I have looked at many definitions of racism. According to those definitions, I am not a racist. But my experience indicates that I have been part of the problem.
Fifty years ago, I was lost on the south side of Chicago on a warm summer evening, pushing my dead motorbike through a Black neighborhood, walking past gathered groups of men and teenage boys. And feeling fear. None of those I passed said or did anything threatening, but what I felt was fear. Fear of people who were different from me. I had not previously experienced a personal relationship with a Black person, and my neurocircuitry engaged me in fear. Since then, I have had experiences and relationships with Black people, and found them to be much like my own race: a mixed bag, but mostly good folks. Like me.
I wonder if many of the police officers who have abused and murdered Black people may have this same dangerous blockage that I have felt: fear. Fear of people who are different. Yes, some whites have hatred in their hearts and some do believe their race is superior. There is real racism among us, institutional and personal. But I suspect that many police officers suffer from the same fear that I recognize.
As a society, we need to learn of the history and dehumanizing impacts of racism and listen to the stories and hearts of those who have experienced racism. And then, for those like me, who have not felt they are part of the problem, perhaps we can learn by looking at our unseen fears and then open our own minds and hearts.
Kerry Soelberg, West Jordan