“Can we all get along?” were the famous words said by Rodney King after being beaten by a group of LAPD officers. His words have been altered over the years to “Can’t we all just get along?” but the message remains the same: Aren’t we all just people trying to abide in this upside-down crazy world?
Obviously, race and racism are complex and evident issues facing our society. Whether the evidence includes the police shooting unarmed black men, Syrian refugees being belittled, or the Mexican people being blamed for job loss in parts of America, there is a war of the races playing out both physically and politically. Recently, Drudge Report posted an article about students at the University of Wisconsin — Madison encouraging people to purchase hoodie sweatshirts that read “All White People Are Racist.”
The rationale: “Racism,” claims one hoodie’s page, “is a set of systematic, institutional, cultural and epistemological (although not limited to said forms) structures that inherently empower white folk and in turn disempowers people of color. This power dictates who lives, has housing, access to education/health care, etc. Racism has little to do with hatred and mostly to do with who has power.”
While there is truth in the above statement, the idea that white people are inherently racist is itself a form of racism. Racism is the belief that a group of people are inferior due to their ethnic origin or skin color. Believing that white people are naturally incapable of being impartial is just is in itself a racist worldview. The website goes on:
“White folk or those who see themselves as white are given said power inherently, regardless of socioeconomic class, education, etc. This is why white men created race in the first place — to maintain power. Racism gave birth to the idea of race. This is a [sic] oversimplified definition,” the description continues.
Again, ironically, the pointing out of white people versus people of color is embracing the racism that this movement is trying to end. Calling someone white is therefore acknowledging the “created race” this college movement claims to want to eradicate.
I’m no expert on race or race experiences in this country, but I do understand that racial healing must start with acknowledging the good in others we dislike. I understand why black men would not trust white people, but considering that there are numerous white people who have done a lot to help the black community, to make such a hyperbolic statement feels like a step backward instead of forward.
The greatest example of learning to move forward stems from Malcolm X. After telling a young white girl she could do “nothing” to help the civil rights movement, later in life Malcolm X wrote how he was wrong.
“I regret that I told her she could do ‘nothing,’ ” Malcolm X wrote. “I wish now that I knew her name, or where I could telephone her, and tell her what I tell white people now when they present themselves as being sincere, and ask me, one way or another, the same thing that she asked.”
He went on to write, “I tried in every speech I made to clarify my new position regarding white people — I don’t speak against the sincere, well-meaning, good white people. I have learned that there are some. I have learned that not all white people are racists. I am speaking against and my fight is against the white racists. I firmly believe that Negroes have the right to fight against these racists, by any means that are necessary.”
We can all agree with that statement.
What these students in Wisconsin don’t understand is that while things aren’t perfect, things are better. While the fight continues for equality, the battle has many victories. I can understand the hatred and anger toward white supremacy, but the blanket statement that “All White People Are Racist” does not help either the black or the white community. In a society rich in diversity, can’t we all just get along?
Racism is still around, and we all must be better or our diverse country will fall greatly. How do we do that? I’m not completely sure. But I know it doesn’t start with that sweatshirt.