While listening to a recent national Nightly News cast on the topic of Racism in America, the person being interviewed made the statement that America is a racist nation. With little more than personal opinions, the man indicted the US as racist. Is it that easy to label America as a drunken nation because drunk driving kills 50,000 annually? Or to call America a terrorist nation because there have been terrorist attacks on our soil? Or that we are a divorced nation because half of our marriages end in divorce? Or that America is an ignorant nation because youth test scores are ranked toward the bottom of almost every top ten educational list worldwide?
Now, we may have racism in America (as well as drunk drivers, terrorists, broken homes, or under-achieving teens), but, that doesn't make us a Racist nation. I'm sure I am taking the risk, as a white male in his 50's, of being mis-informed, and, certainly mis-understood.
However, broad-stroked general statements like this are made every day in America in political, educational, social, entertainment, and news sectors. Government policy, educational assessment, social issues, entertainment tolerance, and news broadcasts are often driven by racism and inequity. And these statements can even be applied to a left or right wing party platform. Because some people believe that there are traits or feelings of racism (or drunkenness, terrorism, divorce, or ignorance) behind a certain issue, they tag easy broad stroke generalities in words that fuel debate and divide our nation as many chime in with bandwagon vigor.
Whether you believe racism is a problem in America or not, let me present my thoughts after 30 years of youth work with teenagers and young adults. This is more than a semantic play on words. Why I believe there is racism in America, but, America is not a racist nation:
1. Because the talking heads who cry 'racism' are almost always from the older generations
- The older generation needs to set aside their own personal issues that were forged in a different day than our young people have experienced. How long are we going to embrace injustices in the past and feed our children with hate or prejudice or preference?
2. Because young people don't care what race you are in their relational or social circles
- For 30 years I have worked with young people in urban and rural settings and have yet to see the 'plague' of racism that some say infests American life. Oh, it's there. But it is being smothered by young people who don't care about what color their best friend or what race their neighbor is.
3. Because mainstream news media is not pop to the US population under 30
- About 40% of Americans are under 30 years of age. That is somewhere around 130 million people. And they do not care what the media reports about what activists or politicians have to say about racism.
- Learn from the deep friendships that are modeled in competitive situations in both the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat. Teammates of all races who would die for each other on the field, the court, or the street.
5. Because there is increased acceptance of mixed marriages both in culture and in the church
- A small part of this argument is the fact that the stigma that popular opinion was against mixed marriages is now disappearing. The inter-racial marriage rate more than doubled from 1980 to 2008. What used to be rare is now more common.
6. Because isolated drunkenness, divorce, terrorism, or ignorance doesn't create a meme of all
- I've met many people who continue to return to McDonald's even after their order was messed up or they didn't receive commendable service. Would that indite every McDonald's restaurant? Why then would the belief or the actions of a few condemn an entire nation?
I believe these stances are more than anecdotal because they are prevalent. Because the US wants to ban travel to Liberians (remember not every Liberian is black) to America for fear of the Ebola virus, or, a white police officer shot a black teenager, or, a Hispanic man killed a black man, or, black teens attacked a white girl, does that make America racist? Of course not. It only tells us that we have racism in America. The trace existence of racist traits in a few do not create a meme that is out of control and ultimately damns an entire nation.