I saw this on a protest sign this morning. The protest was in the next town over, in Manlius, NY, which is 15 minutes from my home.

1st Response:  feeling the wave of shock and fear crawl through my body, under my skin… pure fear! 

2nd Response: We need to jump up and shout! This is Hate speech!

3rd Response: But wait – it’s not really hate… the foundation is more vulnerable.

Here are some folks who obviously are having a hard time of things. Life is hard for them. They work hard and get tough breaks and struggle to get ahead (whatever that means). And for them, they feel left out and need to shout that HEY! WE MATTER. Life sucks for us too and no one seems to be paying attention. We are not getting what we were promised. It must be all those other people’s fault, immigrants! They want to change things and we want our good old lives back and the promise of a better, easier future for ourselves and our kids. Everyone seems to be backing the immigrants and defending their ways. What about our ways? Good old American ways? WHAT ABOUT US?

So, here’s what I think:

Despite all the hard times and adversity these protesting folks may have faced, I bet they have never encountered an obstacle based solely on their race, on being born in a white body. They also probably never thought about what they call American culture as white culture. They assume their white culture IS American culture. They assume white as norm. Anything different is other.

These folks have hard times, sure. But their hard times are of a different flavor than immigrants, refugees, black and brown Americans. This is not a competition for who has it worse, but being deaf to the inherent racism within American culture is myopic. It is a lack of perspective and broader understanding that has been extruded as hate… 

But it doesn’t have to be that way.