Yes, You Are Racist: Uncover Your Own Racism First

When we check our own prejudices, we begin to see one another

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Our real selves, photo by Christyl Rivers

There is something that has been gnawing at me for days, as if the racial injustice turned to fire and tears, was not enough of a distraction.

The unjust death of George Floyd has resulted in a global protest against tyranny. Today is Wednesday, I don’t know just how much the world will be in conflagration by the time this article is published. I don’t know if peaceful protest will win out against outrageous force and “domination”; the word our president uses to urge calm.

What bothers me as much is something else.

It is the fact that although a policeman, Derek Chauvin, was charged with the murder of George Floyd, the other killers were not. But that is only the first half of my gnawed consciousness. The other part is that, there are so many stories out there about the incident in Central Park where Amy Cooper, a white woman, threatened to call the cops on Christian Cooper, a black man.

Many people are expressing outrage, rightfully, at Derek Chauvin, the cop visibly snuffing our George Floyd’s life. The other cops, who also obstructed the man’s ability to breathe, are not eliciting such anger. I can’t even find on the news if they are arrested. But, Amy Cooper, wow, do we ever have to hate that white woman!

Like most of you, I understand that as a white woman I have privilege and security that may people of color do not. I understand that racism, especially our implicit bias, is within each of us whether we acknowledge it or not.

However, I also understand that internalized racism and sexism are real things, too. I cannot help but wonder if some degree of internalized sexism, and conflicted racism, is at work within my mind when I feel (as Christian Cooper did) some degree of compassion for the woman in Central Park.

I have read that she knew the man would be at risk of being murdered. I have read that she knew exactly what she was doing. I am aware of the history of men being tortured and lynched for a mere glance at a white woman.

I have read that she deserves being fired, surrendering her dog, and perhaps even the death threats she is living with. This is where I can feel my own defensiveness rise.

When each of us feels that defensiveness rise, we need to pay attention. I don’t think I am a Karen, a middle-aged, white woman of privilege, who tattles, so why get annoyed at all? I think it’s because of the very concept of a Karen, is yet another label and category we create. Although I would not threaten someone with “calling the cops” I do fit the first few descriptors, middle age, white, and privileged. No one likes to be have labels slapped on them.

Actually, I don’t know whether Amy Cooper knew what she was doing. It’s possible, of course, but the truth is, given cortisol and adrenaline levels, given all stressors that may or may not have been present, very few people have such self-control that they comprehend what they are doing. I even doubt whether the cops who killed Floyd really understand what their own bodies were doing.

This is where racism rears its ugly head, most of it is so invisible to us that we don’t examine it.

That is why I am left wondering whether we are thinking with our brains, or with our bodies, a visceral, gut punch defensiveness. But, either way, I am not sure we are completely examining our truly hurting, hearts.

Each of us has to listen to our hearts.

That George Floyd was deprived of air has ignited the nation. That is as if should be.

However, Implicit bias is the bias we live in the same way that we live and breathe in air. The bias in which we all dwell is something we cannot take for granted. When something is invisible you have to look that much harder in order to see it.

The Harvard Implicit Association Test, is available online and is worth looking into.

You don’t have to be a psychologist to see examine your own thoughts and beliefs.

I am fully aware that most people are not psychologists, as I am, but I am also aware that most human conflict could be avoided if we took the time to look at one another with our hearts, and not just our knee-jerk reactions.

A fully complete person looks at head, body, hearts and mind, not just their own, but of others, as well.

The truth is no one really knows what the two Cooper people thought and felt. The only thing we know for sure is that the cocker spaniel reacted as if he (she?) were being choked.

Another issue that renders racism invisible is the ubiquitous cell phone. Even the murder of George Floyd is only partially captured, because only Derek Chauvin, and not the others who crushed him, are visible on the video. Will those cops see justice if we don’t see them? The same holds true for whatever happened prior to Christian Cooper’s video of Amy Cooper. We don’t seem to judge so severely whatever injustice happens off-camera.

This costs us, too. Whereas I believe that cameras bring accountability, I also see where thousands upon thousands of bad behaviors, including murders, are not counted if they are not filmed.

There is even mounting evidence that viewing such videos makes each of us victims of vicarious racism. We need to pay attention to that, too, even while we try to learn what is being kept from the totality of our knowledge.

I do not know how many people, for example, have been killed during the unrest. I have heard of at least four, in Indianapolis. I think it is outrageous that we don’t know what is happening so we can neither condone, nor condemn it. All we can do, seemingly, is react to over the top injustice that is filmed, and find ways to react defensively.

But ending injustice is not about just angry reaction. It is about examining our own anger, and questioning why we have become a society in which injustice happens daily. Only then can we look at who is actually suffering, and strive to make it about them, not us.

I study human behavior for a living. I study it specifically in relation to environment. That is, human beings have lost our connected relationship to nature and other living beings. This puts us more at risk for destroying our world. But to do that we first seem to disconnect from our humanity and to one another.

We live in a sexist, racist, culture.

It is no small thing that sexism creates more female names as derogatory labels, and if you are a female, this likely triggers bristling physical response.

When we disconnect to others by socially constructing artificial barriers, like sex, race, and religion, we hurt each other. Why can’t we acknowledge that we are more alike than we are different?

Love is something much more powerful than outrage. Mahatma Gandhi knew its power. Martin Luther King knew its power. Before we see each other by our labels, many of which are false, we need to see each other with love.

We even have to love people who can’t love, like Donald Trump and his followers who see power as a tool to crush non-compliance. Such love is hard to have. But only when we become truly “We the people” can we eliminate the “Us versus Them” mentality.

I do feel outrage and grief about the level of racism in our nation, but most of my rage is about how we are distracted from saving one another. Earth is in trouble, all the living beings on Earth are in trouble. We have, not just prejudice, but plagues, plunder and pollution to deal with in order to save ourselves.

Written by

Ecopsychologist, Writer, Farmer, Defender of reality, and Cat Castle Custodian.

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