Saturday, August 12, 2006

I Don't Understand Racism

I don’t understand racism.

Why does this group hate that group? I don’t get it at all.

The recent wave of anti-Semitism that comes with Israel’s current conflict roused the long standing questions I have about racism.

My background has not given me a set of experiences to understand racism. Growing up in Nebraska, I learned people were judged simply by how hard they worked (and whether or not they adhered to the state law mandating their loyalty to the Cornhusker football team).

And then I entered the Marine Corps, where race definitely did not matter.

While giving a speech at a local college I was asked what things I liked about the Marine Corps. One of my answers was that everyone was equal. Race was not an issue. When you endure all the Marine Corps has to dish out, or when you enter a combat zone, the only thing that matters is the fight, not the color of the man or woman fighting next to you. It doesn’t matter if they’re red, white, black, brown, yellow, green, purple, or plaid. It only matters that they are fighting alongside you.

I know there are countless stories of Marines from different races and completely different backgrounds becoming good or even the best of friends. I had those same experiences in the Corps.

Sure, cases of racism arose, but when they did, they were dealt with swiftly and decisively, exactly as they should have been.

The Marine Corps gave me the opportunity to meet and work with people from all over the world. I always considered that a blessing; a unique set of experiences from which I would greatly benefit. I became friends with some of the Iraqi’s I worked with, but have had no contact with them since leaving Iraq. I now wish the war would end, if for no other reason than to find out how my friends have fared through all the sectarian violence.

I realized somewhere along the way, the Marine Corps allowed me to actually see the “divine spark” in everyone’s eye that Colonel Lawrence Chamberlain speaks of in Michael Shaara’s “The Killer Angels.”

If I’ve ever asked about the cause of racism publicly, the response I’ve gotten is that it’s simply because someone’s different. That’s not good enough for me.

They say racism is born from ignorance of different groups. But with my life experiences, the only thing I can say I’m ignorant of on this subject is how someone could hate anyone simply because they’re different.

After fighting the Global War on Terror, I grasp that not all Muslims hate everyone else. I comprehend how misinterpretations of their own religion have caused Islamic terrorists to hate everyone who’s not them. I understand the power of religion.

Beyond that group, the “they’re different” answer is not good enough for me. Just because you see someone as different, doesn’t mean you’re incapable of seeing the value they possess.

When I was much, much younger if I ever said anything off color it was out of ignorance of what I was saying. I simply did not know what it was I was saying. But, I don’t recall having ever felt animosity, and especially don’t ever recall having hatred toward anyone else simply because they were of a different race or religion.

So, I don’t get it.

I don’t understand the anti-Semitism coming from different groups in America or Europe. I don’t understand Mel Gibson’s comments or actions. I don’t understand why Mel Gibson gets the public thrashing he deserves from our press, but they give Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a pass for his anti-Semitism. Is it okay for an Iranian Muslim to say it, but not an American Catholic? I’m not Jewish, so is that why I don’t understand the hatred toward Jews?

I can’t figure out why anyone would belong to the Ku Klux Klan, Skinheads or Neo-Nazi’s, and I certainly don’t understand where their hatred comes from. What’s all this white supremacy stuff anyway?

I don’t understand Louis Farrakhan and his hatred toward others not like him. Why am I a white devil?

But what I have figured out is that racism and bigotry need to be dealt with immediately and decisively. And they need to be dealt with whether on a local, national, or international level.

America’s slave trade was despicable and should have never been started. The world failed to act against Adolf Hitler before he slaughtered millions. Here at home, the civil rights movement of the 60’s was way overdue. Apartheid should have been crushed at its onset. The failure to act against the genocide in Rwanda is a blemish on the world community, as it is now in Darfur.

And because the rise of Islamofascism, with its pursuit of destroying everyone else, meets the same qualifications as history’s most horrible practices and ideologies, it needs to be dealt with now, before it’s too late for a group of people somewhere, and too late to be dealt with in small wars, forcing us into a true world war.

No comments: