COMMENTARY: Remember that racism can cut both ways

A few recent headlines could be filed under the category “Racism Is Bad and Wrong.”

First up, a controversy in which an African-American nurse working at the Indiana University Health system posted this screed on Twitter: “Every white woman raises a detriment to society when they raise a son. Someone with the HIGHEST propensity to be a terrorist, rapist, racist, killer, and domestic violence all star. Historically every son you had should be sacrificed to the wolves B——.”

She was promptly fired.

In Lake Villa, Ill., an Hispanic detective who was in the process of conducting a theft investigation responded to a group of teen suspects who asked why they were being detained with: “Because you’re white.”

It was a bizarre thing to say — Lake Villa is a predominantly white outer-ring suburb of Chicago. If you watch the video (http://bit.ly/2AVUXLC), which immediately went viral, the comment came totally out of the blue, because the teens had not made any references to race or police mistreatment or anything that would seem to elicit such a response.

The detective — who apologized to the teen who filmed the video — was disciplined.

Lastly, the University Star, the student newspaper of Texas State University, recently came under fire for printing a student’s guest op-ed column titled “Your DNA is an abomination.”

The student, who is Hispanic, wrote, among other explosive things: “Ontologically speaking, white death will mean liberation for all. To you good-hearted liberals, apathetic nihilists and right-wing extremists: accept this death as the first step toward defining yourself as something other than the oppressor. Until then, remember this: I hate you because you shouldn’t exist. You are both the dominant apparatus on the planet and the void in which all other cultures, upon meeting you, die.”

The university president, Denise M. Trauth, released a statement declaring, “The column’s central theme was abhorrent and is contrary to the core values of inclusion and unity that our Bobcat students, faculty, and staff hold dear. As president of a university that celebrates its inclusive culture, I detest racism in any manifestation.”

The student newspaper issued its own statement in which it apologized for having “caused hurt” within the campus community.

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 toward 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 in this country.

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.

Contact Esther Cepeda at estherjcepeda@washpost.com.

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