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Lisa A. Kramer: Woman Wielding Words

Writer, theatre artist, educator and woman of many dreams

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Racist Does not Mean Dumb or Deplorable

By Lisa KramerNovember 21, 2016Comments Off

“The people America has forgotten about are the ones who voted for Donald Trump. It does not matter if you agree with Trump. It does not matter if you believe that these people voted for a candidate who won’t actually help them. What matters is that the red electoral college map was a scream for help, and we’re screaming racist so loud we don’t hear them. Hatred didn’t elect Donald Trump; People did.” (Victoria Sanders, “Hate Didn’t Elect Donald Trump; People Did)

Please, read what I am saying before you react.

As I struggle with what this new country is, I have also struggled with how to be open and understanding of people who see the world so differently from me. This is something I have tried to do all my life, but when so much anger and hate is being spread around–and when I carry it inside myself as well–it is hard to listen to the voice inside saying we have to build bridges, not walls.

The article I linked to above has helped me work through some of my thoughts.

“Racism” as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary:

  • n. The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others

  • n. Discrimination or prejudice based on race.

There is nothing in that definition that says “a position held by people of inferior intelligence.” In fact, there is overwhelming evidence provided on a daily basis that shows well-educated, intelligent people, often hold prejudicial or racist beliefs.

So where does it come from? I believe it comes from fear and lack of exposure. It is taught. It comes from a society that lives by an “Us and Them” philosophy.

  • We don’t have something because they took it from us.
  • We can’t be special if they are the same as us.

All of us go through some stage of this. All of us react to difference. If your first experience with someone different from you is negative, then it is logical that it would affect your interaction with those you perceive as Others. I’ve written elsewhere of how I started to come to terms with my own biases, a painful journey that never really ends. I question my responses every day, in this journey to be open to the world around me. I think it is naive and irresponsible for anyone to claim that they are not biased or prejudiced in any way.

For me, this means that, even though some people might have voted out of racism, I don’t hate them for it. I truly believe that people could learn if only we shared stories and truths with each other in open conversation. If only we listened to each other instead of the voices of dissension feeding us horrific stories.

When I was living in Kansas, I taught stage makeup. It wasn’t a huge class, so sometimes the discussions as my students were practicing technique wandered in many different directions. For some reason, one day, it came out that I was Jewish. One of the students, a young woman who came from a nearby farming community, stopped what she was doing and stared at me.

“Oh!” She said, a look of shock on her face. “I never thought . . . can I touch you? I’ve never seen a Jew before.”

Need I say more? Did I hate her? No, of course not. Was I uncomfortable? Yes, because it was awkward. Did I lead her into a conversation where she could learn more about me? Yes.

The point is, racism or prejudice does not mean someone is dumb or deplorable. It can sometimes mean they simply have not been exposed to something different.

However–and this is important–racist acts done with knowledge and choice does make someone deplorable.

To me, that means the people our president-elect is putting into power, who know full well what choices they are making, are deplorable.

He, himself, is deplorable.

These are all people who have had opportunities to meet with people different from them, but have built walls around their own beliefs to the extent that they choose to hate. That is what is deplorable.

I am not angry at his supporters who genuinely believed he would help them, and who fear diversity because they have no experience with it. I am angry with the people who chose hate knowing that there are other paths. They are the ones who have chosen to act with hate, and that to me is truly deplorable.

We have to find a way to bridge the gaps that divide us. It’s our only hope for the future.

I believe, the solution lies in the sharing of stories, and the connections we build through creative acts.

Creation is the opposite of hate.

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