Things that Matter

I know that I don’t have much of a platform here at arohen.com, but I do send my thoughts out into the world with a good bit of regularity and I’m feeling guilty about not talking about some of the things that have been going on in the country. I do the occasional rant, but mostly I just talk about what’s going on with me. Today, I’d like to step up on my soapbox and address the elephant in the room. Possibly, multiple elephants… just depends on how long this gets to be.

First, a qualification, or perhaps a disqualification. I am a white, middle aged man. I think, by most standards, I’m middle-class. I grew up far out in the distant, white suburbs of Detroit. Until I started working, I had essentially no interaction with anyone of color; black, brown, red, yellow, green, blue, whatever—my life was very insular. I was oblivious to this fact. I didn’t think about it. It was not an issue in my world. Now that I’ve moved to Grand Rapids and sent my child to one of the most diverse schools in the county, I don’t think my background was necessarily the way I would have chosen it. I would have picked a life of greater diversity. It seems to have made my son a better person, probably it would have done the same for me.

I have had black friends, coworkers, clients, and neighbors, but I will readily admit, not very many. I am far and away from being an expert on race relations. But I like to think that I have a good grasp of right and wrong, justice and injustice, and a belief that people are people and that skin color is simply a matter of heritage based on geographic distribution and environmental factors (i.e. how much ultraviolet light your ancestors had to deal with). I would tell you that I’m not a racist, but how many white men have you heard say that. Inexperienced and naive. Sure. Ignorant. Possibly. But with that caveat, here is my take on black lives matter, racism, and where we find ourselves now.

Black Lives Matter

Those who keep saying that all lives matter and take exception to the mantra, Black Lives Matter, are being strategically obtuse. Of course, all lives matter, thou shall not kill and whatnot… murder bad… no shit. Typically, this is paired with some plea to quit making it about race. I’m not sure if this is deflection or an obfuscation of the issue that the phrase is intended to draw attention to. The issue being that black lives are being disproportionately ruined or outright taken by institutional racism. You can find your handful of examples making your point and I’ll find a handful to counter, but the numbers don’t lie. Massage the statistics however you want, this society is geared toward making things more difficult for those who are poor, a minority, or otherwise disenfranchised. I don’t like it. I don’t know what to do about it. I don’t have the answers. I’ve never been black, but I’ve seen plenty of racism. I have been poor, and everything is harder, more expensive, and less forgiving. The combination of the two is a recipe for social unrest. I don’t think we can be surprised that this is happening again, what with us not doing all that much to change things since the riots in the 60s.

Here, in these United States of America, this is not a black problem, rather, it is a white problem that affects blacks. Whites have the numbers, the money, and the power in this country. The Census Bureau puts the white/black split of the population at 76.5%/13.4% and puts the poverty rate in the US at 11.8%. The white/black split for poverty is 10.1%/20.8%. I’m not going to dig into corporate leadership or governance, but I’m certain those numbers will be skewed heavily white as well. I only point out these numbers to make the point that white America is in control and if white America is in control of the money and the power and damn near everything else, you know who isn’t making reforms to a broken system…. White America.

This is not about giving up control or losing your power. Much like my religion argument from a while back, white America is firmly in control and the numbers would have to swing wildly for that to not be the case. This is about doing what is right, eliminating racial persecution, creating a baseline that is not tilted toward the oppression of a minority. Are we not beyond the point where the strong make the rules and fuck the rest?

If someone tells you that something is wrong. Tells you that things are unfair. Tells you that they are hurting. If they tell you these things and you have the power to change them and you don’t… who is to blame for that. You.

great show, terrible symbolism

Now let’s move on to Civil War monuments, the confederate legacy, and the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia (the confederate or rebel flag). I was born in a North Carolina hospital, LOVED the Dukes of Hazard television show, and had a fondness for that particular flag. It all made me feel like I had some southern heritage, a little rebel in my soul, and it looked cool. But you know what, I’m older now and have a better understanding of history, symbolism, and subtext. If the Dukes of Hazard drove a car with a swastika on the roof and was called the “Chancellor Hitler”, well, I’d like it a lot less. I liked the Dukes for the same reasons I like Robin Hood, all the flying cars, and that good ol’ boy, southern hospitality thing is great, but that car and that flag need to go. Time and education have caught up with this particular symbol. And as it keeps getting pointed out, most of these monuments and statues didn’t go up in the deep dark past, they went up in the 1970’s. Which coincidently lines up with the black rights movement. They were a message. A statement of place if you will. It is time to put them in the museums and galleries. They were in the wrong. They lost. They do not deserve to be glorified. We should never have, and most certainly should not continue, the glorification of those who fought for racism and the right to own another human being. Besides, that flag has become the accepted symbol of white supremacy and we all know it. Enough of that shit.

Lastly, I want to shout out a bit of praise to the US Supreme Court for protecting LGBTQ people from workplace discrimination. We should always strive to increased freedom and to eliminate oppression. Inclusion not exclusion. It is a very good and just decision and one that pushes us further in the direction of common decency and tolerance.

i bet they don’t

So, there you have it. I feel a little bit exhausted and yet this is way under 2,000 words. Be good to each other. And hey, be careful out there. The covid-19 pandemic is still in full swing, cases are resurging and rising around the country, and while it only makes sense that everything needs reopen, I am not seeing near enough masks on people out in public. For your health and for the health of others, be considerate, wear a mask. Thanks. Later.

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