Paul R. Lehman, The challenge of leaving race in the past and pressent and moving to the future

February 10, 2015 at 4:25 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, blacks, democracy, discrimination, DNA, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, Ferguson, Human Genome, justice system, Prejudice, race, racism, skin color, skin complexion, social justice system | 1 Comment
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An article written by Brit Bennett entitled “I Don’t Know What to Do with Good White People,” published by JEZEBEL (12/17/14) is a well-written and personal account of Ms. Bennett’s experiences and relationships with people she refers to as white. This article would fit quite well in the early 1960’s and would have probably been well-received. Today, however, her treatment of the subject shows a refusal to leave the past and move ahead, which would aid greatly in eliminating her conundrum with white people.
One of the first things she should do is bring her information regarding the concept of race up-to-date. She needs to recognize that all human being belong to just one race—the human race. The fact that she refers to European Americans as white people indicate that she supports the concept of a black and white race, which is a fallacy—a creation of society. Because she still sees people relative to a color, she can never move beyond the color to the human being. Her view of society is filtered through the race box. In essence she sees herself and others using the past and present as her guide and not moving beyond both past and present to the future.
We know through scientific studies on DNA that all human beings are 99.9% alike. If we were to take away the skin complexion, hair texture, the eye’s shape, we would all look the same. We have been conditioned to ignore the many similarities we humans share and dwell on the few differences that are man-made. For example, we have been conditioned to look at cultural differences as though they were biological differences. Society has even organized these cultural differences and have us recognized them as stereotypes. These stereotypes are meant to represent the entire group of people as if no individual differences existed among the people in the group. If social progress is to be made, we as a society must move beyond the false racial concepts of the past.
Another thing Ms. Bennett can do is stop helping to support the concepts of a black and white race by not using those terms. The concept of race exists in a similar vein as does Santa Clause in that it is a myth, but people behave as though it is real. Why? The answer is because there is a reward in it for them. Moving beyond the race box means a step into the future. We know the importance of the past because it contains our history, but we also know that our history reveals the choices we made that brought us to the present. Now we must make choices that will move us into the future. Some of those choices are difficult to divorce.
Ms. Bennett wrote that ”Over the past two weeks, I’ve seen good white people congratulate themselves for deleting racist friends or debating family members or performing small acts of kindness to Black people. Sometimes I think I’d prefer racist trolling to this grade of self-aggrandizement.” She continued “A racist troll is easy to dismiss. He does not think decency is enough. Sometimes I think good white people expect to be rewarded for their decency. We are not like those other white people. See how enlightened and aware we are? See how we are good?”
As readers of the article, we can certainly appreciate the sensitive and emotional investment given to this observation. However, Ms. Bennett never defines “Good White People,” and because they are not defined, the reader must make the assumption that they are viewed through the race box; her use of the term racist underscores the point. Calling someone a racist relieves them of the opportunity to assume responsibility for their bigotry. A racist is an individual who represents a group, but the responsibility for bigotry falls to the individual.
The majority of people born and educated in America received a bigoted perspective of society; that is, regardless of their ethnic identity, they were made to view European Americans as the only normal people. Being normal meant that all the values and standards were based on their ethnic group. In effect, because all people were conditioned to see European Americans as the normal human being, they were forced to view themselves as less than normal. Today, we know that no such thing as multiple biological races exist, so the concepts of racial superiority or white supremacy is all fallacy. What is fact, however, is the result of discrimination and prejudice in preventing opportunities for advancement in every area of society by people of color; the playing fields were and are not level. One cannot expect to compete fairly when the conditions leading up to the competition were not fair.
What Ms. Bennett observed in “her good white people” are the changes taking place in society that are throwing into question the mindset of many European Americans. Again, part of the problem as suggested by Bennett comes from the fact that she feels she must do something with “good white people.” Once she moves outside of the race box, she will realize that it is the European America (white people) who must do something—remove the blinders of color, not culture, and see themselves as fellow human beings. Our removing the stigma of ethnic bigotry from society is a difficult and challenging objective, but one that must be undertaken. We will know that progress is being made when people stop referring themselves by color.
Traditional public and private education has done little to inform society regarding the history of America. That is why many Americans see themselves as different from other Americans because of some superficial differences. As society moves away from the concept of race by color and accept the available empirical evidence relative to our being one human family, the problem faced by Bennett will no longer exist. People of color already know they are normal human beings; the challenge is to get the rest of society to accept that fact so we all can move into the future together.

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  1. This is a good critique.


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