I need to say a bit about what’s going on in the world today, and to confess how it’s affecting me.
Right up front, let me acknowledge the incredible level of privilege that has characterized my life. I’m white, I’m male, and I grew up in a family that, while not wealthy, was able to support the kids with food, dress, and education. I got into computing (over a half century ago, when that was hard to do) by the good fortune of being offered a summer internship without even applying for it, and by parleying that into what has been a quite satisfactory career.
I’ve worked hard, and have some pride in where I am, but doors have been opened for me all along the way, doors that are closed or even bricked up for others not so fortunate.
Some would say that as a white privileged male, I should STFU about matters that I can’t understand. Others surely think I should do more than write my thoughts here. Be those things as they may, I’m starting here. What follows are my opinions, stated as facts. I think I’m stating facts but I’m aware that other people’s “facts” may not match mine.
I strongly believe and understand that the USA is deeply racist. Not just “the south”, not just the “right wing”, not just “the evangelicals”, not just any group you might want to name that you happen not to be a member of. The whole society and its mechanisms are biased against black people (and other groups as well).
To me, this is obvious with a moment’s thought. I’m reminded of Chris Rock’s famous “joke”: “You white people wouldn’t trade places with me, and I’m rich!” And it’s true. It seems to me that you’d have to be closing your eyes to things not to know that you wouldn’t want to be stopped in your car if you were black, not to notice that people on your neighborhood watch mailing list call the cops if they see a black person in a car in the neighborhood, or if they see one going door to door.
And this racism is wrong. It is flat wrong, immoral on the face of it. Race isn’t even a legitimate concept and even if it were, our constitution says “all men are created equal”, and by the way, that should say “all people”, since we have presumably learned a bit since the 1700s. Every human being starts out with the same rights as every other one. No person should suffer any kind of uphill battle because of the color of their skin (or their gender or orientation or …).
And yet, they do suffer.
Right now, the nation is in a spasm of reaction to its inherent, built-in racism. Victims of racism, and thoughtful observers, are rising up because of some recent flagrant events that are clear evidence of that racism.
We could argue about the effectiveness of some of that spasm. There’s no reasonable argument about the cause, which is a long history of systematic, built-in discrimination against black people. (And there are related systematic evils as well.)
The question for all of us is what to do. And, for myself, beyond voting, a bit of tweeting and retweeting, and writing this, I honestly do not know what I should do. I didn’t know what I should do even before this racism thing boiled up. The rank intentional ignorance and stupidity of the government, and of a large minority of voters, already had me near despair. So this added stuff, well, it really daunts me.
I do not know what to do other than to try to echo the truth as I see it. Maybe I can put some money toward solving the problem, though I am not made of the stuff. If you know of things I should do and care to share them, please write to me. I’ll listen.
Beyond that, here’s my confession:
My “comfort food”, as GeePaw Hill put it privately and on Twitter this afternoon, is programming, and writing about programming. I am doing it during these “uncertain times” to keep myself sane and to avoid the depths of depression that any sensible person might fall into these days.
I will continue to write my articles, because I can, because they are how I express my humanity, and because they are a comfort to me. If it’s too soon for you, please don’t read them. If you get a little joy or comfort from them, please do read them.
And if you have an opinion on my writing them, and you write to me, I’ll listen to what you say about this as well. But if you want to convince me that the country isn’t racist, save your ink. I won’t listen to that.
Be safe, and act and vote to make the world a better place, not just for yourself, but for all of us.
Thanks for being there, for me and for each other.