I recently finished the first season of a new series on Amazon Prime called “Them”, which in a nutshell is about a black family (The Emory’s) moving into a predominantly white neighborhood in Compton, California in the early 1950’s, just after housing segregation laws were removed there. While the show itself has an otherworldly side to it, much of it is actually grounded in the terrible racism that black people have faced in this country, especially when desegregation began.
To be perfectly honest, there are times I feel very ashamed to be white because of all the awful racist things people of the same color as I have done to blacks throughout our history, something I saw depicted quite well in “Them”. The racism in the series that the Emory’s faced in North Carolina before their move to California was one of the most egregious examples of it I’ve ever seen portrayed on television. What the Emory’s endured both there and in California are ones that countless blacks have experienced throughout our country’s history. Actions that included an entire high school classroom acting like monkey’s and apes while taunting 15-year-old Ruby Lee Emory (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and her getting blamed for it by the teacher. Actions like her father Henry (Ashely Thomas) getting passed over projects he was totally qualified for at his engineering job, not getting invited to company functions, and verbally being bashed repeatedly by his boss. And actions from their neighbors that included a sit-in in front of their home for an entire day with tables and loud music, effigies in nooses placed all around their porch and front yard, racist words burned into their grass, and physical attacks as well.
Sitting through this heart-wrenching series was difficult for me and left me pondering the very same thought I’ve had for many years, that being why so many white people throughout history have been so afraid of those of different races then them. Ironically, some of my best memories in life have been with my best friend Cedric who is black, and whose color has never been the focus or even a forethought in my friendship with him…EVER. In fact, I’ve had many other friends over the years of many different skin colors as well, each of which I’ve been thankful for enriching my life, which is why I found “Them” so sad, as I watched one white person after another never even give any of the Emory’s a chance, solely because of their skin color.
While “Them” depicts much of this racism back in the early 1950’s, it’s regrettably very much still present in our society today, and all it takes to see that is tuning into the daily news. Frankly, it’s sickened me and I’ve felt helpless to do anything about it, other than to continue being who I am, which is someone who loves and accepts everyone unconditionally, regardless of their skin color, or anything else really. I give credit to my Dad for helping me to become this way, as he loved everyone no matter what. My mom, on the other hand, not so much, as I occasionally would hear a number of racist statements come from her mouth from time to time.
Living here in the Midwest of Northern Ohio, I’ve come to see racism more than I ever did when I lived in the Boston and Washington D.C. areas. Hearing people regularly use the “N” word here has disgusted me, and I’ve frequently had to ask people to not say that around me. All of it has led me to believe that racism is a sickness in itself and lies within the insecurity of the racist individual themselves. Deep down I think it’s one’s own inferiority complex in the world that ultimately leads them to try to dominate and control another, often in racist ways, just to feel better about themselves.
I saw much of this during my college years, especially when I dated interracially and where most of my friends were black. I’d frequently be on the receiving end of racist comments then where people of my own race called me a “wigger” and regularly told me I should stick to my own kind. I abhor behaviors like this and want nothing to do with any individual who feels their skin color makes them superior over another or entitles them to anything.
Nevertheless, racism, on many levels, is still very much present in our society today. Many turn their cheek to it, hoping to ignore its ugly presence, but it’s there and it’s never going to go away through policy changes, laws, or punishments. It’s only going to change when each of us go within and fully change ourselves, by learning to love each other for our differences, and not just for our similarities. “Them” was a great reminder of this and I’m at least thankful for having a father who once helped me to see that whether one’s black, white, yellow, or any other skin color, we’re all equal in God’s eyes and as much as God loves each us of unconditionally, so should I with everyone else too.
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson