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Having seen the Opening Ceremonies of the Rio Olympics, it's a great reminder that people from all over the world can come together in the spirit of friendship and competition and co-exist with an understanding that we truly are the same. Why we can't do this on a daily basis, not just for two weeks once every two years, is part of the reason we need to examine the issues of race and how they impact all of us.

Jona Olsson's essay, titled "Detour-Spotting" is the template for my examination of the issues that are particular to our discussion of racism and how we avoid talking about it. Today's topic relates right back to our Olympics concept:

15) Not Here In Lake Wobegon

“We don’t have a racism problem here at this (school, organization, community)” or “We didn’t have a racism problem in this town until that Mexican family moved here.”

Reality Check and Consequence

As white people we do not have to think about racism when our school, organization or community is all white. Racism does not usually become apparent TO US until there are people of color in our frame of reference.


This is kind of a no-brainer. Without any minority people in the community, in the state, in the country, everything is "fine."

This is reflected in a popular sentiment suggested by some of the legislators at that time: once the Emancipation Proclamation passed into law, many wanted to send former slaves back to Africa, this even though America was the only country most of these people knew, being born in and growing up here. Of course, some did take the offer, and the country of Liberia was formed as a home in Africa for former US slaves and their descendants. Point being, once black people no longer served the purpose desired, the first thought, for at least some government officials, was to send them somewhere else. Out of sight, out of mind.

That relates to the old wheeze "why don't you go back where you came from?" comment that still gets used even today by racists that don't want to see someone other than themselves in their line of vision.

The unspoken issue that this particular topic touches upon is one that cuts to the heart of the matter: it reflects in all of the elements we have seen on newscasts and in social media regarding racism. It is simply that there is a desire by some to simply wish minorities out of the picture. All of the points in Ms. Olsson's essay we are talking about would be moot if there were only white people here.

Again, this is an element that speaks to the thought that any minorities are not as human as white people and that they can and should be shuttled or shifted away whenever possible, for the convenience of white folks. The "white flight" of the 1960s and 1970s out of cities and into suburban areas was a variation on this theme. If they won't leave, we will.

Even though Jim Crow had outlawed segregation in 1964, there was no desire to have black people living side by side with whites even after the laws changed. And, as we all know, it's through living with someone that we can come to know and understand them. So, really, this was an opportunity to get to the truth of everyone's humanity, lost. And through that choice, we still are dealing with a lot of the thoughts that we are so different and so afraid of each other that we still aren't able to face these issues.

I should take a pause here and point out something obvious. Part of the reason racism is still so rampant is that we are still viewing this as a black v. white issue. It really isn't that, as there are many white people who are aware that we are all humans and that we need to start acting that way. But, even within the description - black people and white people, the minority and the majority, part of the element that creates this challenge is that we are separating these two camps when what we're trying to achieve is that understanding that there really is just one race: the human race.

Most every issue we have, when it comes to human interaction, is a communication issue. Certainly, racism can be boiled down to that as well. And let's face it. If you are ready to send away someone without knowing any substantive element of who they are, aren't you the problem?


Previous thinkposts in this series:

1. Day One - I'm Colorblind
2. Day Two - Bootstrap Theory
3. Day Three - Reverse Racism
4. Day Four - Blame The Victim
5. Day Five - The White Knight
6. Day Six - Lighten Up
7. Day Seven - Don't Blame Me
8. Day Eight - BWAME
9. Day Nine - We Have Overcome
10. Day Ten - The End Run
11. Day Eleven - Due Process
12. Day Twelve - By Association
13. Day Thirteen - The Penitent
14. Day Fourteen - White Wash

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