By Gordan Clay
Almost every day we read about white women who have disappeared and within hours hundreds are searching for them. In one instance, I read that a man even traveled from a southern state all the way to the Caribbean to help search for a missing woman he didn’t even know. Yet, when hundreds of Black, Latina and American Indian women go missing all throughout this country, there is little or no press coverage nor any mass search parties. These racial disparities lead me to the wonder: If thousands of white children from European countries seeking asylum were caged and separated from their parents, would there be an outrage and, from whom?
When Liam Neeson recently talked about going out into the street looking to kill any black man he saw because his white woman friend was raped by a black man, I wondered, would he do the same to any white man he saw in the streets if the man who raped his friend was white? Why not, and what is the difference about his rage?
When Timothy McVeigh blew up the federal building, did we see him simply as an individual or a member of a white terrorist group?
The list of racial differences goes on and on. When we talk about black-on-black violence, why is it that there are never the same conversations about white-on-white violence? For illustration, 98 percent of all mass shooters in schools are white males from white suburban neighborhoods and the number one group of bullies on the internet are white adolescent girls. And, those same white girls are often the cause for countless other girls committing suicide because of their incessant bullying. When those girls were asked why they kept bullying, their simple response was: they’re not like us.
The great divide in America today is still about race but more specifically about being different from the white, male, Anglo-Saxon, heterosexual, middle class, Christian population. We still see difference as negative, such as having an accent… unless, of course, you have a French, Australian or English accent.
Until we begin to face what divides us and why, we will continue to be fearful of who and what is different from ourselves. We will continue to kill, beat and humiliate those who fall outside of our definition of who is beautiful, educated, civilized and worthy of our love and trust. We are living in a time of fear and deep division.
So, what is the solution? Someone once said that fear is really false evidence appearing real. Until, we look at ourselves and the stereotypes that we’ve learned and carry; until we notice how we favor one group over another because they are different from ourselves; until we meet and learn about those who are different from ourselves and until we take responsibility for our actions and our inactions, we will continue to be a part of the problem.
As Virginia Woolf so beautifully wrote: “We are all different. What divides or brings us together, is the value we place on those differences.”
And as James Baldwin wrote: “Not everything can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
--—Gordon Clay of Brookings is a community activist and suicide prevention advocate. Reach him at TheCitizensWhoCare.org