I think that part of the huge problem with racism in the United States is that people think that not all people are racist. I challenge this assertion. It's easy to think of racism as an overt, explicit, hate-driven attitude toward certain people. Because this extremity is rare, people assume racism is rare. They say, "I don't hate that person because they look different," and assume they have been cured. But the toll of racism runs more deeply than this.
Today, the pain of racism does not come from such explicit hatred so much as it comes from a systemic, culturally-imbedded worldview. There's this thing called the tyranny of the majority where the wants, desires, goals, and beliefs of the majority drown those of the minority. It happens all around, in families, decisions on what a friend group does, national elections, and more. But it goes far further and effects far more dark and mysterious.
Enter the tyranny of the majority over thought. It stems from the assertion that our worldview is shaped by those near us, perhaps first by family, then our school and hometown, then our college experience, and so forth. It's natural. It makes sense. Someone who grows up in the Amazon will have an inherently different worldview, including beliefs about family, justice, etc., then someone from inner city Chicago.
Upon pondering this, you come to realize you did not choose your family or many of the things that have shaped you. Why were you not born in the Amazon? Step by step it is shown that you are not your own. Even your values and beliefs have been shaped. We would shrink from this fact and declare "No! I am my own." But it is not so. In fact, you ARE a product of your time. This lens brings clarity to so many things in the world. Fashion changes without reason. You dress as you do because the majority has deemed it acceptable. Or take tourism for example. It once didn't exist. But when it was born a few hundred years ago, the majority adopted it, and now you cannot know life without it. You don't have a choice. It is the tyranny of the majority.
This tyranny is neither bad nor good, but it is responsible. It is this tyranny that has taken the worldview of 19th century slave owners and allowed it to remain alive today. Perhaps you don't hate black people. Perhaps you think they are exactly your equal. Perhaps you would never think of needing to exterminate a lesser race. I believe you. But that doesn't mean you aren't racist. If racism is only overt and explicit, you seem to be free of all judgement. But what if racism isn't a thing we do and an active attitude we hold? What if it is more so a worldview, an subconscious way of surviving, an inherent bias in our "goodness"?
Let's look at an example. Take mice. Many people don't like them that much. Ask someone if they hate mice, detest them, never want to see them, and want the entire species eradicated forever, and they probably won't say yes. They might even admit that they're not all bad. However, when the mouse shows up in their house, they set the trap. Are they a mouse hater? No, of course not, they say. But it doesn't belong. It taints their experience of the house. Today, this would be recognized as racism, regardless of the words of the person. 100 years? It would've passed by as accepted. Remember segregation? But, you say, "I don't segregate. I have black friends. I'm still no racist." That's what the house owner said too.
Let's move on. Can a black person be racist? It's possible, many might say, "something like the Jewish tax collectors, I'm not really sure." Maybe, someone grew up in a white family, never thought of their own color, and adopted the family's racist worldview. It's possible. But what about a "stereo-typical" black person? What about someone who was actually on the receiving end of racism multiple times? "No, not possible." I suggest it is. I didn't mean that just all white people are racist. I meant everyone.
You apply for a job and ask a friend who once worked at the company for input. They tell you about the rude and inappropriate boss. They tell you it was a toxic work environment. They tell you to be very careful in deciding about this. You interview. What are you thinking? Inherently, you are biased. You can't help it. It's a sort of micro expression of the tyranny of the majority. Now rewind. You friend praises every little thing about the company, there was never a better job. What are you thinking now? You must know from experience what a world of difference your friend's input can make. Whether good or bad, they have extraordinary power to influence your perspective and interpretation of your world.
And this is how racism works. After a negative review, you didn't begin your interview with hatred. You hadn't already decided to destroy this company and make sure no one else ever worked there. But you were, however slightly, hesitant. Likewise, we who are "not racist" don't overtly think less of other people. But we are hesitant. You walk down the street and see two teenagers. On the left is a white boy in "nice and proper" clothes. On the right is a black boy "poorly dressed an unprofessional." It's a rare person who is unaffected, and you're probably not one of them. You are biased, one way or the other. It's stereotyping, and it's how we survive.
So why is it bad? Why is it "wrong"? Here it is: the majority of people are biased in the same direction. They are more hesitant to walk on the side of the road with the black boy. There you have it. This is racism. You don't recall ever choosing to make such a bias. You don't remember the day you decided to have this bias. In one sense, it was never you at all. It was the tyranny of the majority. Their power of thought demanded you match their way, and you were helpless to see what was happening. It is this tyranny of the majority over thought that can even lead a black police officer to have a similar bias. Racism.
One could argue, "but as you said, that's just stereotyping. Police officers, at least, have to do that." OK. So suppose the black boy truly did present a greater danger than the white boy to your personal safety. Your racism has worked correctly and kept you safe. But you must then ask, "why"? If he does, why does the black boy present a greater danger? The mind is a powerful machine. It makes assumptions we don't hear about until years later. Here, the mind may conclude there is some fault in black people. "I have seen danger from some black people, I must be prepared for all."
Seems mostly logical. But what if your mind was deceived? Reconsider the job example. Suppose your friend gives you a negative review. You go for the interview, and it isn't terrible, but it's not pleasant. You can see what your friend meant. But, there's a twist. Your story's narrator knows that your friend had no basis for their negativity. All the aggression they perceived was imagined. It's a lovely company. Here then is the situation: the company is in reality good and friendly. Your friend in reality was shown this goodness but internalized it negatively. You in reality are told the negativity and this impacts your interpretation of an otherwise excellent situation.
Incorrect beliefs by the majority transformed your very own worldview before you even experienced anything for yourself. Again, this is how the brain works. It's for your own survival. The problem is that so many of us grow up with a hesitancy, however small, toward certain groups of people, most often based on color. This hesitancy is not in reality based on any direct experience. We are given it before our experience. Even if our experience proves it true (though, the interviewee thought it did), we still received this worldview from the majority. Family, parents, grandparents, books, movies, songs, art and more all take part in the majority.
But we have been deceived. Our new, direct experience must change our worldview. We must fight to rewire the core of being. We must not pass this to our children. We must not propagate universal racism. This is the tip of an iceberg. There is an incredible power, dark and dangerous, in the majority. Their tyranny has enslaved the minds of so many, white and black. The reach of their fingers can be traced down to the smallest decision and deepest belief. But, again, the tyranny of the majority is neither good nor bad. It is a mechanism. It's like the sun. The sun is neither good nor bad. It can foster life and destroy all. Till now, the tyranny of the majority over thought has maintained racism and operated out of deception. It has been "bad."
Yet this same tyranny is a solution. It is this same tyranny of the majority over thought that can plant and propagate a spirit of love. It once trained us in racism before we could experience life ourselves. But now it can train us all in the way of love, mercy, hope, compassion, brotherhood, self-motivation, self-confidence, and more. We all share the system. We are all part of it, contributing to it and being influenced by it. To say we are without racism is to say we are from a different world. It is to say that we someone exist as our own being, that our thoughts are entirely our own, and that we are unaffected by the world. Surely there are those who have fought this tyranny and perhaps escaped it. Yet it's influence remains part of their past. But there will be a day when the majority are not those escaping from the tyranny that rules with racism, but are those who have never known racism. This is the day we must work for.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today! I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today! I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."