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Remember: Racism cuts both ways

Esther J. Cepeda on

The incident had the net effect of serving as more kindling on the fire for those who feel that (a) American colleges and universities seem to exist solely to indoctrinate students with far-left propaganda and (b) the only logical response to hatred is more, and harsher, hatred.

The pendulum is swinging back and forth at a dizzying speed, with dueling finger-pointing at others' poor behavior (as if everyone started out on equal economic, social and political footing). The result is escalating vitriol from two sides digging in their heels and increasingly acting as if racism either barely exists or overlays every human interaction in America.

But when people of color start seeing all white people as racist monsters, white people start seeing all people of color as racism accusers. When genocide terminology gets bandied about by either camp, it's pretty clear everyone needs a reminder that two wrongs don't make a right.

"Racism is racism, period," said Gustavo Arellano, author of several books about Mexican culture, former editor of OC Weekly and creator of the popular "Ask A Mexican!" column. "Some people say that people of color can't be racist because they don't come from white privilege, but they're wrong, because that denies basic humanity -- none of us are perfect, we all have our own bigotries. Taking out our frustrations [over injustices towards non-whites] on white people doesn't solve anything."

Arellano told me the same thing my parents said as I was growing up: "There are bad white people, bad African-Americans, bad Hispanics, bad all kinds of people, but we can't paint everyone with one big paintbrush."

When stories circulate about white-profiling detectives of color and students who consider white people "an aberration," they have the effect of making minorities even more of a target for hatred by people who already think we don't belong.

 

And the same goes for white people -- the vast majority cringe at the very notion that they might be envisioned by others as torch-wielding white supremacists.

Before you make any snap judgments about people, remember that racism cuts both ways, damaging relations that may yet have a chance at taking a turn for the better.

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Esther Cepeda's email address is estherjcepeda@washpost.com.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group

 

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