The Danger of Turning “Us” into “It”

By Marsha Wilson Rappaport

Encore Post: In solidarity with our brothers and sisters in El Paso and Dayton

Acceptance of the status quo has never been one of my dominant personality traits. Yet, when I received at lay-off notice from my social services job at the age of 66, my compliant self immediately overruled my warrior princess persona. I abruptly made a CVS run and grabbed a box of 100% Grey Coverage Espresso that would complement the red tones in my mocha skin.

This capitulation comes at a time in our society when labeling the “other” has evolved into a brutal, social media spectator sport. Voting Democratic or Republican has divided families and broken up relationships. Accusations of racism as a symptom of right or left leanings have conveniently obscured the fact that hate has no political party affiliations. Moreover, we have returned to old religious mythologies and a dangerous level of Anti-Semitism has grown back from the pruning of its murderous roots after World War II.

As a result, I instinctively knew that in a job interview, my resume would take a back seat to the visual of the “kindly old grey-haired black lady” who should retire and accept her new role cooking cornbread and greens.
All this nasty social discourse seems impossible to me as a US citizen. The last election cycle pushed the process into overdrive. No one has stopped yelling long enough to take a look at the U.S. Constitution and the intent of men like Thomas Jefferson. None of the Founding Fathers trusted party politics. Their own contentious personal relationships and party differences are well-documented. Despite that they formed a system with some elegantly simple attributes we have all appeared to have forgotten. Simply distilled: No one gets to be King and everyone gets to vote the bums out!
I have been a published journalist since I was a teenager. I am a realist and a cynic. As the result of writing in newspapers for years I have a real low bar of expectations for politicians. I believe that the Founding Fathers got it right. Politicians often screw up and we are here to vote to replace them.
My personal friendships have never included party considerations for those very reasons. I personally like and support folks who have integrity, pay attention to their constitutes needs, and genuinely serve the public. I am also pragmatic, I live in a small town and ignoring anyone cuts down your chances of a pleasant evening during a community BBQ.

In this emerging new world of technologically driven name-calling, we are devolving into rude tribes who swing words much like our ancient ancestors swung clubs. What used to be gossip about anybody now spreads as fact within minutes. We are reviving lynching by creating a world of social judges, juries and executioners. Obviously, destroying reputations, economic status or relationships is not a midnight ride with a rope. And yet, even children are committing suicide now due to social media bullying. The social “gang” effect is just as dangerous and deadly as mob rule was 100 years ago.

Perhaps the most pernicious component of this current state of social affairs is that we have been warned about the dangers of “group-think”. The mechanized, extermination of six-million Jews in World War II was preceded by years of “public social grooming” by a madman.
In short, I must cover my well-earned grey hairs and assumed I have been pre-judged before I walk into a HR office. Because I didn’t like gossip in the pre-tech world, I have no idea how else I have been labeled. Just the fact that I have friendships across party lines may seal my fate. But attempting to accentuate my brain, by faking my brain rug seems like a reasonable first step in invalidating the “it” label.

Encore Blog from my Essay Collection “Sharp Grey Edges” in English and Spanish on