Are You A Racist?

Posted: Wednesday, July 22, 2009 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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  (ra’siz’?m)    

The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.
Discrimination or prejudice based on race.

Come on..let’s be honest. If we go by the dictionary definition above, most of us (me included) are racists.
I’m not talking about the degree of racism associated with masked men wearing white robes and pointy hats or neo Nazis and skinheads who claim whites reign supreme over all other races and won’t hesitate to make their point through acts of hatred and violence.
No, I’m referring to the subtle racist thoughts we have and comments we make on a regular basis. For example, when you hear or read about a crime committed in Sioux Falls are you not the least bit surprised when the perpetrators turn out to be Hispanic, Black, Indian or some other minority?  
Do you resent being told that it’s disrespectful if you do not say African American or Native American like I just did?
Have you ever commented about how working for John Morrell in Sioux Falls used to be a prestigious occupation before the owners broke the union and started hiring minorities to save money?  
Have you ever made comments about the condition of houses or yards while driving through towns on any South Dakota Indian reservation?
Do you cringe when you see the way many Black celebrities or athletes act, talk or dress when you see them on television?
Have you ever thought or said, “If these immigrants are going to live in this country why don’t they learn the language and dress like us?”
Have you ever thought or said, “They’re as racist toward us as we are to them.”
 
Please understand..I HATE the fact that I have these thoughts. I’m just not quite sure how to get rid of them.
I am well aware of..and embarrassed by.. the awful  injustice and deplorable treatment of Blacks and Indians by Whites throughout our history. But I can’t assume responsibility for what others before me have done..can I?Some suggest that we need to really make an effort to better understand those who are different from us; take the first step…get to know them…offer up friendship.
The truth is, very few people are actually willing to do that.
One exception who immediately comes to mind, though, is the recently retired head of “The Banquet” in Sioux Falls, Carolyn Downs. 
I’ve interviewed Carolyn dozens of times over the years and she was and is the epitome of  tolerance be it racial or sociological.  She always respected anyone and everyone who came through her door seeking shelter and a hot meal. The kindness she has shown was not only admirable but as genuine as her smile.
Two others, whom I just met this past winter in Phoenix, are longtime friends of our desert daughter, Christy.
They, also seem to demonstrate the kind of attitude we all must strive for if we’re to live lives free of prejudice.
Amy and Dan Willis live in Indianapolis. He owns an electronic payment processing business and works out of the home. She is a former teacher who is now employed by a private education foundation.
 In 2006, Amy traveled to Guatemala; a trip that included a stop at an orphanage.
The site of so many abandoned children broke her heart.
She and Dan had been talking for a long time about adopting a Guatemalan child and the orphanage visit sealed the deal. 
Before long, they began the long complicated and expensive process of being matched with just such a child.
When they finally met little Eduardo, the mutual affection was instantaneous and permanent.
 Over the next year there were many trips back and forth between Indiana and Guatemala plus lots of government red tape which caused several anxious moments but the green light was finally given and Eddie was theirs to keep forever.  Eddie and his new family shortly after the adoption was finalized.
Even though Eduardo was leaving his country, the Willises were determined that he would always be aware of his Latin heritage and culture. So he’s now learning Spanish right along with English and will be making annual trips to Guatemala with his mom and dad. 
You won’t find three happier people.Back home again in Indiana, Eduardo gives thumbs up to his goofy toy glassesI was surprised to learn later that Dan and Amy didn’t adopt because they couldn’t have children of their own.  They simply decided many years ago that this is how they wanted to build a family; sharing their love and resources with a child already here but with little hope for much of a future.
I think I could learn a lot about tolerance and kindness through the example of people like the Willises and Carolyn Downs.
Maybe we all could. Who wants to take the first step?

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