Paul R. Lehman, Why is America experiencing a changing reality in race and color

March 31, 2013 at 12:36 pm | Posted in African American, American Indian, blacks, Chief Justice John Roberts, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, Hispanic whites, justice, Media and Race, Prejudice, Race in America, whites | 1 Comment
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Some African Americans do not like the term African American because they believe it links them directly to Africa. Basically, what they generally think of Africa is not very complimentary because of the images of Africa that American society created when ethnic bias was fashionable. Rather than picture it as the diverse continent it is, Africa was described as a dark, mysterious, cannibalistic, dangerous place where ignorant savages lived. The natives were so ignorant that the fictional white man who ruled the African natives, Tarzan, had a chimp as a partner rather than an African man. Tarzan was called “King of the Jungle” although he was not born there and was raised by apes. That image of Africa was created to discourage African Americans from wanting to embrace it as their homeland. The idea promoted was that it was better to be a slave in America than a savage in Africa. Of course, anyone with an elementary education knows what a tremendously important Africa is to the world and its history. Unfortunately, many people still hold on to the negative concept of Africa.
How people view themselves has a direct impact on what they say about themselves and especially how they act. For example, if someone is called a thug and accepts that identity, then he will use the language associated with being a thug. In addition, his behavior will reflect his idea of how a thug acts. The same thing applies to people who identify themselves as black or white—they speak and behave the way they belief they are expected to speak and behave. Most often their examples are passed on to their children and family. In this way ignorance about race and identity is embraced and promoted.
We know for certain that no such thing as a pure 100% black or white person exist on the planet. Yet, we bought into the absurd concept of “one drop” of blood changing a person’s so-called race from white to black. When America created and enforced the concept to two races—black and white, the other associated concepts like racism, biracial, mixed race, racial etc… were not challenged successfully. However, today we know better, but keep doing and saying the things that reinforce the false and negative concepts of race. For example, some scientist will conduct studies using as subjects black and white people. The problem with those kinds of studies is that black and white is never defined. In effect, does the terms black refer to only people with very dark skin or was the term used to suggest all African Americans? If it was the latter, then were light-skinned African Americans included? Many Americans with dark complexions are not African Americans. Would they be included in such a study? If they were not, then of what value was the study?
Most social scientists and historians know that in America, social and economic status along with ethnic identity play a major role in people achieving their American Dream. Historically, non-European Americans have encountered a more challenging experience is striving for and achieving their dream because of ethnic prejudice. Since the late 1960’s more non-European ethnic Americans have achieved success because the Civil Rights Acts have removed some of the social barriers that obstructed success. Unfortunately, many of those barriers remain, but in a subtle state. Part of the problem has to do with how people view themselves and each other. When Americans view themselves as black and white, they simply reflect the ideology of America’s past that embraced two races. The terms African American and European American eliminate the two race concept and underscore the one family of man concept. When all people belong to the same race or family, comparisons relating to superiority or inferiority of race will decline. However, prejudice among ethnic groups will also exist, but not on a biological race bases. If all people belong to the same family, they can express differences in beliefs, culture, religion etc…but not racial differences.
We create problems for ourselves and our children when we send mixed messages to them regarding a so-called racial identity. For example, when a child has been taught in a General Science class that all people belong to the same race, how do the parents who maintain an identity based on color resolve the conflict for the child? Interestingly enough, CNN had a series of programs about who is black in America. Unfortunately, the program caused problems for a number of young African American ladies because they did not know who they were, thinking that they were either black or white. Seemingly, the majority of people with this problem of identity in America are the African Americans. Other people of color use their cultural or geographical identity like Cuban, Jamaican, Haitian, Puerto Rican, etc… The identity conveyed by these identities leaves no doubt about the culture and geography of the individual. Black and white, on the other hand, give no information whatsoever other than color. Even if American is added to these words, they still provide little meaning until the history of American slavery is brought into the picture.
If we need evidence that the word black is no longer applicable as a reference to African Americans, we can look at the recent comments made by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts, during the hearing of arguments concerning voting rights:”At one point in the oral argument held Feb. 27, 2013, Roberts asked Verrilli, “Do you know which state has the worst ratio of white voter turnout to African-American voter turnout?”(The Boston Globe.com) Roberts used the term African American on numerous occasions during the hearing rather than the word black. (Now we need to get him to use the term European American instead of white)
In addition to the Roberts use of the term African American, we need to know that efforts have been underway for a number of years now to build a museum in Washington, D.C. to house and exhibit information relative to the African American experience in America. The name of this museum is The National Museum of African American History and Culture. Our world and society are changing and either we change with them or be left behind.
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  1. You are spot on as usual. Identifying people by color or even ethnicity is ultimately a mechanism of division and separation used most often (at least historically in the U.S.) to allocate and distribute power. Otherwise it is totally asinine. I respectfully submit that the answer to the CNN question so challenging to those young ladies in “Who is Black in American?” is simple, no one. From the prospective of citizenship consider that collecting data on ethnicity and race has been illegal in France since 1789. Why? Because a citizen of France is considered to simply be French.


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