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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

My wife and I watched “12 Years A Slave” over the weekend and now we understand why it won all of those awards. The movie sparked a series of conversations between my wife and I about slavery and how we just could not understand people who would condone such a thing.

A human being, in any capacity, is not open to being the property of another human being. It doesn’t work that way and it never should. I don’t even believe that people should be allowed to have pets unless they completely spoil those pets and take the best possible care of them.

I think what it comes down to is my complete inability to understand racism. In order to be racist, you must believe that a group of people is inferior to you based on some kind of attribute. The most common type of racism separates people based on the color of their skin. But there is also religious racism, geographic racism, and sexism that plague our society.

Religious racism is when you believe that a group of people is inferior to you because of the way they worship their god. Geographic racism is when you believe that people are inferior to you because of where they come from. Sexism is when you believe that someone is inferior to you because of their gender.

None of it makes sense to me.

I have a brother. We both came from the same parents, we grew up in the same places, and we experienced many of the same things. But we are two very different people. My brother is the most intelligent person I know, and I am not. My brother is a musical prodigy, and I am not.

If you were to sit two identical twins down and talk to them, you would realize that they are two very different people. They may look the same, but they are not the same. They have different preferences, beliefs, and feelings on important topics.

The point is that we are all different. Just because my skin is the same color as my brother’s skin does not mean that we are the same person. Just because my skin color may be different from someone else does not make that person somehow inferior to me.

How do racists justify their feelings? How do they justify looking at another human being and then determining that particular human being is inferior to them because of the color of his skin? It could be that the human being they are looking at is more intelligent, responsible, and reliable than they are. So who is the inferior human being in that case? The racist would be.

In my opinion, you are already way behind the eight-ball if you are a racist. You are already emotionally compromised enough to be considered inferior to any other human being on the planet.

Each and every person on this planet is different. Every caucasian is different, every African American is different, every Asian is different, and so on. Your race should not determine your place in the cultural hierarchy. But, I am ashamed to say, that it still does.

Racism can come from anyone. There is no particular group that has exclusive rights to being ignorant. But for the people like me and my wife who cannot seem to wrap our heads around racism, it still remains a mystery as to why it exists.

Don’t get me wrong; I know racism is out there. I see it constantly and it makes me sick. This movie did not help me to feel proud to be an American. It made me ashamed to think that people in this country that I call home could have treated other human beings in that manner and justified it by saying that one race is inferior to another.

We own the Blu-ray of the movie, but I am not sure we will ever watch it again. It is a powerful movie that shows the raw guts of a subject that we should never forget. We should always remember how disgusting our behavior was, as a country, when we first got started so that we will never repeat that kind of behavior again.

The only way to really see the potential around you is to drop your prejudices and reach out to those who have something to offer. Racism prevents you from being able to create a legacy that stands the test of time. Racism shows that your priorities are out of whack the moment you get out of bed in the morning. Being a racist shows just how ignorant you really are, and I am glad to say that I have no idea how that feels.

Nick Oliver is a Niagara County resident and a person who appreciates everyone. His column appears every Wednesday. He can be reached at

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