Several years ago, I followed a discussion among rural northwest Ohio white people about racism. The discussion was quite entertaining. None of them admitted to being racist, and many of them felt that, whatever racism there may have been in the past, it no longer exists (or it is just the product of a few racist outliers).
One man, wanting to show how proud he was not to be a racist, informed everyone that he lived near some black people and they had a really nice house and yard!
As I said, there is no racism around here.
And there’s not, if you think racism=KKK (though the recent rise of local white supremacists groups is starting to change my thinking on this).
What we do have is a latent, subtle racism that shows up in comments like the one I just mentioned. He was surprised that the blacks who lived near him had a nice house and yard. Why? Are blacks somehow predisposed to having trashy houses and yards?
Using this kind of logic, I could make the same statement about white people. Near my ex-daughter-in-law’s home in Defiance, there are four or so homes that WHITE people have thoroughly trashed. All of the houses are rentals, owned by white slum lords who rent to people who don’t care about where they live.
So, what’s up with these white people?
Or, we can stop thinking like this, and realize that some “red, brown, yellow, black, and white, they are precious in his sight” people are pigs (shameless use of Jesus Loves the Little Children). Some landlords are slum lords who don’t care about their communities. Their only objective is to maximize their profits and hope the house burns down in a few years.
I know a good bit about poverty, When I lived with my mom in the 1970s, we were on food stamps and AFDC. I know the shame that comes from using food stamps at the local grocery, or having to get welfare eyeglasses. But, despite the poverty, my Mom kept a clean home — too cluttered for her son with OCPD, but clean, nonetheless. We took care of what little stuff we owned.
These life lessons my Mom taught me, Polly and I taught to our children:
- There is no shame in being poor
- Work hard
- Take care of what you own
- Keep your bedroom/car/house/yard clean
Just because you are poor doesn’t mean you have to make your surroundings look like the county landfill. Taking care of what’s yours and showing respect for the property of others are issues of character, not of race.
Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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