Anyone can commit a racist hate crime because anyone can be tainted by the ideology that defines people by race.

Share story

Someone stopped by my desk to see if I had a thought about the fact that Julian Pailate Tuimauga, who is charged with committing a hate crime against a black man in Auburn, isn’t white.

What I wish everyone would realize is the racism sprouting from white-supremacist ideology is so pervasive that just about everyone is exposed to it. Anyone can act in ways that support white supremacy or that reflect the view of the world it perpetuates.

When the justice system’s workings lead to a Latino, Asian or black cop fatally shooting someone without just cause, that person is just as dead as if a white officer fired the shot.

Tuimauga is accused of beating DaShawn Horne with a baseball bat on Jan. 20 because he thought Horne had had sex with Tuimauga’s sister. Sex with a black guy is one of the most basic sins against racial purity, if you think like a racist.

The fear of black-male sexuality was at the core of the racist movie “The Birth of a Nation.” Lynchings often revolved around some sex-related claim. Emmett Till was only 14 when he was murdered by white men who claimed he got fresh with a white woman.

Tuimauga made a video that police said showed Horne lying on the ground while Tuimauga delivered a racist rant against black men. A Lyft driver who saw the beating and reported it to police told officers he heard Tuimauga say, “This is what happens when you bring black people around here.”

Reports of hate crimes around the country reached a five-year high in 2016, according to the FBI. Most of the crimes were based on racial animosity, and half of those resulted from hatred of black people.

The error of classifying people into so-called races was compounded because the idea came along at a time when Europeans found themselves in a position to exploit other peoples on a large scale, and in need of a way to justify enslaving some people, while stealing the land and resources of others.

The resulting ideology placed everyone in a hierarchy based on race, and even people who are disadvantaged by it themselves often absorb the dominant group’s ideas.

It’s a sneaky ideology that’s always adapting to new circumstances.

I read an interesting article about the praise Asian Americans get for their hard work and character. It said that, for a long time, Asians were referred to in mostly negative ways, but that began to change as black Americans intensified their fight for civil rights. Newspapers began praising Asian Americans for working hard and being disciplined as a way to put down black activism.

The change in public attitudes allowed Asian Americans to do better than previous generations. But today there is more pushback against the model-minority label by Asian Americans who resist being used in that way, and who are confronting limits on their acceptance.

Lots of people are wrestling with their place in a society still hooked on the idea of race. When I was growing up in New Mexico, many people there preferred to be called Spanish rather than Mexican American to emphasize their European roots. But that’s less common now.

The New York Times had a good article last week about Latino families in New Mexico discovering that their ancestors had once enslaved Native Americans, and sometimes their families include both slaveholders and enslaved people. Some Latinos are embracing their indigenous roots, but that’s not always welcomed by Native Americans.

It’s hard to untangle all that.

It’s an illusion to believe that there is a unified front among people who are not white. The idea scares some people and leads to some of the backlash we see today among people who fear they are losing their place in America. Brown people aren’t ganging up on white folks.

But there are people who recognize the need for a common struggle to become a nation in which color doesn’t define a person.