Contrary to the dogmas of political conservatives, racism still besmirches the culture and subcultures in the United States of America.
Among the most recent examples is the shooting death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, who made the mistake of jogging black, thirsty and curious in a white neighborhood in Georgia.
Arbery was the victim of a father/son team who went looking for trouble and in their minds found it when they saw Arbery enter and leave a house under construction on Feb. 23.
Vigilantes Gregory and Travis McMichael weren’t arrested until May 7.
Pause for outraged right-wing bombardment of anti-anti-racism comments. Their official dogma is that racism problems were long ago put to rest. This they assert while calling for the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn provisions the Civil Rights Act of 1964, based on the 14th Amendment.
The act outlaws discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
Provisions of the act have been under attack by conservatives since it was passed, continuing despite Supreme Court decisions upholding it.
There are myriad forms of racism, far too many to even mention in a short column, but we need to recognize at least three broad categories – interpersonal, institutional and structural.
Personal, or interpersonal, racism exists within individuals and influences their interactions with others.
Institutional racism, also known as systemic racism, is manifest in the operation of social and political institutions.
Structural racism reveals itself in social, economic and political systems in which we all live.
I will use my own family – all seven of my mother’s children, grandchildren, cousins, nephews and nieces for illustrative purposes.
As far as I know, there isn’t a personal racist amongst us.
The extended family includes black, Hispanic, and white folks. Although there are some strong political differences, we don’t let them interfere with respect and love as family members. I cannot imagine anyone in our family who could be classified as racist at the personal level.
But there are divisions among us at the institutional and structural levels.
Mixed race nephews and nieces in both black/white and Hispanic/white families have experienced personal racial treatment, especially in schools.
Out of reason-based concern for their safety, their mothers have had to teach them they can’tdo everything white boys and girls can do without risk of unpredictable consequences.
In other words, they can’t act like “normal” kids. The eyes and ears of racial bias are on them.
This brings us back to Arbery.
The McMichaels claim they thought Arbery might be a burglar.
In fact, Arbery was a jogger who either was thirsty and sought water in a house under construction, or was just curious about the house that was being built and decided to take a look-see.
Four-and-a-half years ago, Ruth and I had a retirement home built for us, here in Pullman. Several neighbors walked through our house, inspecting it, during various stages of construction. That is a time-honored activity in America. Without “no trespassing” signs posted, it’s not illegal.
No “buts” about it, Arbery’s death involved racism.
Terence L. Day is a retired Washington State faculty member and a Pullman resident since 1972. He encourages email to firstname.lastname@example.org.