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COLUMN: Racism isn't about political preference

By: RACHEL STOVALL
April 27, 2018 Updated: April 27, 2018 at 4:30 am
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Have you ever been called racist? I was recently. In a debate online.

After I picked my mouth up off of the floor, I gave some thought to what had just happened to me. All I did was disagree with a political idea.

How in the world would disagreeing with a political idea make me a racist?

Apparently some of us are very confused. If I am racist, as a black woman does that mean that I support black supremacy? And how in the world would I support white supremacy since I am not in that group?

I am not obsessed with race, but I am completely obsessed with words. I learned English as a second language. That process made me a person who is fascinated with what words actually mean.

The dictionary defines racist as: a person who shows or feels discrimination or prejudice against people of other races, or who believes that a particular race is superior to another. So being racist involves thought of superiority against races that you aren't in. This has nothing to do with political perspective. Excepting perhaps those whose politics are based upon stated racism.

Here's another example. When former first lady Barbara Bush passed away Randa Jarrar, a professor in the English Department at Fresno State University said the following:

"Barbara Bush was a generous and smart and amazing racist who, along with her husband, raised a war criminal."

The resulting firestorm of criticism caused the professor some pressure. She was forced to cancel a speaking appearance. Alumni, boosters and donors of her university are demanding that she be fired. Millions around the world are outraged that anyone would call the former first lady racist, especially during a time of national grieving.

I think that we can all agree that former first lady Bush, did not show us any racist tendencies in anything that she ever did or said. I'm fairly sure that the same is true of her son as well. If you disagree, we can talk about it.

But I want you to see the phenomenon again, that disagreeing with a certain political perspective somehow makes one racist. Since racism is about prejudice or discrimination using the word in this context and in this way does not make sense. It is time to stop doing this in our national conversation about race.

Let's admit it. Having a preference even when it relates to race does not necessarily make one racist. Some groups prefer to congregate primarily with the people who look like them. It is only racist if it is done out of the belief that your group is superior. I doubt that you believe in that type of superiority. I don't either.

But if you asked, you will find that those in our community who congregate primarily with their group, do so because they feel more comfortable with their own people. In some cases this may be due to language or communication barriers. No one reasonable views that as racist.

We as a society must grow up enough in our "tolerance" to get that people can have preferences. Every race should be allowed its preferences within the confines of civil rights law. Many of us are uncomfortable in relating to other races. We need to give ourselves time to learn.

In many cases, we need to increase our interactions to learn to be comfortable. I suggest, have a few experiences with those who do not look like you. Get an understanding of what others feel when surrounded with those who do not look like them.

Head to a church, synagogue or the like outside of your group. You may be the only attendee who looks like you. This is a safe immersion experiment. You may gain some new insight.

Meanwhile, do not call anyone racist just because they disagree with your political perspective. Race and political perspective are not interchangeable terms and should not be used as though they are.

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Rachel Stovall is a longtime community advocate and organizer. Also a fundraising, media and marketing consultant, Stovall is most known for singing with her dance band Phat Daddy and the Phat Horn Doctors.

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