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Everyone in America has spent the past several days talking about racism. The word has been repeated so many times that it doesn’t even really sound like a word anymore. It almost sounds like what happens when you try to pronounce an acronym. Like we’re trying to say “RSZM” or something.

Everyone is all muddled up with the arguments too, because half the people talking think racism means individual acts of easily defined prejudice such as calling a person of color a racial epithet to their face. The other half are talking about institutional racism, which is when social and government systems are aligned in such a way as to give preferential treatment to people of some races above others.

If you are talking about the first thing, it is very easy to believe that you are not a participant in racism. If you are talking about the second thing, it is very hard to believe you aren’t a participant in racism.

Which feels shitty, by the way. It does not feel good to be a knowing beneficiary of generations of white supremacist doctrine that came at the expense of the lives and humanity of millions of people. Doing something about that shitty feeling is harder and we all have to grapple with that because NOT grappling with it will make us complicit in the harms of institutional racism going forward.

Anyway, I recalled that I wrote about racism in the wake of the Trayvon Martin murder and I wanted to share my thoughts from back in that day. I don’t have categorical answers for dealing with the institutional problems of racism but here, at least, I can offer insight into my own personal attempts to rewire my responses to my fellow human beings. Enjoy.

[The] idea that generalizations are never wholly accurate is one of the hardest lessons any of us learns. It is human nature to quantify our surroundings and draw universal conclusions based on limited information. It’s a hunter gatherer survival instinct. Those berries that look that way are poisonous. That creature who looks that way is dangerous. That terrain that looks that way is impassable. That weather pattern that looks that way means trouble, turn back, stay away.

We want to apply that same quantification to people. We want to be able to generalize. But we all have to remind ourselves that there is nothing about humans that is absolute. We, as a species, defy categorization. We embody chaos. You cannot judge people based on anything but individual merit.

And if you’re like me, you have to consciously remember that every single day. You have to struggle with the instinct to pre-judge based on skin color, or eye shape, or gender, or accent, or political affiliation, or job. You have to take a breath every time you meet a person and resist the urge to think you know them based on a flash of sensory input or a two-sentence background dossier.

But struggle we all must. We must. It is the failure to engage in that struggle that leads a man to pull a gun and shoot a boy because he thinks his looks mean something. It is failure to engage in that struggle that leads to raising children who will call their classmates foul epithets that they learned from you. It is failure to engage in that struggle that perpetuates racism, sexism, homophobia and all the other ills that befall society.

None of us will ever be color-blind. It won’t happen. It’s not how we’re wired. The best we can all do is to force ourselves to seek out knowledge about people that goes beyond color, or gender, or orientation. We need to remember, as the great Dr. King dreamed, to judge a person on the content of his character. It’s not easy to do that each and every time. But it’s what we must do, it’s what we must encourage others to do, it’s what we must teach our children to do.

Let’s go forward together with the struggle. It won’t feel good for us but maybe it will help us do good by others.

Stormy Weather (Ep. 144)

This episode of The More Perfect Union podcast covers Trump’s confusing tariff proposal, this week’s Pennsylvania special election, the growing Stormy Daniels scandal, and whether Sen. Elizabeth Warren is really going to take a knee in 2020. Will Greg be running for president in 2020? Listen carefully to find out.

Trade Wars Are Good (Ep. 143)

This episode of The More Perfect Union podcast looks at trade wars, little white lies, the exit of Hope Hicks from Trump’s inner sanctum, the West Virginia teachers’ strike, and some things that may secretly be making the president more cranky than normal.

Teachers Packing Heat (Ep. 142)

This episode of The More Perfect Union podcast looks at the idea of arming public school teachers, the latest in the Trump-Russia collusion investigation, and the possibility of Ohio Gov. John Kasich challenging Trump in 2020.

For more debate between shows, join Open Fire Politics on Facebook.

Black Eyed Prez (Ep. 140)

Episode 140 of the MPU podcast looks at the eight-hour government shutdown, the domestic abuse scandal that has given the White House a public relations black eye, and President Trump’s tenuous understanding of the word “treason.”

Little Donald Trump (Ep. 139)

This episode of The More Perfect Union podcast looks at the dualing Carter Page memos, the stock market freefall, Trump’s war with “Little Adam Schiff,” the new developments affecting the midterm elections, the looming government shutdown redux, and our favorite Super Bowl commercials. It all culminates with a Dirty Dancing tribute.

Perjury Trap (Ep. 138)

Episode 138 of The More Perfect Union podcast looks at Trump’s overseas trip to Davos, his upcoming State of the Union address, and whether Trump’s possible testimony in the Russia probe could be a perjury trap. Or is it a bear trap? Is it all leading to a constitutional crisis? Listen and find out.

Fire and Fury: The Movie (Ep. 135)

Episode 135 of The More Perfect Union podcast discusses the new book about Steve Bannon and the Trump White House, “Fire and Fury,” and muses about who might be cast in the movie.

A More Perfect New Year (Ep. 134)

The first MPU podcast of the new year looks at milestones from the year past and what it means to do a political podcast in our heightened era of political awareness.

The Gender Equation (Ep. 133)

The Christmas episode of the MPU podcast looks at the evolution of teenage gender identity and transgender issues, and then turns light as the hosts discuss their unusual political gifts and tattoo preferences.

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And if you like talking politics, join us in our Facebook political debate group, OPEN FIRE, where you can discuss news and politics with Kevin, D.J., Greg, Rebekah, and lots of other smart, fun people. 

Find us on Twitter at @MPUpodcast

How The Trump Stole Christmas (Ep. 132)

This week’s “More Perfect Union” podcast covers the post-script on the Alabama senate race, the imminent passage of the Trump tax reform (“tax deform”) bill, the net neutrality debate, the latest in the Russia investigation, government revelations about UFO sightings, and Greg’s very strange “Dayton Conspiracy.” Plus lots of holiday cheer from your friends at The More Perfect Union.

The Devine Mystery of Net Neutrality(Ep. 128)

Episode 128 of The More Perfect Union podcast covers the mystery of what ‘net neutrality’ means, the latest in the ongoing GOP tax reform debate, the looming battle over the new head of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, more charges of sexual harrassment in Washington, D.C., and who should be Time Magazine’s Person of the Year.