I am ethnically Polish. I have light skin, blue eyes, stood six foot tall in my youth and the “threads” that are not “silver” are “gold”. I could easily pass for several other ethnicities including Russian – or what Americans think Russians looks like anyway. Like America, Russia is a large diverse country. Also like America the politically powerful people are almost all white; therefore when an American thinks of a Russian they think of a Slavic looking white person. What if white Americans thought of a person of color when they thought of a Russian? Let’s explore.
With each passing day Russiagate becomes worse and the known extent to which Russia meddled in our 2016 election becomes larger. Regardless of Party or preferred 2016 candidate Americans should consider it an attack on our very democracy. There is every reason to believe it will happen again and again until we do something to stop it. We should hate and fear the Russian government (their people are innocent in the process). We have many Americans who openly express their fear and/or hatred of Muslims and Mexicans yet nobody talks about banning Russians from coming to America or building a wall to keep them out.
Most Muslims have Middle Eastern heritage and therefore darker skin. Most Mexicans have a heritage that has also left them with darker skin. Unlike me they couldn’t pass for Russian. I look like the politically powerful majority in America. I inwardly laugh when people talk about “real Americans” and they include someone like me whose family is relatively new to America (three of grandparents were born in Poland) but exclude all of my black friends, most of whose families came here long before mine. My ancestors looked like theirs and came as willing immigrants. My black friends’ ancestors came to America long before them but in slavery and had dark skin. To them what defines a “real American” is the color of your skin.
What they fear and (much more) hate is the skin color that is different than theirs. That is why it is easy for them to act inhumanly to Central Americans (they are far from all Mexicans) fleeing gang violence (much of it augmented by American guns that have drifted across international borders) and Middle Eastern Muslims fleeing war zones.
I am aghast at how little fear and/or hatred of Russia there is in America! I have to think much of that has to do with racism and prejudice. I feel the situation would be much different if Americans thought of a black or brown person when they thought of a typical Russian.
One of the pillars supporting today’s Republican Party is racism/bigotry. Much of it is in “code”, but the reality is that a large portion of Republicans hate anyone who looks different than them. You would have to be willfully ignorant to deny that the Trump campaign played to the sentiments of white supremacists last election.
Prejudice is never a good thing. Over our history it has held people back and in the process made us a less productive country. Now it may be giving a hostile foreign government a pass and endangering one of our very core principles: representative democracy.
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