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Some Thoughts on Racism

Each of us is part of the American story of racism here in the United States.

by Eric Holdeman / June 1, 2020

I was at a city of Seattle Disaster Management Committee meeting back in 2019 and copied a couple of slides that I thought should remind us of these times of racial tension that we are in.

The first is this:

Racism: a historically rooted system of dehumanizing assumptions, behavior, and actions that are unconsciously and consciously internalized, interpersonal, and institutional based on ideologies reinforcing the superiority and power of white people and the inferiority and powerlessness of people of color while harming both.  (Source: All Aces Inc.) 

Then there is this:

Protective factors: Conditions or attributes (skills, strengths, resources, supports or coping strategies) in individuals, families, communities or the larger society that help people deal more effectively with stressful events and mitigate or eliminate risk in families and communities. (Source: All Aces Inc.)

As a history major, I was fortunate enough to be in school in 1967-71 when finally there were some Black History courses. Unfortunately, it was an academic study by a bunch of white Lutherans about the black experience in the United States. It was "head knowledge" versus heart knowledge. Before that, I was in junior college in 1968 when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and riots erupted. 

It was early 1980 when the TV mini-series Roots aired on commercial television. It was likely the first time that there was a visceral representation of the slave experience that many whites had ever seen. 

Since then, our events have been punctuated by high-profile incidents of police violence on black men in particular. My black friends have told me different things that their fathers told them and what they have told their sons for how to behave in public, especially when confronted by police. There is a recognition that it is a danger point. One black pastor shared how he was stopped by police who followed him to the church campus where he was on staff as a pastor. When the officer pulled up behind him, the pastor rolled down his window and placed both his arms and hands outside of the car. 

When it comes to equality, one only needs to look at the test resumes that were submitted to companies where the only thing they changed was the name on the resume, and blacks got fewer interviews. Racism does exist, and it is not just in the South. 

We can't wave a wand and change the world, but we can change our own individual thinking and actions. It is time for good people everywhere to step up and "do the right thing" all the time, in every situation. 


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