Many of my social media followers were distraught after Cindy Hyde-Smith won the runoff election to be a U.S. senator from Mississippi, and likely the most overtly racist. Even as I knew in my head that would be the outcome, the heart was hoping for a morality reset within Mississippians. It did not happen. I immediately posted the following on my Facebook wall:
It will be foolhardy to believe that a woman who overtly supported voter suppression, joked about sitting in the front row to a lynching, and takes a picture with Confederate objects claiming it was Mississippi at its best becoming U.S. Senator is a Southern or Mississippi phenomena and not a deeper national problem. We owe Donald Trump a huge thank you. He has forced the country to realize that beneath that smooth, healthy-looking skin this presumed melting pot had become, is an infected foul, diseased flesh. Let's rip the skin/scab off completely, disinfect the wound, and get on a regimen of a potent broad-spectrum antibiotic.
Still feeling that something needed to be said, I posted a video explaining what I thought was the pathology that would make white Mississippians vote for a proud racist senator. A distraught viewer then posted the following:
I’m with you, Egberto. One summer in college, I taught in a Freedom School in the 60’s outside Hattiesburg. I was terrified all the time. Our school was vandalized. The families were threatened if they brought their children. As an adult, Mississippi was in my region. I didn’t see much improvement. They could have had an intelligent, competent Senator but they went for the racist. It is discouraging. We have to keep fighting these battles over and over. I used to believe we could eradicate racism in my idealist days. Now, I don’t think so. This 35-40% chunk of America that loves Trump seem racist to me. That seems to be his lure. ... What can we do now?
I've called racism a disease many times. But upon deeper thinking, I think it is a cerebral flaw some humans have adopted for self-preservation, the thought being that color and similarity will inflict less harm on the same color and similarity. Unfortunately, that is still a flaw in today's society. Harm is mostly intra-racial. That said, remember that race is nothing but a social construct. The "masters" have used this cerebral flaw to divide, ensuring the reign of a few.
While folks that look different are induced to fight among themselves, they don't see that the race-less are harming them. After all, plutocracy has always been multinational and multicultural, even in some forms in early Africa (all empires were and are not white). It wasn't just white people who sold slaves to the white merchants.
I honestly believe racism can be eradicated. Hell, I think our entire flawed system can. That's why many activists have given up so much to do this grassroots thing full-time.
Muscle memory is there until it is left unused too long. A friend, a very progressive white woman, told me recently that every so often some incident-based racist thoughts come up, and it scares her. And that is the point. It is not about our bad or racist thoughts. We all have them at some point, in some form. We have been culturized for centuries under this construct, which probably has a self-preservation component once needed when we were hunter-gatherers. But we have developed to a higher order, creating societies. We know that the biology is human and not hue; in my opinion, we must create the narrative that one is happier and more secure because we have evolved into societies of humans, and that tribalism is detrimental to the whole.
The fight will always be with those few on the top who will have their wards, that class of people that are paid highly to maintain the status quo that protects them. Keeping the racist tinge, the racism tool active for them is essential. The interesting thing is, that class keeping racism alive is, whether its members know it or not, multiracial.
This whole issue continues to be tough, but we will win it as long as we are doing the work one on one from the grassroots. For too long we have been looking for leaders to solve the problem. What we need is all of us doing our little part daily.
Engage everyone. Plant seeds. When someone says something stupid or presents racist thoughts, pull them aside. Reference yourself at times to break the ice: "I used to think that way, but now ..."
Use all platforms to push the positive message. Give others space and the opportunity to change. Let them know they will be welcomed in a home where they can live with their heads lifted high.
The side that uses racist constructs to succeed has the money and internet bots to make it appear that it is bigger than it is. But our side has people who want organic change. The latter, funded much less extensively, not only is more effective but likely will have longevity.
Here is an aside: Most people are good, but succumb to peer pressure. I speak to so many people one-on-one who eventually see things the right way. It is funny because they are terrified when they see me if they are in the presence of their friends, worried that I will out their "goodness," which I never would, of course. Little do they know some of their friends have the same dilemma. It is all about having space and time to change.
We should hate what happened in Mississippi. Trump is a blessing, though, because he shows us what work we have to do, and where. And many times, it is right within our own families and our own spheres of influence.