MARCANO: Hateful responses to column on race provide a valuable window into society

Fear of something is at the root of hate for others, and hate within will eventually destroy the hater - George Washington Carver

Like most people of color in America, I’ve been called every conceivable slur, denied housing because I have darker skin, and have been the victim of “jokes” that aren’t close to funny.

But after last week’s column on race, I’ve been subjected to an unspeakable avalanche of hate that’s the worst I’ve experienced.

I thought about running a couple of the emails in full but decided not to dignify them any more than I needed to. These readers called Black people violent and lazy criminals likely to physically attack me because I’m not Black enough (too educated, etc). Others flatly declared most Americans can’t stand Black people who are, for the most part, a criminal race.

What caused this? I wrote that groups backed by rich male conservatives are trying to make it harder for disenfranchised groups to achieve societal gains by suing over programs meant to help people of color gain some modicum of equality.

It’s all part of an effort to sabotage equity programs companies created after George Floyd’s death. The New York Times, in a story last week, showed these groups want to stigmatize the phrase “social justice,” so it carries a discrimination connotation they hope turns off parts of society. It’s the same playbook they used in denigrating CRT and DEI.

I didn’t make any of that up. The groups themselves say that.

But that infuriated people. The angry emails to me had nothing to do with the gist of the argument — namely, it’s disingenuous to sue for reverse discrimination, as some of these groups do, when you’re trying to keep that discrimination in place.

Instead, people used it as an opportunity to vent against someone who serves as a symbol for all they abhor.

The emails provided a valuable window into society. Even though I wrote last week that America has done a better job of creating a diverse society than any other country in history, these people prove how far we must go.

We know the numbers. Upward to 3 in 10 Americans surveyed prescribe negative verbs (lazy, etc) to Black people and believe America has a duty to “protect and preserve” White European heritage. Eight percent support White Nationalism.

Pointing out these facts — all based on data from liberal and conservative groups — isn’t playing the victim or engaging in a “woe is me” campaign designed to make people with lighter skin feel bad about the state of race relations.

These facts should be uncomfortable. They should cause reflection.

They should cause fury over the cold, hard fact that there are people who want to stifle progress and have made their life’s work.

Directing vitriol my way might make someone feel better when they hit the send key. But they’ll still be saddled with anger fueled by biases they refuse to let go of, as if holding on means they can somehow hold off the changes that are already here.

I’ve shown, over the years, a willingness to seek out and debate people of differing views, and I still do. I correspond with those I respect who disagree with me when I write, for example, that systematic racism’s still a problem in America — a point in which Donald Trump, of all people, agrees. In 2020, he said systematic racism remains in policing.

I’ll still engage with anyone who wants to have a reasonable, respectful exchange of views.

But I won’t indulge the hate. I can’t reason with the unreasonable, no matter how much I’d like to.

I will use this forum — and I’m lucky to have it — to tackle the brutal, cold stench of racism in hopes of making even the smallest change …

… because that’s where change begins.

Ray Marcano’s column appears on these pages each Sunday.

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