I’ll tell you one big way (speaking as a radical leftist) – I was under the delusion that the overwhelming majority of Americans were kind, non-judgmental, and fairly smart, and there were just a few very loud White Supremists and other bigots making a lot of racket… I thought working-class white Americans were upset because the economic system was going less and less in their favor, and although some folks blamed those worse off than themselves for this, they would support legislators and programs that helped everyone – including themselves.
Turns out there are apparently a LOT of Americans – perhaps a majority – who are consumed with hatred towards those unlike them, whether those people are brown, non-Christian, non-hetero-normative, not American citizens, whatever. There are a LOT of Americans – perhaps a majority – who would support policies that hurt them personally, as long as those unlike them are hurt worse.
This is not a reality that it has been pleasant to face. Thanks for asking.
REALLY well said, Sadie! <applause> I’ve been saying much the same, always in a bit of a daze. I thought those you speak of, the ones consumed with hatred to the point of madness, were part of the “lunatic fringe”. I knew they were there, but such a minority that they shouldn’t be taken seriously. I was so… so wrong. What an unpleasant lesson to learn. At the (very) least, know you’re not alone.
You should have listened more closely to the African Americans then. They have been saying this and warning you of this for quite sometime. I guess you thought they were “playing victim” or playing the “race card”.
That’s interesting Paul. There’s no need to project. I’m happy to tell you what I thought. 😉
I’m southern. My entire family is southern. My grandfather was one of the most racist individuals I’ve ever known. He refused to eat food prepared by African Americans. He saw one spit in a white person’s food once – that was enough for him.
My mother was his only child. She rejected everything he taught her about racism. She married a military officer, traveled the world, learned all she could about living a life based on the idea that everyone brings something amazing to the table. This is what she taught her children.
Which brings us to me. When I lived in New Orleans I had a great deal of hate directed at me for the color of my skin. After Katrina, when Mayor Nagin assured the world that “We as black people, it’s time, it’s time for us to come together. It’s time for us to rebuild a New Orleans, the one that should be a chocolate New Orleans. And I don’t care what people are saying Uptown or wherever they are. This city will be chocolate at the end of the day” I was the least surprised person in the world. Ok, I was a little surprised that a politician said the soft part loud, but that’s it.
It made sense to me that a minority population would want to claim a city where they could live as the majority. But even then, trying hard to listen, to see what it was like, I was still outside the experience. I still thought that the hate, the prejudice, the discrimination was directed by a very vocal, extremely active minority. Surely humans as a whole were better than that. Which isn’t to say that African Americans don’t experience discrimination. Not at all. But the majority of people do not default to hate. African Americans, like all others who experience discrimination, were actively targeted by humans on the verge of madness. A vocal minority. The lunatic fringe.
That was my mistake. My partner teaches Cultural Diversity classes. I help grade the papers. I’ve read the stories for over a decade, each one describing what it’s like to live under the thumb of prejudice based on stereotype. I vowed that I would not behave in that fashion. I would not tolerate the presence of anyone who did. I taught others not to act on hate. When Obama was elected I took it as proof that these efforts were working. That hate was still present, but not dominant.
I was wrong.
I didn’t understand how comforting hate and anger is to so many. I didn’t understand that some humans truly believe they can hate in the name of love. I have a very difficult time comprehending how someone can hate in the name of Christianity. I didn’t think hate was winning.
I was wrong.