I sometimes think of myself as a pseudo-Southerner because I grew up in the city of New Orleans. While it’s in the very Southern state of Louisiana, we are often set apart in our ideals. It’s been that way throughout history. However, there is one thing that we didn’t escape here as a part of the Confederacy during the Civil War: slavery. In fact, not only were there slaves here in the city where a lot of plantation owners owned additional homes, but this is and always has been a port city. One of the commodities brought here was slaves. This city is where planters would come to see the latest group, fresh off the boat. It is part of our history, despite its inherent wrongness. I cannot change that, nor do I sweep it under the rug.
I acknowledge that to this day, in the still early days of the 21st century, racism still exists. Though I do my best to be embracing of all races, I know what racism looks like. I had a grandfather who was racist. Not to the extent of being a member of the KKK or anything, but racism is racism. There aren’t levels. I’ve done my best to distance myself from that familial racism, though I know I’ve failed plenty of times. The thing is, in this current political climate, I feel like something is wrong with me because I am white. I don’t think I’m better than anyone else. I have a lot of black co-workers at my part time job whose company I enjoy (except when they get a bit raunchy), but I feel like the attitude is that that’s not enough. I feel like those who are members of Black Lives Matter would expect me to make some sort of sacrifice simply because I’m white. A little more than a year ago, a higher position became available at the theatre where I work. I wanted to apply for it, but they never advertised for it. Instead, they hired a co-worker of mine who happens to be black. I was bummed at first, not because they hired a black man, but because I am searching for a way out of my current full time job that I really don’t like. It was disheartening to me for another door to be closed. When I got over that feeling, I realized that he was the best person for the job because he was one of us. He’s one of the family and he knows how things work and we know how he works and we don’t have to learn how to get along with someone from the outside. He is also the third person to fill that position since I started and you know what? He’s the best we’ve had so far. He makes us work hard, but he also stands by us when there’s a problem. Plus I think it’s hilarious that he’s a closet ABBA fan. Lol
It makes me sick to see neo-nazis and other white supremacists doing things like they did August 11th and 12th. I personally don’t think that people’s minds will be changed if monuments to dead people are removed, but neither do I think that inciting violence around the removal of these statues is going to get us anywhere. Violence is never the answer, no matter what the question is. So how do we fix this? One thing I’d like to see at plantations across the South which are open to the public for tours is more black tour guides. If the white tour guides are flouncing around in giant hoop skirts, dress the black tour guides like slaves. Have the tours be all inclusive. Teach not only about life in the big house, but life out in the fields and in the small cabins where the lives of slaves played out. If you want people to know how bad it was, teach them!!
As for what to do to help erase the feelings of white supremacy that exists, start young and give kids of all races a sense of identity and purpose. This comes from an interview with a reformed white nationalist, Christian Picciolini, whose interview I recently heard.
I think ultimately people become extremists not necessarily because of the ideology. I think that the ideology is simply a vehicle to be violent. I believe that people become radicalized, or extremist, because they’re searching for three very fundamental human needs: identity, community and a sense of purpose.
If underneath that fundamental search is something that’s broken — I call them potholes — is there abuse or trauma or mental illness or addiction? In my case, many years ago, it was abandonment. I felt abandoned, and that led me to this community. But what happens is, because there are so many marginalized young people, so many disenfranchised young people today with not a lot to believe in, with not a lot of hope, they tend to search for very simple black-and-white answers.
People can be whatever race, ethnicity, religion, etc. of whatever place you come from, but a sense of community should happen with the people around us. Neighbors knowing neighbors. Looking out for one another. Everyone helping to protect the kids. Put technology aside and interact. Doesn’t matter if you’re black or white; Christian or Muslim; old or young; able-bodied or disabled; we need to be individuals together. Include, don’t exclude.
The only way we will overcome any of this is with engagement and interaction with one another as human beings.