It wasn’t until 1847 that anyone even suggested surgeons wash their hands. The idea was openly mocked by the medical community for the next 30 years and the doctor who suggested it was eventually killed by bacteria.
I think about that a lot. Fighting against an enemy that seems invisible to most, but the evidence of its destruction is everywhere you look…
From the moment that the very first enslaved African escaped bondage, there have been systems put in place to keep Black people wherever white people would prefer. The enslaved African escapes, so slave patrols are created.
Slavery ends, slave patrols become the Ku Klux Klan.
This type of reactionary attempt to re-marginalize Black people is a constant throughout American history. The white power movement was a reaction to the Black Power movement. No one bothered to interrupt us with “all lives matter” until we began explaining how Black Lives Matter.
Hate was attached to us when we were fully at the margins and no matter how far any of us have come since, this country has never put forth an honest effort to separate us from that hate. But the thing about hate that this country never seems to remember is that it ruins everything. It causes collapse. As a personal foundation, hate will ruin your health, and as a systemic foundation it can cause the entire system to collapse.
At the time of this writing there is a law in Florida that keeps former felons from voting. This law was originally written to specifically keep Black people from voting, but things changed. Now the majority of former felons in Florida are white. That hate wasn’t going exactly where it was intended anymore, so they’ve had to make adjustments along the way to keep focus on the intended target.
The electoral college was created out of racism as a means to help out slave owners. That’s the system that gave George W. Bush the presidency even though he lost the popular vote by 500,000. The next republican to become president is the one we have now and he lost the popular vote by 3,000,000. That’s six times as many votes as Bush. If that pattern holds it’ll be 18,000,000 next time.
Those are just two obvious, historical examples. I’m not even getting into the more subtle or personal ways in which hate is attached to us, but it is clear that as we move into the mainstream, this historically attached hate comes right along for the ride.
We point to the bad actors, like the president, and blame him. We point to the Richard Spencers and Gavin McInneses and blame them, but we never address the fact that hate itself is just culturally acceptable in this country.
We talk all the time about how much the president stokes hatred, but we don’t try to get rid of the actual hatred. No, I’m not talking about some kinda hippy-dippy, personal and emotional cleanse. And I’m not talking about making any kind of speech illegal, though I do have some thoughts about that.
I am just saying that there are things that are culturally acceptable and things that are not. For example, in absolutely no way is it culturally unacceptable to pick your nose in public. If you arrive at work tomorrow with your finger jammed into one of your nostrils, at first some may laugh, thinking you are deliberately being funny. Keep it up throughout the day and you will find yourself alienated and visiting HR for a mental health check.
Now imagine you acted like this after being told not pick your nose at work.
Have you ever been in a room full of people when someone coughs without covering their mouth? That person hears about it. Somebody says something every time. The cougher is often reminded that there are other people in the room and that they should not let something so toxic come out of their mouth, at the very least for the sake of everyone else. Sometimes the cougher is even told to leave and that they shouldn’t be around people until they become less toxic…
Unacceptable behavior is often deemed that way because of its effect on others and it doesn’t have to be legislated to be understood. But it does have to be recognized.
Don’t get me wrong, I see the same videos as you. And, yes, it’s nice to see all the Apartment Pattys getting theirs. But for me, it’s just not that much of a relief when all of the hate speech, all of the political assassination attempts, all of the internments of children, all of the church murders, all of the Nazis, klansmen, proud boys and fascists all come out of the same, affectionately titled Grand Old Party that is currently in charge of the entire government. And they are in charge of the government in a democracy even though they represent the minority of citizens.
Their hate and their methods are as old as abolition and they’ll either have their way or they won’t. We’ll either figure out how to separate the hate from a people or we will push those people back to the margins. One of those options I am hopeful for. The other the country has always found easier.
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Image by T. Chick McClure via Unsplash