Do Racists Literally Just Have to Die Off?

I find myself always being the one asking the loaded questions about racism. I always want answers to the big questions and it’s something that doesn’t really have a straightforward answer. For so long, before I decided to educate myself, the questions I would ask would be about how to end racism. Because there was no clear cut answer, I just figured there was no way to end racism because there were too many racists and it was impossible because racists teach their kids to be racist who then teach their kids to be racist and so on and so forth.

I was clearly looking at this through the wrong lens. I was looking at racism throughout the course of my own life and forgetting that there is life beyond my own life. I wanted a cut and dry answer that would make racism go away today and that’s just not how things work. What I have come to understand is that change must start now to actually happen later. Although I might not see change happen in my life, the ripple needs to start now so that it can affect others later.

Something that I have come to realize is that racists just have to literally die in order for racism to end. I am not suggesting that we should kill off the racists because clearly it is not that simple, as racism is at the core of our society. According to a book chapter entitled “What Can We Do?” (Johnson, 2006), the greatest amount of change happens between generations not within them. I thought that we had to change people but it’s not only the people we have to change. We have to change culture (and really society as a whole) so that generations to come are influenced more by the society in which they live and less by the racists that are raising them.

“Although nature has proven season in and season out that if the thing that is planted bears at all, it will yield more of itself, there are those who seem certain that if they plant tomato seeds, at harvest time they can reap onions.”

Maya Angelou

This is obviously not an answer to the question “How do we solve racism?” Because really there is no “solving” racism. This is something that makes the idea of racism less daunting. It puts us in our place because we need to start now so that it can affect others later. It reminds us that this is bigger than ourselves. It runs through the core of our society and therefore, it is the structures that make up society that we must in turn change. But what it does not do, is take the responsibility of change off of the backs of the privileged race. Because after all, how many more generations must we go through before we see actual change?

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