Some time ago, someone on Facebook asked me why racism was such a hot button issue for me.
I was posting about it a lot at the time. Actually, I had been worried that the question would come, and that it would be kind of an accusation like I was having some Rachel Dolezal-type issues. When the question did come it was respectful, and so it wouldn't have been appropriate to ask "Why isn't it important to you?", but that left me having to answer honestly that I didn't know.
I believed I had become more sensitive to the issue as I was seeing more examples and gaining greater familiarity with root causes, and I did say that, but I also admitted that I didn't know. I have always been bothered by the unjust and the unfair, and I have an overly developed sense of responsibility to take care of everyone and fix things based on my own feelings of unworthiness and insufficiency - those things could play factors. I also watched a lot of "Sesame Street" and "The Electric Company" which showed me some diversity and equality in their own idealistic public broadcasting way, but other people watched those shows too, and may not have taken away the same things.
I have a better answer now (though it still leaves some questions about me personally): I care about racism because we will not fix any other problems until we fix it.
Racism is used as a way to trick people into voting against their own interests. Racism is used as a way to keep people on the economic bottom from feeling like they are on the bottom, because at least they are still a few rungs up racially. Being able to treat some people worse creates enough of a buffer that environmental problems are allowed to spread to a point where we are not going to be able to easily fix them once they start hitting a larger group. It is a poison infecting our society. All of that feels pretty important.
At one point I thought I was going to do a post about how slavery was America's original sin, but that would be an oversimplification. There is also the treatment of the Native Americans, which predates slavery. You can fold them both into racism, but it starts with colonialism and greed. Almost a century of indentured servants taught the colonizers how to do slavery - how to make their economy more efficient and profitable and secure. Racism became the tool that made it work, even better than religious discrimination.
If greed is really America's original sin, that makes sense, with love of money being the root of all evil. It could lead one to think that attacking greed would be the most useful fight. It sounds logical, and a lot of people are going that way, and they are being horrible about it because they can't let go of the racism and misogyny that have become so intertwined with their identity.
That actually makes a lot of sense too. The greed was never for everyone. Sure, people have dreams of financial security, or the ability to have a little more, and for some that becomes a dream of having more than others and moving up to elite status, but the way it really works is that very few people get the fantastic wealth.
There can be times when comfort is common, but then the fantastically wealthy always want more, which eventually leads to less people being comfortable. Consolidation of wealth leads to greater and greater want, and the whole system falls apart unless there is something that people want even more than financial comfort. For far too many people - and with far too little awareness of it - that greater desire is white supremacy. There was never any reason to think that Trump was going to make a better economy, or to think he was more honest and ethical than Hillary Clinton. but he sure was good at slandering brown people.
I care deeply about racism because of the pain and suffering it causes. I care deeply about racism because of the healing and goodness it prevents. I care about racism because I am a human being and I care about other human beings. I care because I can imagine better things and our deepest stumbling blocks that get in the way are things that need to be rooted out.
I may not understand why I instinctively felt it before I could intellectually understand it, but hey, I have good instincts.
It doesn't matter. There is reason enough.