The Dedmond gang hate crime murder, put into historical context by Judge Carlton Reeves, evokes tremendous sadness about the nation’s racial divide. It is a divide that is very real; and completely illusory.
When people of different color do get to know one another, they see that their only difference is skin color. But rather than questioning their underlying racial beliefs, people think this one person they know is different instead of questioning their entire belief system.
Frankly, I’ve known that white people do this for most of my life. White people often maintain their racial prejudice with this line of thinking: “the black person that I got to know and is my friend is different from other black people.”
This allows people to have friends of the other race and maintain underlying prejudices. When you think about it, this makes no sense. But it undeniably happens.
For a long time I just assumed that only white people rationalized in this way. Turns out, I was wrong. I’ve learned in the last decade that black folks do the same thing.
My legal assistant is black. She’s told me on more than one occasion that friends or family who she introduced me to were surprised that I was a nice guy. They just assumed that, since I was white, I was a jerk.
A similar thing happened a few years ago when I played in a regular poker game where I was usually the only white person at the table. My friend who hosted the game later told me that the other players had agreed that I was so cool, they almost forgot I was white.
The thing is, I’m not that cool. I’m just a normal dude.
In many towns you can walk into a sports bar and see a table of black guys sitting near a table of white guys. They’d be speaking the same language, watching the same games, eating the same food, drinking the same beer, and flirting with the same waitresses.
The conversations at those two table would be EXACTLY the same. Mostly talk about the game on television, sprinkled in with complaints about work, wives, etc…
Over the course of the game, they would even talk to the dudes at the other table about the game and share in each other’s jokes about what they were watching together on television. At the end of the night, they would all go home thinking those guys at the other table were a lot different from them. Despite the fact that for the last few hours, those other guys were doing the exact same thing they were.
On Saturday the black guys might tailgate outside a JSU game. The white guys might tailgate in Starkville or Oxford. Many of them wouldn’t dream of hanging out with each other, what with all their differences and all.
We have a very real racial divide. And it’s complete bullshit.
It wouldn’t even be that big a deal if it didn’t lead to tragic results. Like in the Dedmond case. A man was killed because of imagined differences.
While it is racism, it’s not your father’s racism. Today, people who some would categorize as racist would have been viewed as liberal-commie nuts in 1960.
Why? Because they aren’t racist towards all member of the opposite race. Just the one’s they don’t know. Which other than a few people, is everyone.
It is both sad and frustrating. And it’s going to be prevalent for a long time.