I Am a Racist

Recently, I posted some quick math on my Facebook page:

1.6 billion Muslims in the world. 184,000 terrorists in the world (an extremely inflated estimate, just to be safe). If ALL the terrorists in the world are Muslims (which they aren’t), that would mean that roughly 0.011% of Muslims are terrorists.

To put it another way:

If you encountered 1,000 Muslims today, you still probably wouldn’t have met a terrorist.

Now, the percentage of Muslims IN THE NEWS who are terrorists, well, that’s a different story.

Granted, this all involves some rounding and some interpretation, but it wasn’t my intention to show exact figures. I just wanted to make a general statement that most Muslims are not terrorists.

Well, that sparked a debate. Some of my more conservative friends felt I was being too PC, or ignoring the fact that every Muslim in the world wants to KILL ME ON SIGHT. The double standards and the missings of the points flew like fur.

I could ramble on for hours about this topic and the related left/right issues that came with it, but I’m actually going to drift off on a tangent now.

Out of all the commentary on the topic, one line really stuck with me:

…the leftist’s incessant need to NOT be thought of as racist or Islamophobic brings cover to the most dangerous religious fanatics on the planet today.

Now, we’ll forget the context of this sentence, as it’s irrelevant to my writing today. What really stuck with me is the idea that not wanting to be thought of as a racist is somehow a bad thing. I disagree.

I don’t want to be thought of as a racist, because being a racist is bad. It’s just that simple.

Unfortunately, I am a racist. (I’m also a sexist and an ageist an probably just about every kind of -ist you can name.) I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood in a suburb of Cincinnati, a city that rarely makes the news for its tolerance and equality. I heard racist jokes and racist assumptions as a kid, and I hear them as an adult. Whether or not I agree with them, believe them, or take them to heart, they still reside somewhere in my brain.

If I’m out walking at night, and a group of young black guys starts following me, I get nervous. If I see an attractive woman in a position of power, I wonder how she got the job. And yes, if I’m boarding a plane with a couple of Muslims, the word “bomb” will flash through my head somewhere.

I’m not proud of this. I know these thoughts are wrong and completely unfair. I am a victim of years of conditioning to make me think that way. If I take a second or two to process my thoughts, I come to a more reasonable conclusion.

If I’m out walking at night, and a group of young black guys starts following me, I get nervous. But wait… are they following me, or simply going the same direction I happen to be going? Are they carrying guns and smoking crack, or are they carrying groceries and looking at their phones? Are they even aware I’m walking in front of them, or are they minding their own business?

Lucky for me, I’m a middle-aged white guy. I have the luxury of making these assumptions and revising them at my leisure. No one ever looks at me and crosses the street to avoid me. If I get a good job, no one’s ever going to assume I slept with someone to get it. I’m never going to be profiled while getting on a plane. And most of all, no one is trying to legislate me away. That is my privilege.

Still, I don’t want to be thought of as a racist. Or an Islamophobe. Or a sexist. I don’t want to look at people and assume bad things about them. I don’t want people to look at me and assume bad things about me. I think most people don’t want that.

I will apologize if my words or actions come across as racist, and I will do my best to revise the thought process that led me there.  But, I will not apologize for not wanting to be seen as a racist. I will not apologize for trying to learn to respect my fellow human beings.

I will not apologize for believing that fear of 0.011% of a group is not enough to fear the whole group.