Friday, May 29, 2009

Lift The Burden

It is sad to me that a genetic adaptation, expressed by my chromosomes, something passed down to me by my ancestors, and currently beyond my power to control (save for exposure to ultraviolet radiation), has been made into a burden by history, namely by those self-same ancestors of similar lineage but no direct relation, who saw fit to express their power to the detriment of others.

Thus is a white man's burden.

Now, before the self-righteous among you decide that it is anathema for a white man to talk of race, racism, and race relations, let me point out that I am in no way absolving anyone of the consequences of their actions, nor making excuses for their behavior. I am also not speaking for my race, because I'm a firm believer in the right of an individual to self-determination, and therefore, responsibility for their actions. What any of us do, falls upon us when the time comes to be judged, or so it should be. It is incumbent upon our society to judge by action, by deed, and by character.

Hence the burden. A burden carried by every person of every skin type, for at some time, their color has determined how someone, somewhere, felt about them, even if they have never met them. And for every dozen people of good moral character, hard-working, honest, and decent, there is the one who is not the embodiment of the race, who splashes a stain on its character by mere association. That is the burden.

For if we are to be judged as people, not as sexual characteristics, skin tone, or even belief systems, we must somehow erase those stains by our own rectitude, living as high and moral a life as we can manage in our own circumstances. The world must be flooded with the examples of how we do right by others, not by how we tear them down. That is the burden.

The problem is: for all our attempts to show that we are beyond the petty dictatorship of our skin, our sex, our religion, there are those who would exacerbate the preexisting doubt, uncertainty, and fear in other people's eyes by their actions. In a time when we should be coming together, coalescing as a progressive, forward-thinking, and above all, inclusive society, some seek to throw a wrench into the works, to bring our forward progress to a halt. They covet their power too greatly, bemoan the changes that are self-evident and, according to Darwin, inevitable. They refuse to believe that their view can be wrong, and seek to instill fear in others, fear of "what may come," as if a shadowy war is just beyond the horizon.

What is worse, many of these fear-mongers have positions of power, that grant them access to vast communications resources, that allow them to spew their shameful vitriol with near impunity. They can reach to every corner of society, seeking out those with doubts, who harbor moral ambiguity, or even fervent hatred; supplicants and converts, waiting for a word, a sign, that they are not alone. That is the burden.

For a person like myself, who has done his level best to see people only as people, who has striven to live a good and moral life, to do unto others as I would have them do unto me, I am sickened, and many times disheartened, to hear words spoken in public, by figures of some renown, that cast aspersions and generate false witness against others, for no other reason that they can. There is no reason for any human being to claim superiority over any other, but these disreputable mountebanks continue to stain us all with the broad brush of their ignorance. There are days I wish to slough off my skin, that to wear it feels unclean. It is as if every good deed I do is poisoned. That is the burden.

Our burden can only be lifted if every person of good conscience and free heart and mind, stands up and speaks, to drown out this tidal wave of intolerance. We many, we, the silent majority, must unite our voices in a choir of dissent, to bring forth the true harmony of humanity. Be it pen, blog, or microphone, we must do whatever we can to show that in the United States of America, ours is a society that tolerates differences but does not condone discrimination on any level, that allows the individual the freedom to think and do as they will but does not stand on a foundation of moral indifference when those thoughts and actions threaten us as a whole. We must show that, in the end, it is possible for all people to live together, free to be who they are, free from the fear that who they are and what they are will mark them somehow. We must rededicate this country to the idea that all people are created equal.

1 comment:

  1. Just keep being the best person you can be, that's all you can do. The people who care will notice.