That is, according to Hamlet, the question.
As a naturalized citizen I feel it is something we must all ask ourselves. At the very least it becomes a sovereign exercise in introspection. The life unexamined …
In a very complicated equation, it finally became clear to me that ours is a racist society.
Poverty produces hopelessness. Lack of education leads to an economic cul de sac. The male’s only escape is alcohol and drugs. Protest takes the form of criminal acts. The society creates criminals and moves to control them—that’s where the cops come in.
Do the cops know this?
There are none so blind as those who will not see. Knowing their role would be profoundly introspective and amazingly rare. Nobody enjoys confronting ugly truths. Oedipus blinded himself for a reason.
Education—try getting your kid into a good public grammar school in Manhattan. America is in a perennial agony over the state of our education. Really? Have you tried getting your child into Harvard? Yale? The Ivy League? How about West Point? We tried with a wonderfully gifted grandson. He’s at Carleton (a great school, to be sure, but the truth must out). The unexamined truth is that we have a dual system—the best and the worst—depending on your color and wealth.
Charlotteville. Ah, yes—all those “very nice people.” Really? Trump needs to be thanked for embodying the very worst of our society—for, after all, who are his acolytes but rednecks, bikers, racists, drop-outs, gun nuts, losers—and even, unfortunately for everyone, coal miners? “Deplorables” comes to mind.
Trump’s speech to Nassau cops in July was a thinly veiled incitement to brutality. They should stop being “too nice.” Is that or is that not hilarious?
And how about the paroxysms over kneeling for the Anthem? Who’s kneeling? Mostly black athletes! What about? Police brutality. Who wears our other uniforms and fights our wars? A lot of blacks escaping the ghetto (a truly unfashionable word). And who sends them to fight? Draft dodgers in the White House.
And the Confederate Battle Flag.
Sigh! Heroic symbol of Southern manhood. Right? Nothing to do with slavery. And less to do with racism. Jim Crow? An aberration. Segregation? Never heard of it. Monuments to the Confederacy’s treason? Innocent expressions of patriotism. And the Klan? Loveable guys in sheets. Let’s not forget burning crosses. Crosses? Is that irony or do we prefer to slip over it unthinkingly?
But I need to get back to the question. Am I conscious if a person is black? Do I harbor stereotypes? Would I be afraid to use the word “niggardly?” How could I have escaped being a racist in this society? Can a fish describe the water in which it swims?
The honest answer is I probably haven’t escaped. I’d better struggle with the question every day. It results in healthy introspection and invites humility.