anthem in protest of what he believes to be a society that continues to oppress the African American race. Whether you agree with him or not is beside the point. Hell, whether you think he should be disciplined or not is beside the point. There is most definitely a racism problem in this country and whether Colin Kaepernick's protest during the Star Spangled Banner sits well with you or not doesn't matter because we're debating and arguing about the wrong thing. In all honesty, when I first saw that Kaepernick had sat down during the National Anthem, I was pissed. I acted in the moment and decided lashed out at my TV screen calling him a moron, unpatriotic, and so on. However, after thinking about it and reading and actually listening to his side, I see what he is really trying to do. Do I agree with not standing during the Anthem? No. As citizen of San Antonio, nicknamed Military City, USA, and having a Grandfather who served in the Air Force, I will always stand and honor the flag out of respect for those who lost their lives so that I can live free. Meanwhile, I do not think scenarios such as this Kaepernick one, are either right or wrong, one side or the other. There are so many grey areas in these issues that one can not simply look at a post on social media, read an article written by some political pundit of some big media source, or even converse about said issue within a like-minded group of individuals and come up with a rational, well thought, stance on the topic. Before I delve any further into the divide and what I think we should do, I need to explain how I reached the mind set I have on racial issues.
As a white kid, raised in a predominately white town in South Texas, I have to admit I didn't know much about the black race growing up. I will now use the stereotypical white comment of "one of my best friends in High School was black." But even still, being 16 years old, race never came up and we never spoke about it. To us, it didn't matter, he was my friend and I was his. However, looking back on it, I feel he had to have run into some sort of racism attending a majority white school that had made national news twice during my tenure for racist remarks made by students. As a grown man, in hindsight, I wish I had spoken with him and heard his side and his feelings on the matter, you just don't think of those things when you're a kid.
It wasn't until after I was married that I truly experienced my first racist encounter. Out with friends, one of whom was an African American, we went to a bar in Houston, TX. Myself, my wife and my sister in law all walked in without a problem. However, my sister in law's boyfriend (a black man) was stopped outside of the bar and told he couldn't come in. I walked outside to talk to the door man and asked him what the problem was. He told me my friend had on Jordans and tennis shoes aren't allowed in this bar. I responded with "I'm wearing Nikes and you let me in no problem." To which the doorman replied, "give me $20 and you guys can come in." Without going into too much detail, we left. That moment in time has never set well with me and I think about it often. Another instance that I was not directly involved in but still irked me. A family friend's son had just been drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs and after getting his signing bonus, like most people would do, he bought himself a Range Rover. Driving back from KC to San Antonio, he was stopped by police and questioned about what he was doing and where he was going. He immediately called his lawyer who told him to record everything. After complying and recording, the police eventually let him go. They never came out and said it but they assumed since he was a twenty three year old back man driving a Range Rover though Texas, he must be a drug dealer or some sort of criminal. These two instances really changed my outlook on things and made me realize though it is 2016 and we have come a long way, there are still big big issues in this country when it comes to race.
Now, how do we fix this problem? Firstly, there is no flat out answer to this question. If there were, we wouldn't be where we are. However, I think being honest with each other is a huge start. Whether you are black or white, we all have prejudices and mindsets that we've learned and, though possibly subconsciously, believe to be true. We have all said one thing or another that is offensive to another race and we have all had prejudice thoughts. It is human nature. But the problem is not being honest about it. If you're not honest with yourself, you cannot fix the problem at hand. Secondly, we need to be able to speak openly about race to one another without fear of backlash from someone who thinks differently. We also need to see that this is not a one side or the other issue. It is not about being right or wrong, its about solving a problem and coming together to do it. To quote Benjamin Watson's book "Under Our Skin,"
"I'm also angry that this has become about one side or the other winning an argument. Therein lies another hidden attitude toward the race problem. Why is this about winning and losing? Doesn't anyone else see that we're all losing?"
I read this book recently and would urge everyone who actually cares to see change do so as well. This isn't about standing or not standing for the National Anthem. It's not about whether you think you're not racist or justifying certain beliefs because "you would never say it to their face." This is about addressing a real issue head on, openly speaking about it with one another, listening to opposing views with open ears and open minds. Its about solving a problem that will keep us from ever being truly United. No talking heads in the media, or agenda pushing Politician can solve this for us. It is up to us, through discussion and mental growth, to get beyond the racial divide we have been facing since the birth or our country. We need to stop thinking black or white and start thinking black and white, together. Only then will we start to see some actual progress.