Fear of the “other” — of people not within your own tribe — is a pre-historic legacy seemingly encoded in the human genome.
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While such fear may have granted evolutionary advantages to those who kept up their guards in a less interconnected world that still had plenty of space for people to escape threatening neighbors, on today’s crowded and interdependent planet, such conflict-generating impulses are a major obstacle for peaceful, prosperous, and cohesive societies.
The recent expansion of white support for Black Lives Matters protests offers some hope that the values of love, trust, and compassion may yet win out over the tribalism that holds our nation back from the realization of its true potential, but the number of reactionary racist incidents that have begun to emerge at the same time as the protests show that the instinctual legacy of tribalism will not die quickly or easily in modern America.
While much of the racism in the United States is directed at African Americans, a good portion is also aimed at the Hispanic population and — increasingly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic — at Asian Americans.
Given that we have a president who is trying to distract from his horrendous screw-ups in dealing with the coronavirus outbreak by blaming the entire disease on China — calling COVID-19 the “Wuhan flu” or the “China virus” when it could just as appropriately be named after himself — it’s not surprising that Trump followers are taking his lead and striking out at innocent Asian Americans with racist confrontations.
The latest incident took place in Monterey, California last week where an Asian American family went to a recently reopened restaurant located at a spa resort to celebrate a family birthday.
While the beginnings of the incident lack video documentation, the recorded part of the confrontation starts with a female family member asking an unidentified Caucasian man who was seated at a nearby table to repeat the unrecorded slur that he apparently had just lobbed at the family while they were trying to enjoy their birthday celebration.
In response, the man lifts his middle finger towards the camera and tells them that “Trump is going to f— you” and proceeds to refer to his inquisitor as an “Asian piece of shit.”
In a move that helps restore some hope and faith in our nation’s ability to move beyond the racist rantings of a likely intoxicated individual, the restaurant’s staff immediately steps in to defend the family and ejects the man from the premises, telling him that he will never be welcome in their establishment again.
You can watch the video of the scene in the tweet below.
This happened to my friend Jordan last night in Monterey, CA while celebrating her aunt’s birthday. All they were doing was singing happy birthday when this man started yelling disgusting racist remarks. These racists exist and they’re getting comfortable. Please vote! pic.twitter.com/T8RtSKDM3J
— john (@JohnRizkallah) July 5, 2020
While it’s impossible to know where this vile man acquired such hateful attitudes, it doesn’t take much to connect his apparent comfortability with spewing racist epithets to the polarizing rhetoric of a bigoted president’s tweets.
The concept of original sin posits — to simplify a much-discussed theological precept — that humans are all born with flaws that we must strive to overcome during the course of our lifetimes. With slavery and its direct descendant, racism, as America’s original sin, the battle to overcome this inherently evil tendency in our society is a constant struggle.
In order to have our nation grow, prosper, and evolve, it is a struggle that we must win. The other is not our enemy until we make enemies out of them.
One of our nation’s most cherished mottos is “E Pluribus Unum” — “Out of Many, One” — one nation indivisible…at least until a dedicated divider takes occupancy of the Oval Office.
In today’s America, the scourge, the sin, of racism will only be diminished, if not eradicated, by cutting it off at its hatred-spouting head and evicting Donald Trump from the White House.
Only then will the roots wither and die and will we be able to live in peace and harmony.
Original reporting by John Bowden at The Hill.
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