Paul R. Lehman, Changing America from a racist society will require time and patience.

September 8, 2013 at 5:25 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Indian, American Racism, blacks, CNN, democracy, discrimination, Emancipation Proclamation, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, identity, immigration, justice, mixed-marriage, President Lincoln, Race in America, skin color, Slavery, The U.S. Constitution, whites | 1 Comment
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Turn on the television, the radio, or even the internet and we find the common use of the word race in a variety of ways. We have been told that racism is a belief that people of various biological races have different qualities and characteristics that make them inherently superior or inferior to others. In American we have what is known as white racism. That means people believe that a white race exists and that this race is superior to all others. This belief came into existence in America as early as the middle 1500s when the Spanish would hunt, capture, and sell Indians into slavery. The words racism and racist as well as a host of others are derived from the word race. In America of the 1600s the word race was meant to indicate social and economic status and not color because the slaves in America during this time and later were of various skin colors. Counted among the slaves were Indians, Europeans, and Africans.
The demand for slaves created a problem for the ruling Europeans who quickly embraced the importation of Africans to fill the labor gap. With the introduction of the African into the system of slavery, the ruling Europeans decided to create a buffer among the slaves by giving special privileges to the European or white slaves. We are told that “In 1705, masters were forbidden to ‘whip a Christian white servant naked.’ Nakedness was for brutes, the uncivil, and the non-Christian. That same year, all property—horses, cattle, and hogs’—was confiscated from slaves and sold by the church wardens for the benefit of poor whites.” This was done to create a bond between the wealthy whites and the poor whites as well as create a distinction among the slaves. We learn that “By means of such acts, social historian Edmond Morgan arguers, the tobacco planters and ruling elite of Virginia raised the legal status of lower—class white relative to that of Negroes and Indians, whether free, servant or slave.”(See America’s Race Problem: A Practical Guide to Understanding Race in America)
So, the element of color became a major factor in America’s system of slavery as well as society in general, because all the Africans living in America were not now nor had ever been slaves. Color and Christianity became the criteria for discriminating against people. The problem of free Africans and Indians living in society along side Europeans was a problem for the Europeans. Making a contrast based on the physical appearance of the African and Indian became the primary criteria for creating biases. American society decided to create two biological races, one black, and one white based primarily on color of skin. We wonder why they did not create a race for the Indians. The white race was made to be superior to the black race in every respect. In essence, this was the beginning of racism based on color. Because the ruling class of Europeans had the power and control to create such a fabrication as race it became accepted by society.
Regardless of the truth of a concept, according to scholars, if it is repeated constantly for the benefit of some people, they will after a while ignore the fact that the concept is a fabrication and accept it for fact or truth. That has become the case with the belief in two races, both supposedly biologically different with one being superior to the other. Because of the acceptance of such a belief America and Americans became a racist society.
Some two hundred years after the introduction of slavery in American, we can see how thoroughly the biased and false concept of two races had affected America. When we examine the words of President Abe Lincoln in 1862 as he spoke to a group of free men of color, we recognize the conviction of his belief in race by color: “You [African Americans] and we [European Americans] are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races.” The broader difference Lincoln speaks of is basically, color; other differences existed because the slaves and free African Americans were prevented from experiencing those things written in the” Declaration of Independence” the “Constitution” about rights, freedom and justice.
What makes race so confusing in America is that it was illogically conceived using color as the base for determining superiority and inferiority. How can a society base superiority or inferiority on color and at the same time have slaves and free men of the same color exhibiting totally different characteristics attributed to differences of the condition and status of each individual? Logic does not enter the thinking process when one has accepted as truth or fact that races based on color really exist. Nonetheless, President Lincoln firmly believed that the two races and should be separated because they could not live together in peace because of their color. Fortunately, Lincoln later changed his mind about the latter.
So, what is the point of this discussion? When we examine the past objectively, we can understand many of the things taking place today, and why they are taking place. When American came into being, it came as a society that believed in race by class and economics; later color was added to the mix. One thought dominated the general thinking, however, and that was the supremacy of the whites. In effect, America wanted to be known as a white society with different classes of whites. Other non-European ethnicities were not considered suited for citizenship, but were allowed to live here. For over four-hundred-years or more the most cherished beliefs among many Americans are their white identity and that America is a white country—their country. The concept of race has undergone new analysis and the results reveal that only one race of human being exists in spite of color. So, the theories and beliefs that were created to separate various human beings from each other because of color are being debunked.
Unfortunately, as a society we have not pulled away from our use of the word race and all its derivatives that keep us tethered to the biased past. So, we continue to use words like racist, racism, etc…as if they are valid and accurate. In America, an African American cannot be a racist, if we accept the definition of that word, because in America, African Americans have never had the power or control to create the concept of race superiority and maintain and promote it. He can certainly be biased and prejudiced because those feelings are purely related to the individual, not a group or so-called race. America has been a racist society for a long time, so some patience is required while change is taking place. Progress for some people is very hard.

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  1. Paul, this is an outstanding summary of your work and the ‘problem of race’. I am glad to have it to be able to share with people as it is hard for them to wrap their heads around it when I try to make these points in conversation. I will be glad to have this to email or point them towards to get them oriented. Thank you!


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