Paul R. Lehman, What’s wrong with white people (European Americans)

October 27, 2017 at 7:48 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, blacks, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, justice, Prejudice, Race in America, whites | 3 Comments
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Some European American people are in a quandary about what to do about their knowledge of bigotry and how it affects them. A number of things to consider in attempting to address this conundrum involve an awareness of reality, and an awareness of language. To deal with reality is to understand that many European Americans do not realize that society has conditioned them to view themselves as the model of humanity or see themselves as not belonging to a race but as representative of the human race. That conditioning also has them view all people not like them as inferior to them. This conditioning is something that is acquired from living in a society that controls the social atmosphere and shows the European Americans how to see other people, what to think about other people, and how to behave around other people. Therefore, being biased against non-European people comes naturally and seems normal, nothing out of the unusual. For European Americans seeing themselves as the center of the universe is also normal. The awareness is that all the conditioning is base in falseness, myth, lies, illusion and it is bigoted.

They could not see the illusion because society presented everything to them as occurring naturally. The bigotry, segregation, discrimination and other abuses were present in society, but because they were viewed as normal to many European Americans, they did not feel compelled to do anything to address them as social and human wrongs. When the African Americans protested for civil rights, many of the European Americans remained silent although many of them were aware of the injustices African Americans were experiencing. Regarding civil rights legislation, not a single act or law was directed specifically to African Americans, but all Americans. Never the less, African Americans were implicated in every piece of civil rights legislation that included the word race; an action used to make certain the concept of races continued.

One of the ironies relative to bigotry in America involves the efforts of the civil rights organizations. While many European Americans did not support the protests of the civil rights activists, the major segment of society to reap the greatest benefits from the civil rights gains is the European American women as a result of Title lX of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Today, some fifty years after the Civil Rights Act, African Americans experience the least success from Affirmative Action. For example, “The median white [European American] household has 13x as much wealth as the medium black [African American] household; and 10x as much as the medium Hispanic household. Even with a college education: The medium white [European American] person has 7.2x the wealth of a similarly educated black [African American] person.” (The Nation, September 2017, p.5)

The challenge for many European Americans comes from finding ways to deconstruct the illusion they have lived under all their lives. Their initial response to this awareness might come as a shock, not wanting to believe that their lives have been a game of pretending. Shock is the appropriate term because the other stages of awareness follow the Kubler-Ross stages of grief. These stages are important because for European Americans coming to the awareness of their lives being an illusion and replacing that illusion with reality is similar to losing someone to death. The stages are shock, denial, anger, rejection, examination, understanding and acceptance.

Once the acceptance of reality has been achieved next comes how to deal with the reality. Language is the biggest threshold to overcome because we never questioned the language since we grew up with it. So, if European Americans called themselves white now, what will they call themselves instead of white? The ideal would be that they call themselves Americans. Here we must introduce the two identities we all have: a cultural and an ancestral identity. The cultural identity is the one that we choose; the ancestral identity is based on the ethnicity of our birth parents. However, when the founding fathers invented the concept of race by color, both the cultural and ancestral identities was taken away and put in their place were the colors black and white. For many Europeans, the opportunity to call themselves white was worth giving up their identities; for African Americans, the choice was not available.

Unfortunately, many European Americans do not know that they have an ancestral and cultural identity; the only identity they know of is white. If that white identity is taken from them, they are left without a sense of value and worth. For those European Americans who know the value of white supremacy and white privilege, the fear of losing that white identity represents their reason for living. So, they become defensive when they believe that identity is threatened. Any social progress by African Americans and people of color represent to the bigots, a threat to their white privilege.

The constant challenge for America is that people of color see themselves as human beings, even when European Americans see only themselves as normal human beings; they see everyone else as different and abnormal. The problem is how they, the European Americans, see themselves and others, not how others see themselves and European Americans. European Americans have been socially conditioned to see people who do not look like them as inferior to them, and that conditioning, however, feels natural to them.  Undoing the bigoted social conditioning of European Americans must be the responsibility of enlightened and knowable European Americans who know and understand the system of white supremacy. The primary starting point for undoing the social conditioning is with language, beginning with the words race, black and white. Once those words have been debunked, then the process of replacing the bigoted concept of white (European American) supremacy can begin.

In looking at the topic of this essay, how it is interpreted depends on what word or words are emphasized—wrong or white people (European American), and who is doing the interpreting.

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3 Comments »

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  1. This Eurocentric concept of normalcy is harmful when it infects politics, such as the oft-repeated saying, “We are a nation of immigrants.”

  2. As you have expressed consistently, even though it is as a voice in the wilderness, the accurate and appropriate terms to use in the discussion of bigotry (racial discrimination) are: European American (white) and African American (black). But I was impressed that you did not stop there, but said that ultimately, the best category for all of us is, and will be, simply, American!

  3. Dr Lehman, how can I submit an essay or lengthy comment to you for review and posting to your blog? Thanks, Joe


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