Zachary Klein

zachYesterday was Father’s Day and I enjoyed talking to my kids and getting their good wishes. But somewhere along the way I realized that I’m lucky. Jake and Matt are adults and able to understand the racism that exists in our country. I don’t need to sit them down and try to explain the underlying causes that produce nine slain Blacks at their own church. And my grandchildren are too young to understand much of anything since they’re 7½ months old, so Matt and Alyssa won’t be doing any explaining for a while.

But what about the parents who must try to make some sense out of this one and the other countless tragedies that routinely occur to Black people every day of the week in this country?

Me, I go crazy trying to think of solutions to this curse. It’s impossible to outlaw hate so the haters keep hating and passing it down to their offspring. So I desperately imagine redesigning our states in ways that allow people who believe in integration to actually live in integrated communities. Where parents send their kids to schools that look like that old Coke commercial. Where the police don’t predictably shoot teenagers because of color.

A dream and not even a satisfactory one. This idea also creates states where people could simply live with their own kind. Would we call ourselves the United Reservations of America?

So let’s pretend that the vast majority of our population really wants an end to racism and everything it represents. What’s to do?

I suppose we can just limp along from one murder to another and accept that nothing of import will change. But I’m not built that way. I can’t sit idly by and watch the disintegration of my society without at least considering some alternatives to the status quo.

I’d start by demanding that all presidential hopefuls begin talking about the 46.5 million people who live in poverty with almost half of them children. Worse, 20.4 million people, were living in deep poverty which means they were living 50% below the poverty line that our government has established. Compared to non-Hispanic Whites, Hispanics are more than twice as likely to live in deep poverty, and Blacks are almost three times more likely to live in deep poverty.

Now take a look at more numbers for minorities: Among racial and ethnic groups, Blacks had the highest poverty rate at 27.4 percent, followed by Hispanics at 26.6 percent and Whites at 9.9 percent. (These numbers come from the 2013 census and I don’t believe it’s gotten any better.)

It’s damn hard to enjoy Father’s Day when so many kids (and their parents), are suffering in a land of plenty.

And even many of our best hopes aren’t talking the talk. I know Bernie Sanders, and a couple of other candidates have spoken some about this issue, but almost always under the rubric of the middle class. Always the middle class and “working people.” Of course we should redistribute wealth to help solidify both those groups, but I want to hear politicians speak about poverty. To take the issue head on and tell us their plans to eradicate it. As some before me, (Martin Luther King to name one) I too believe that it’s impossible to untangle poverty from racism—though there are more facets to racism than just hunger and hopelessness.

White America has always found a way to oppress then blame our victims. And within our boundaries victims are almost always minorities. We’ve done it historically, socially, and culturally so hard and for so long throughout our country’s entire history that it’s become a disease. I’m not talking about an emotional or cultural disease, but one that’s invaded the very being of White people.

This isn’t a metaphor but something I believe to be literally true. Epigenetics, (the study of the process by which genetic information is translated into the substance and behavior of an organism: specifically, the study of the way in which the expression of heritable traits is modified by environmental influences or other mechanisms without a change to the DNA sequence), probably explains an important underlying cause of our racism. In other words, who we are is a combination of our genes and the way the environment affects the expression of those genes. We are racially sick.

We are racist because we have swallowed our own myths about Black people so thoroughly they’ve become part of who we are—right down next to to our genes. We are racially sick.

I’m aware this also works the other way around: minorities have become infused with how their environment impacts them. But frankly, racism is a White peoples’ disease and, if we really want to get rid of our malady, our focus has to be on ourselves and all the institutions we as Whites have created. Until and unless we eradicate poverty and root out our own disease and the unhealthy racist institutions we have created—oppression and violence and blame the victim—will never end.

Difficult for a father to explain to his kids on Father’s Day. That all us White folks have an illness called racism, virtually all our institutions reflect this illness, and since I brought you into this world, you kids have it too. And it’s probably gonna take the rest of your lives, and beyond, to cure it if we, as a people, even bother to try.

And try we must because if we don’t confront our sickness we will forever be locked in a society that will continue to breed separate and unequal. Now that’s a tough tale to tell on Father’s Day.

18 thoughts on “A FATHER’S DAY LAMENT

  1. I cannot ignore that these crimes when committed by whites are not called terrorism by mainstream media. Blacks are thugs gangsters etc but whites are crazy loners. The government has been encouraging this stuff with help frm media
    I also think we need to take the profit out of prisons and release the non violent incarcerated and not stigmatize those who are released

    • Ron–A good start, but only a start. The very fiber of our history and culture is imbued with racism and until White people actually understand and believe that they will continue to remain ill. This goes for all White people. But it’s a hard sell. Hell Whites are perfectly okay with other Whites being dirt poor. So to imagine we can accept that we have the racist disease…

  2. You said I’d hate this article…

    I think the key is teaching or children the truth, and that’s that there are no separate races. We are all one.

    Though it’s be afraid that your two state system would lead to large wars and boarder skirmishes lead by those that will never give up the lie that we’re simply human.

  3. I hate to even suggest it, Zach, because it’s a 1st amendment issue. BUT the German government made this same mistake before the National Socialist rise in Germany. In Boston we have at least 2 radio stations which are fully devoted to bigoted, far right wing views that they express 24/7. It’s no joke, but they support every view that Archie Bunker did and also they are anti union, Social Security and Medicare. The character of Archie supported all three of these institutions. What’s frightening is that there are many stations and shows like Boston’s in EVERY state of the Union. They are extremely popular and many, including some in Boston, are number 1 in the ratings. Unfortunately I have even seen people who were very liberal back in the day, now listening to these shows and supporting their views. I believe we are frighting a losing battle agains the 100’s of Howie Carr’s in the country. They have enormous audiences and are converting large amounts of people on a daily basis. We have nothing that even comes close to competing. The longer they are allowed to operate, the worse the situation grows. As far as banning them on hate speech and inciting violence, I’d love to see it, although I never believed I’d support such an idea. But I believe we have no choice. Unfortunately though, because of our own support of the Constitution, it looks like we might continue to let them sell the rope we will be hung with.

    • Jed–I agree with much of what you say. But like I said in the piece–I’m not built that way. We lose, well, then we will lose. But my job as a writer is to fight for what I believe in and to in this column my most important point has to do with White racism as a biological illness that if we want to change has to be recognized as such. I know the odds but underdogs do sometimes win.

      • Of course you are right, Zach, and because I have kids and grandkids I think I will have to bury my cynicism eventually and join you, Charlie Stella, Russell Blake and the very few other courageous writers who are fighting the good fight and not shying away because of the possibility of losing some book sales.
        Keep up the good fight and the good writing.


      • Les–I see this was in response to Anonymous. At first I thought it had been directed toward me but you know me better than that. I can’t answer for A. but he does say he wouldn’t do it though sometimes he’d like to arournd hate speech.

      • Yes. But I am talking about Public airways. Would you allow someone using a federally issued communication license to advocate physical violence against a minority group? If no, then we only differ by degree. I feel that with SOME of these extremist broadcasters, we have just about reached the limit of what should be allowed on Public airways with federal licenses. As an Amateur Radio Operator, with a federal license for over 50 years, I know for a fact my license would be pulled for certain statements over the air.

        • Sticks and stones break bones, but aside from shouting Fire! in a crowded theater, you’d be hard pressed to prove that what YOU consider Hate Speech actually hurts anyone. And therein lies the problem: “Hate Speech” is in the ear of the be-hearer. If someone says “Affirmative Action hiring policies are wrong,” or “Illegal Immigrants should be deported,” and no one hears it, does it make a sound? Can an unheard sound hurt anyone? Classifying such comments as Hate Speech trivializes true hate speech, as practiced by the Nazis prior to WWII.
          I read an interview on sexual harassment once where the interviewer had asked several women what constituted sexual harassment. One woman said “If a man ASKS YOU OUT and you don’t like it, that’s sexual harassment.” WTF!!! Have we all become so sensitive that we can’t stand to hear someone make an utterance with which we disagree? So sensitive that any dissenting opinion might be deemed “Hate Speech?” Personally, I’m getting to the point where I’m offended by people who take offense at the drop of a hat. It’s BORING and whiny.

          • I don’t know why I come up as Anonymous. My name is Jed Power. And I stand behind my previous statements. If you would have supported banning Nazi propaganda, before they came to power, on Publicly owned airwaves, then again, we only disagree in degree. If the Republic at that time had done that, history may have been much different. I only suggest that soon, in SOME circumstances, we may have to make unpleasant decisions in defense of minorities. And anyone who feels the subject is boring, probably would have sat idly by 90 years ago and told that minority group, and the few defenders they had, to stop whining.

          • Jed–I don’t know why you’re coming up as “Anonymous” either. Will check with my web person to see if it’s on this side. Zach

  4. Let me tell you about my friends who bought a house in JP (in 1979). They were VERY progressive Liberals in every respect. They attended Johns Hopkins (Poli Sci majors). They were from families that had always voted the Democratic ticket. They were all in favor of Boston’s busing program. They were all in favor of integration, and this is as it should be. They were the first people I had ever heard utter the words “Politically Correct” (in 1979).
    Then they had a daughter(1987). When she was ready to start attending school, they quickly became absentee landlords (which they said they had always despised) and moved to Brookline. There was no way in hell they were going to send THEIR daughter to Boston public schools.
    So, if the people who talk the talk won’t walk the walk, how can ANYONE ever change the mind/heart of a racist? If the people who profess to believe in these lofty ideals won’t LIVE those ideals, if they follow their heart even though it leads to a place that is not in agreement with the ideals the profess, what chance is there that they can convince some tattooed, redneck, high school dropout to change what’s in HIS heart?
    Maybe we should start with our friends and family and let them know, for instance, that fleeing the busing they voted for is hypocritical. Maybe we can shame certain Hollywood Climate Change activists into cutting back on their HUGE carbon footprints and settle into a smaller house with fewer cars and limos. Same for some politicians (are you listening John Kerry?).
    Or is that asking too much?

    • Les–Yep. It starts with each of us understanding that we’re biologically inclined to do as your friends did. So yes, it starts with all of us. “How can I work to eradicate this disease?” Then spread the circle. I lived in Boston during the busing situation and lived in an all white neighborhood so had to fight to allow the system to bus my kid into a Black neighborhood.

      Hope all is well.

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