A Way To Stop Racism

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I once went through a very difficult breakup after a very difficult and tumultuous relationship. For years, I would be reminded of this person in the face of strangers, in the way light filtered through a certain tree, a random phrase overheard in public, whenever certain songs were played, and in about half a million other things. It was in my thoughts, in my blood, in my pores. I talked about her all the time to my friends, surely driving them crazy. As time went by, though, I began thinking less and less about her; an entire morning would go by without reminding myself somehow. Eventually I overcame my grief and anger and disappointment and self-pity. I stopped talking about her because I stopped thinking about her. I moved on by immersing myself in life, by letting it carry me in its rapid current. Now I can look back on that period of my journey without being swallowed in the emotions and thoughts and constant reminders.

For a relatively emotional and mentally healthy person, this is how we process significant events and pivotal relationships. It is part of the human condition. However, sometimes we hold onto the pain and rage and loss, we hold on so tight that it cuts into the very core of our being and leaves a groove that eventually traps us in a continuous cycle, affecting every other relationship we have in our life. As you have seen and experienced in either yourself or someone close to you, this is very unhealthy in every sense of the word; it can ripple out to your children and shape the fabric of their future, it can dictate the actions of others close to you, especially if they are not emotionally and mentally healthy themselves. These negative cycles can even choose your friends and romantic interests for you. It has been called ‘carrying baggage from the past,’ and rightly so. The bottom line is this: the more you hold on to something, the more it holds on to you.

Now let’s broaden our perspective and talk about racism. Is it nothing more than holding on to negative stereotypes and attitudes? It is in your thoughts, in your blood, in your pores, in your words and actions. When the groove of prejudice is in your mind, you choose to perpetuate it because you either don’t think you have any other choices, or it is so engrained in your consciousness you’re not fully aware of being a slave to it, or you believe it is the right way to be.  The more you hold onto something, the more it holds on to you.

This issue is tearing apart the very foundation of our society, affecting to the core our freedom of choice. Racism is truly a cancer to democracy.  How do we excise it, how do we climb out of the groove, how do we heal? I saw a quote from the actor Morgan Freeman yesterday. He said “How do we stop racism? Stop talking about it. I’m going to stop calling you a white man, and I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man.” That’s a great start. It is possible to immerse yourself in the joy and challenge of life without being captive to your prejudices.

I’m well aware that the best thinkers of our time say we can’t completely erase prejudice and racism, and as much as it galls to me to admit it, they are right.  In a sense. There are always going to be those who sit somewhere on the curve between completely saturated, hateful racist and prejudice free. We can’t have a perfect world; that’s the nature of free will and mental illness. But I disagree with the experts if they think we as individuals are incapable of being color blind. Read carefully, and you’ll understand how to climb out of that groove:

1)      STOP acting with prejudice.  Look everyone in the eye, treat everyone with the same courtesy and respect you should give your mother, and really try to see them from the inside out. When you do that, it will easier for you to

2)      STOP talking with prejudice. If your friend, brother, pastor or spouse starts talking with an air of prejudice, either be bold enough to ask them to stop, or hold your own tongue so it doesn’t fall in with them. When you can begin to control your thoughts and words, you will discover that you can

3)      STOP feeling different. Oh, sure, you’re different in a thousand different ways, but you don’t have to let it stop you from getting along or getting to know someone who has a different shade of skin. When you realize that there are ten times more ways you are alike than different, you will start feeling the kinship of their humanity. Once you are able to feel that kinship, you will be able to

4)      STOP thinking prejudice thoughts. This is the root of racism, prejudice thoughts. The absolute best way to pull them out by the roots, if you are a person of faith, is through prayer and scripture. Take heed when Jesus says “Love one another as I love you,” and “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and “I tell you, do not resist an evil person. Whoever strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” If you are not religious, the road is infinitely more difficult for you because removing prejudice requires surrendering your will to a higher power. You’re right, it’s like being an alcoholic. Think you can change yourself without help? Good luck with that. But the ultimate goal is to dig those prejudicial thoughts out of you and fill the void with something more substantial, like gratitude and good will.

If you want to be without prejudice, you can. Just let go of it and don’t pick it up again. It will probably be one of the most difficult things you will ever do, but it will be worth it. Why? Because when you change, you’ll begin to see a change in others around you, and when they change, it will ripple out and touch most of the world.  You can also do the steps I laid out backward, too. I always do things backward anyway.  Start by changing your thoughts, by getting help from the Lord, by yanking them out and replacing them with fellowship and love. You’re not going to overcome racism with tolerance. You’re going to defeat it by letting it go within yourself.

by Jay T Harding

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About jaytharding
Christian Mystic-in-training, burgeoning Apologist, Writer, Poet, Philosopher, all-purpose curmudgeon Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 11 Corinthians 5:17

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