Growing up, I don’t think I believed that racism still existed. Because I didn’t view black people as any different than myself, I assumed no one else did either.
Now, it seems that there are two main attitudes towards racism:
1. Denying that it exists
2. Acknowledging that it exists, but only blaming one side or the other.
Well, I got a job as a server.
In the service industry, there is a certain stereotype. To be blunt, it is that black people don’t tip. And with many stereotypes, it is a stereotype for a reason. Because of this, you can imagine how that affected my attitude. Over time, I came to expect a crappy tip before certain individuals even sat down.
I certainly don’t mean to imply that this is true of all black people. But there is a cultural difference, in general – at least in the south. A difference in opinion of how things should be.
I bring this up not to justify my thoughts and actions, but to make a point: Sometimes, there is reason to be frustrated with the other side. Before you assume that I am saying that there is a good reason for racism, let me direct you to my next point.
There is a misconception that all racism is pure hate, that there is no reason behind it. But I think it’s usually more subtle than that. Sometimes, both sides have a reason to be frustrated with the other. Just like in a relationship, problems are rarely just one person’s fault. If we are to get past racism, it will take both sides putting aside their pride, even when we could be justified in being angry.
In the wake of controversies such as possible racially driven police violence and the blatantly racist Charleston shooting, I have realized that there have been times where I have been discriminatory and hurtful without even realizing it, or without caring.
People can argue about racism all day. (They bring it on themselves. They think we owe something to them. It’s not my fault their ancestors were slaves).
The fact is, there are trashy people of all colors. I have waited on many people including Blacks, Whites, Asians, Hispanics, and everything in between who were rude and ignorant.
I have also known and waited on Blacks, Whites, Asians, Hispanics, and everything in between who were kind, smart, generous, and thoughtful.
Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:43-45).
This convicts me because I know that too often, I am only kind when I expect something in return. I secretly trash the characters of people I don’t even know – people who are made wonderfully in the image of God. People who have stories and backgrounds, and are made up of more than how well or poorly they tip.
I have heard people claim that racism doesn’t exist anymore. I disagree not just because I see it in other people, but because I see it in myself. I have been guilty of stereotyping people based on the color of their skin. My thoughts and actions are no one’s fault but my own.
There must be a way to take responsibility without justifying another’s faults. There is nothing wrong with admitting cultural differences. I will be frustrated when I get tipped three dollars on a two hundred dollar tab. At that point cultural differences become personal. It would be false to deny that these things happen, because they do.
I think change will not come from denying or excusing away problems, but from acknowledging problems, and still considering our own faults worse. We must realize that most hatred stems from misunderstanding. Then, we choose to look past that misunderstanding. We get frustrated at people who are different from us and don’t fulfill our expectations or meet our own personal standards.
Of the two perceptions of racism – denying or blaming only one side – I think that neither is fully helpful or true. We have to sacrifice our comfort and pride sometimes for the sake of others. Just like in a relationship, the cycle cannot end until we each truly own our own faults first, and actively choose to forgive and overlook the other’s.