Racism has infected humanity for many centuries. It surrounds us -- overt and violent, inconspicuous and passive, and terribly destructive to oppressors and those it targets. Racism kills hundreds of thousands of humans each year and makes the lives of millions miserable and desperate. People demonstrate racism through active, violent, destructive ways and others by passive acts of omission and exclusionary policies. The oppressors of racism denigrate, vilify, and dehumanize their targets to justify their attitudes and conduct. Exploitive societies have adopted racism to control and maintain power by dividing their populations and abating their influence by promoting hurt, confusion, bitterness, and distrust. A divided population is one that is more easily controlled.
Historical evidence clearly shows how racism can be used to mobilize large segments of the population for fighting wars. To keep people locked into their patterns of hate prevents the disadvantaged and poorer working-class members of society from uniting and developing alliances that would cross racial barriers. Racism is an internal human condition that is extremely vulnerable to outside manipulation. Politicians have often relied on this phenomenon to help them maintain and to seek positions of authority.
Those who want to resist the effects of racism in their lives must find allies who can help them from falling into isolation. With connections to others, there is greater power to resist the manipulation and to prevent the effects of racism. When young people are exposed to extremely racist environments, the damage is extensive. Often it is enough to drive that person to assuming the role of an oppressor. The amount of hurt and damage to cause a person to make that conversion is often unfathomable. The only hope for oppressors to liberate themselves from their extreme condition is finding allies who will not judge them.
All members of any society that suffer from racism eventually become infected also. At birth, all people are free from its effects; they begin life wanting to find alliances and connections with everyone. However, as learning and socialization advances, the immense collection of racist patterns infiltrates the child’s mind. The child is exposed to a host of people infected by varying degrees of racism. Though every child battles against the toxic effects of racism, eventually they get overrun. If a child is fortunate to have a role model who is battling against their confusion from racism, they will develop a better picture of humanity and feel connected to others without as much restriction.
Guilt and rationalization are an oppressor's symptoms; guilt tells them they do not deserve help and rationalization blames the target for their racism. For an oppressor to find liberation is a difficult undertaking in this world. Only the best therapists, psychologists, and highly spiritually developed people can withstand the ugliness of extreme racism. Oppressors need to discover that they too are victims of racism and that they never really wanted to adopt that role in the first place. They need to discover that it was forced upon them at an early age and it is unfair of them to continue blaming themselves. They need to be sincerely praised for seeking help and for being open to the prospect of change. In addition, they need to know that there is a better life awaiting them-- one that is free from feeling the burden of hatred, the need for vengeance, and free from self-hatred. It is a formidable task, but when there is willingness, understanding, and compassion prodigious results can occur.
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate -- we cannot consecrate -- we cannot hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
“We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone'"
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
The shooting took place Saturday morning, April 4, 2015 at about 9:30 after a routine traffic stop. Arresting officer, Michael Slager, initially claimed that he fired in self-defense. He told investigators that he pulled over Walter Scott for a broken tail light and was confronted with life-threatening resistance. However, after a video surfaced, it was clear that this was not true. The South Carolina officer was then rightfully charged with murder. The video clearly shows Slager shooting the unarmed black man in the back several times.
While there are responsible police officers in our communities, rhetoric that dismisses widespread bigotry perpetuates the problem. Without that video, most of us know that the officer would have been exonerated of any wrongdoing and the victim would have been blamed for his own demise. Those of us who are shocked by this story are out of touch with our world as it really is. It is tragic in the sense that a human being lost his life unjustly. But, how many murders of this nature happen each year in our country? Do we really want to know?
Many politicians emphasize how rare and unique it is; we will always have a few bad apples, they proclaim. But, this falsehood glosses over the systemic violent acts perpetrated against people of color and other minorities. While there are responsible police officers, who dutifully try to protect their communities regardless of race, this kind of rhetoric dismisses the widespread bigotry found in our law enforcement agencies.
Let's drop the pretense. The tragic death of Walter Scott is not unique. The video exposed what too many people have known for years: we have some law enforcement officials throughout the nation, who are violent racists. Unless they are monitored effectively by mandatory video recorders, they will continue to abuse, and murder. Violent racism is rampant in our institutions. Exposure and awareness is the beginning of solving this issue.