Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Racism is still one...

...of the biggest problems in America today. And I'm convinced that one of the two major political parties, the GOP, is essentially a racist party. (Don't believe me? Mention that to a Republican and see how defensive he or she gets.)

But I think I have the solution.

First a little history lesson. For tens, or even hundreds, of thousands of years, gays and lesbians were persecuted in almost every civilization on earth. As a result, they stayed safely in the "closet" (or the priesthood) where no one would bother them.

Then a funny thing happened around twenty or thirty years ago: gays and lesbians decided they had had enough and began to "come out" to their friends and relatives. And you know what? It turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to them -- and to the rest of us. Because most everyone in the straight community who had been previously homophobic now learned that there was really nothing to be afraid of. In fact, outside of the fact that they're homosexuals, gays and lesbians are really just like the rest of us. They, too, like baseball, the flag and apple pie. Some of them even want to get married! (I'm still waiting for the inevitable wave of "gay divorces.")

Even some Republicans found out their kids were gay and suddenly stopped opposing same-sex marriage. Go figure.

In the Times this morning there's a piece, "How a Sleepy German Suburb Explains Europe’s Rising Far-Right Movements," that has a term for this phenomenon: intergroup contact theory. According to researchers, "when people have direct contact with members of a particular ethnic or national group, they tend to become more tolerant of the group as a whole." You don't say!

And that to me is the solution to the problem of racism in America: blacks and whites simply need to interact more with each other. It would help, of course, if they began by living around each other. I'm convinced that if more neighborhoods were truly integrated much of the fear whites have for blacks would simply melt away. (And racism, like homophobia, is all about fear. You don't really think "gun rights" are about hunting, do you?) Whites would find out that, like gays and lesbians, they have more in common with black people than they realize. If your experience of African Americans is limited to watching the local news or Fox, for example, you probably think all black people are either gangbangers or "on welfare." (I know that's how many, if not most, of my relatives think.)

Bringing blacks and whites together, though, is difficult. And integrating neighborhoods would be practically impossible. While I know a number of guys with gay sons I don't seem to know any white guys with black sons. This may take a while.

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