Trying to eliminate racism by focusing on race is wrong-minded
I would like to take a moment to respond to a column by Timothy Braatz dated May 6 of this year.
Near the end of his column “Asian Americans and social justice” Mr. Braatz says, “Lately though, prominent individuals, in Idaho and beyond, have been denouncing the teaching of social justice and ‘critical race theory’ .… One has to wonder why these individuals feel threatened by efforts to explore our national history.”
I would counter that critical race theory is not an effort to explore our national history but rather to hyperfocus on legitimate injustices that did occur and to claim eternal victimhood for those who suffered that injustice and to their descendants in perpetuity.
I offer my stepfather as an example. He’ll be 95 in June and lives with my wife and I, here in Boundary County. He is of Japanese descent. He was born in Tacoma, Washington, and raised in the Bay Area in California. During World War II he was sent, with most of his family, to an internment camp in Topaz Utah. (Not a “concentration camp” as Mr. Braatz called it. There is quite a difference between the conditions in the internment camps and the concentration camps of the Nazis in Europe.) But nonetheless he was robbed, by executive order, of his freedom as a natural born citizen of the United States.
At the end of his high school years (spent in camp) he was drafted to serve in the U.S. military. He chose not to accept that invitation. Given his years in that camp I find no fault in that response. The U.S., however, did. He spent a year in prison in Arizona, only to be released and enlist anyway.
So it is true, there were injustices. But the one thing my dad is not, is a victim. (Yes, I’ve considered him my dad since 1965.) Now Mr. Braatz might consider him a victim, but it would raise the hairs on the back of my dad’s neck if he were to say that to his face.
I was raised fatherless until he married my mom in ’65 when I was 10. I knew he looked different than mom and I. But it made no impression until we moved and I had to explain to my new friends why I had a different last name than my parents. I explained… and no one cared. While the media would have you believe interracial marriage was still frowned upon in the mid-1960s, none of our family friends, before or after, batted an eyelash.
By ancestry I am 3/4 Irish and 1/4 Dutch. I am not an Irish American. At best I’m “American Irish.” The Irish were treated pretty bad as well in American history. I carry no grudge. My dad is also “American” of Japanese descent. Two of my grandkids are of mixed race (one Black and one Hispanic) and they look like both of those on the surface. My grandson has been called some names because he’s Black. His elementary school (in their misguided attempt at being inclusive) cast him in the winter play to read some lines about Kwanzaa. He read the lines without knowing a thing about it, having been raised as a Christian.
So where do we find the racism? Well in our case it seems to be in the effort to not be racist.
I would offer that victimhood is a choice. My dad could choose to accept that moniker, but instead chooses not to. My grandson (who identifies as Black) does not claim any victimhood nor does he support the idea that he was somehow inferior as his high school tried to tell him. He also does not accept the idea that he is superior in any way.
Mr. Braatz points in his letter to many honors and accomplishments of minorities. I agree and equally honor those individuals. But not because of their race. Rather because of their service to our country and society.
The teaching of critical race theory and social justice from Kindergarten through college is indoctrination. History is history, good and bad. It is my view that victimhood is a choice. Children should not be taught to be victims. No one should take any great glory in their ancestry, nor should they be ashamed of it. We are all created equal. We are not and should not be guaranteed any particular outcome. Some will have harder life experiences than others. Some will reach greatness, some won’t.
Mr. Braatz ends his letter with a call on behalf of the Boundary County Human Rights Task Force, to “reject stereotypes, reject hate and have empathy for the suffering of all people.” I agree with that call completely. But I suggest that organization, and other social justice organizations, are going about it the wrong way when they call attention to race. Trying to eliminate racism by focusing on race, elevating one race over another, is just wrong-minded. Judge people by their character.
It all comes down to pride. Something everyone should have. The best definition of pride I ever saw was on a pencil. My mom had worked for IBM and had brought home some #2 pencils. On them was printed: PRIDE — personal responsibility in daily effort.
I think that pretty much nails it.