People are idiots.

A little over a year ago, I wrote a post about being scared of black people. The point of the post was that an irrational fear doesn’t have to control your life and you can and perhaps even should, overcome it. Good, right?

It got three kinds of responses. The first was support, that my point was valid and understood. The second was disgust, how dare I be such a racist. The third was mostly unmentionable and deleted by me. But the latest one in the last group I allowed and want to expound on. Here’s the comment, in its entirety.

Blacks are a different species and you have every right to be scared. They are a less intelligent violent species. Never relax around blacks. Avoid the groid.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know what a groid is, so I don’t know if I want to avoid it, but the rest of this comment is foul. It’s clear the writer either didn’t read my post or didn’t care. It’s 2013, do people really still think like this?

As it turns out, there are a good number of people who think like this, and the even scarier notion is that they might be right.

I’m not a geneticist, hopefully someone out there will be and can explain it further, but new studies are showing larger genetic differences between blacks and non-blacks. Are they enough to be considered species differentiation? That’s debatable, but it turns out that there are some pretty unique differences in DNA.

Africans were a highly isolated people 50,000 years ago. There was little interaction between people in east Africa and South Africa at the time, and had been for generations uncounted. Each group was evolving completely independent of the other. At the same time, Homo sapiens had left Africa altogether and settled in Europe by then, forming yet another independent and separate gene pool.

About 40,000 years ago, with the advent of the earliest of the Stone Age, eastern and southern Africans started to intermingle again. The result was a wiping out the evolutionary difference and reuniting the species in Africa. But those that had already moved on didn’t have the contact or the chance to reunite for another 35,000 years.

Now it’s obvious that after that contact was reestablished, interbreeding has wiped out much of whatever difference there may have been. And obviously there isn’t enough differentiation to prevent interbreeding. It really seems to be more an interesting thought puzzle for geneticist than anything we need to deal with politically. And yet, people with more verbal skills than my commenter are seizing on these new discoveries as justification for racism.

That’s what makes people idiots. Grasping at genetic straws to validate your irrational hate and fear of others instead of working to overcome and accept them.

Black People Scare Me… and that’s okay…

This is a confessional piece.  And before you judge the title, selected because of its titilating effect, please take the time to read the whole thing.  Some of you have already figured it out.  Some of you are wrong.

This confession was prompted by two things.  First, I saw the movie Paranorman today.  It’s a good flick with a great message about fear.  The second is a piece written by a “gay dad.”  It was very motivational for writing this.

First the confession.  I’m scared of black people.  It’s completely irrational and I can’t explain it, but just seeing a black person makes me feel fear and get tense.  Maybe it’s because I grew up in a part of town practically devoid of them.  My high school of 2400 had 6 black students.  Once of my best friends in elementary school was a black girl.  We even dated in middle school.  Doesn’t matter, I still get a shudder seeing someone who is black.

One person who I consider a good friend, and hope after reading this still considers me a friend, is a black man.  He’s as kind and gentle a person I’ve ever met and I adore him.  But if I see him before I recognize him, that same sharp stab of fear grabs me.  To add to it, he’s also gay.  Which I find funny, because I know some many people who are afraid of gay people.  I’m not.  Which is good, since that would be two fears I’d have to overcome to be his friend and I really do like being his friend.

When I read the blog post about homophobia, I had a gut reaction to something the gay dad said.  He said,

So… is being homophobic ok too?   Naw, not really.  People who are afraid of others or put others down make life miserable.  They want to make everyone the same as them and they will claim things like “Long ago people decided this…” or that they personally know what God intended.  They don’t.  But they will try to make other people unhappy while they try to prove that they do.  They claim to know what all cultures have believed, but they ignore ones that believed other things.  Did you know that there have been cultures that were mostly same gender couples, and ones where one man had lots of wives?  There were.  None of the past cultures were perfect.  Far from it.  So that is why we were given the gift of thought—to think out what is best for our culture today and make it fair for everyone.

I had a gut reaction to this.  There is nothing wrong with being homophobic was what my gut was telling me.  Then I realized, that being homophobic isn’t the same thing as being afraid of gay people.  Being a homophobe is being afraid of gay people and acting on it in a negative way.  My gut reaction was coming from admitting to myself that I’m afraid of black people.

Until I could see that a homophobe wasn’t just afraid of gays, but actively tried to hurt them, I couldn’t accept that I wasn’t racist.  If fear and fear alone defined homophobe and racism, then I had a real problem.

Yes, I’m afraid of black people.  And when that sharp tang of fear shoots down my spine and tell myself, “Self, stop being scared.” As a result I have a very good friend who is both gay and black.  And I dated a black girl.  And I have no problem calling people out who act like racist jerks. And, I truly believe, makes me human and not racist.

That’s where the movie Paranorman comes in.  In it, Norman, the main character, is afraid.  It comes from the fact that he can talk to ghosts.  One of them is his grandmother, who gives him some really good advice.  “It’s okay to be afraid, just don’t let it change who you are.”

I’m a nice guy.  I’m afraid of black people.  But I’m not going to let that fear change me from being a nice guy. I know that fear is based on some weird wiring that I developed a long time ago and just have to deal with today.  But I’m not going to let it keep me from being a nice guy.  So I bury the fear, and have been better for it.  Better, because I have good friends who, had I let the fear win, I wouldn’t have today.

So I dedicate this confession to my good friend who is black and gay.  Not that either of those two characteristics defines him at all, but because those two characteristics instill much irrational fear in so many people.  He’s a hero in my eyes because he doesn’t let the fear in others stop him from being a class act, a great friend, and a damn fine human being.  And I’m proud to call him my friend.

So I’m here to tell you that being afraid isn’t a bad thing.  Irrational fears affect us all.  If you’re afraid of black people, gay people, tall people, silly people or just about anything else about people… that’s fine.  What’s important is not to let that fear keep you from meeting people, being nice to people and treating people, even people you are irrationally afraid of, with respect.  That’s the difference between a human being and a bigoted jerk. People can and will be afraid. Doesn’t mean fear has to make you be something you’re not.

Now, how many of you figured out where this was going, and how many of you are disappointed in where it went?

Just in case my message wasn’t clear, I found this post on the evolution of an ally.  Perhaps it says it better than I do.

I’m calling Racial Bullsh*t.

I’ve got to call this one.

It’s rare that I see racism in my community, but I’m afraid I’ve found a fine example of it. It actually makes me sad.

See, I love my community, and I nearly cried when a friend and fellow blogger (if someone as haphazard as I can be considered a blogger) praised and defended our little community of diversity. But I’ve found a nasty underbelly of racism that I just can’t leave alone.

It involves the past HCS Superintendent and the new HCS Superintendent.

The previous Superintendent was a black woman. Dr. Moore was many things other than that simple label, but one of the things I didn’t think she ever could be considered was a “good” superintendent. After all, under her watch we became the school system in Alabama with the single largest debt. Not that she worked in a vacuum, but the fact is, by any outside objective method, HCS had plenty of unaddressed problems under her administration.

The new Superintendent is a white man. Again, Dr. Wardynski is so much more than that simple label. I am beginning to believe that he is going to share many things with Dr. Moore, including being a poor Superintendent. But Dr. Moore’s and Dr. Wardynski’s ability (or lack thereof) to lead HCS is not why I’m writing this post.

One of the many complaints that I heard over and over again about Dr. Moore is how bloated the central office became under her tenure. Usually, but not always, this included a reference to her filling it with her own “cronies.” Yet one of the things that Dr. Wardynski shares with Dr. Moore is that he is planning (or already has started) to further increase the size of the central office, hiring even more people… and guess what… they are also his “cronies.”

Yet when Dr. Moore did this, it was bad. Now some of the same people are saying that what Dr. Wardynski is doing is good. And yet, the only difference is that one is a black woman doing it, and the other is a white man doing it.

That, my friends, is racist bullsh*t. And I’m calling people on it from now on.