Paul R. Lehman, Increase in diversity will cause the decline of race defined by colorMarch 24, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Posted in African American, African American hair, American Bigotry, American Indian, American Racism, blacks, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, Hair, minority, Non-Hispanic white, Prejudice, Race in America, segregation, socioeconomics, whites | 1 Comment
Tags: African Americans, American Indians, Asian Americans, black, Black and Proud, Black Power, current-events, Hispanics, James Brown, Negroes, Prejudice, Race in America, slavery, Stokely Carmichael, white
Many Americans do not like to talk about race in America because of what they know or what they do not know about it. If most people rely on what they were taught in school for their understanding and knowledge of race then they would be in trouble trying to holding a reasonable conversation with someone who is knowledgeable. For example, when someone says he or she is black or white, what exactly is he or she saying? These words have one consistent meaning beyond all others—they represent colors. If either of these words are used my people to identify themselves, the words are useless unless they are associated with American history and American slavery. Let’s be specific regarding this matter.
When Africans came or were brought to America they arrived using their personal identity which carried with it an example of their culture, history and geography. Those Africans that were brought to America were captured Africans who were later made slaves. The first order of business required to enslave a people is to re-create them without a history or past identity; in essence, they must be stripped of any positive value or self worth. The easiest way to accomplish this act is to take away their names and give them new ones using their enslaver’s language. Next, separate them from any kinsmen so they cannot continue to use their native language. Finally, make them see themselves as worthless, despicable, ignorant, and hopeless non-human beings.
One thing history does not readily tell us is that while the slave masters stripped away all elements of their slaves’ identity, the masters retained some important information that would help in asking a better price for the slaves at auction. For example, the slave masters knew the geographical area of Africa the slaves resided in as well as their skills and talents; many were farmers, fishermen, artists, builders etc… This information helped the slave master get a better price for the slaves with experience and knowledge that could help enrich their owners.
In any event, the African captives were made to be slaves and given the name slaves, blacks, Negroes and a variety of other names. The objective was to create the slaves’ new beginning in an environment where they were powerless to do anything for themselves, and dependant on the master for everything. In addition, the slaves were forced to view each other as the master viewed them, at least on the surface. So, the words black and white were employed to serve a number of purposes—white to represent power, privilege, and normalcy, and black to represent the opposite, inferiority, powerlessness, animal-like being. In addition, these two words were interwoven with the false concept of races—multiple biological races. Each so-called race learned to view themselves through their biased concepts. Africans were not called blacks just to deprive them of their identity and culture but also to serve as a contrast to whites.
These two words, black and white, if they are not referencing their respective colors must be associated with something else. The one thing American society has been conditioned to think of when one of these words is used is the other word. Therefore, when some people say that they are black, they are also inferring that they support the concept of multiple biological races and that the so-called white race is superior to the others. Unfortunately, a similar experience is not encountered by people who say they are white. They do not think of themselves as members of a race; they see themselves as just normal people. The only two races recognized in America until after the Civil War was black and white.
Before the Civil War African Americans were not in a position to change what they were called because they never had enough social power to effect a change until the late 1960s and the 1970s. Unfortunately, when an opportunity did arise for African Americans to change what they had been called since being brought to America, they missed the opportunity. In effect, during the Cultural Revolution the young African American civil rights activists opted to change the word black from a negative concept to a positive one. Examples of the process changing the value of the identity word from negative to positive can be seen in songs like “Say it Loud! I’m black and I’m Proud!” by James Brown, or phrases like “Black Power” by Stokely Carmichael. Although this change made a significant difference in the way African Americans looked at themselves, however, because the word black is the same word used by the slave masters for Africans Americans, the change only affected African Americans. European Americans (whites) did not have to change anything. For European Americans, blacks are still blacks, often with the same sentiment.
One additional problem with using color words as part of an identity is that one word does not fit all, if it is to be inclusive; that is, what does it mean to be a member of a white or black race? Are all the people in each race the same color? If not, what makes the difference in the race? If the color is not the main element, then what is? All people with black complexions are not black by identity nor are all people with light (white) skins white by identity. Therefore, the use of each word, black and white, for identity purposes is inaccurate and useless. Again, if these words are used as identity, they must be associated with something other than color.
As America continues to become more diversified the used of the term race will of necessity give way to the use of ethnic groups and ethnicity. Ethnic identity is necessary in America because of the population diversity and the problems caused by the use of the words black race and white race. The U.S. Census already experienced problems with the 2010 census when people of ethnic groups were given the option of selecting white as their racial identity. Rather than loosing cultural and geographical history by using and ethnic identity, these elements of identity are enhanced by it. No one is forced to identify him or herself by using the common ethnic terms like African American, Asian American, Hispanic American, and European American etc.., but the use of the words black race and white race will soon serve no useful purpose with regards to personal identity. The history of the African/African American presence in American did not end when the word black was given a different connotation. Race defined by color will decline as diversity increases.