Paul R. Lehman, Sometimes just good intentions and advice on race are not good enough

August 14, 2019 at 4:06 am | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, blacks, discrimination, DNA, education, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, identity, language, Prejudice, race, Race in America, racism, respect, skin color, skin complexion, social conditioning, white supremacy, whites | Leave a comment
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When a person is born into a society everything that impacts that person’s life comes through association. As that person grows bits and pieces of life’s puzzle are added and continue to influence that person’s perceptions, language, and behavior. All those things represent normalcy to that person because they are reflected in others in the community. However, what seems normal to one person may not be normal to a person in a different community and so a problem is created when the values, ideas, and opinions are challenged when the people from two different communities come together. This problem presented itself recently as recorded in an article, “Adulting While White,” (8/12/2019, Nation) under “Asking for a Friend,” by Liza Featherstone.

The problem involved a “35-year-old white woman” who was befriended by “a 12-year-old” African American girl from the South Side of Chicago. They developed a good relationship where the lady would help her young friend “with homework and occasionally taking her and her siblings to dance lessons.” The girl’s parents approved of the friendship. The problem surfaced when the African American girl, who is of light brown complexion, felt that the people around her might think that the European American friend was her mother. As a result, the young girl began to distance herself from the lady when in public, and in some instances, ignored her altogether. The European American lady wrote to Featherstone seeking help.

In her letter, the lady wrote: “I don’t know what to do. She is a bright, fun child and seeks me out regularly. I enjoy hanging out with her. Yet her embarrassment over my whiteness makes me feel sad, conflicted, and ashamed.”She continued, “Should I stop going to her events, even though I’m invited? Should I ignore the fact that she ignores me? I don’t want to be oversensitive, but I don’t know how to navigate this.”

The answer provided the lady by Featherstone showed a lack of knowledge and understanding of American society, its history and culture. She stated: “The situation is awkward for you, Mentor, but the feelings of this young person may be healthy.”Featherstone added that “For this girl, being viewed as biracial—if she sees herself as black—complicates the process of developing that identity.” Her final advice was to “Keep showing up to her events, and worry less about your feelings. After all, in general, it’s easier being a white grown-up than a black middle-schooler.”Unfortunately, the answer provides no comfort to the mentor but showed a lack of knowledge and understanding from Featherstone.

The central problem of this situation is that all participants live in the past as indicated by their language and attitude. What is missing is an understanding of how they were all socialized to see each other as different based on skin complexion and the concept of race. The mentor identifies herself as white and that tells us that she still accepts the false concept of race by color. Because she still accepts this concept, she will never be able to see her young friend as a normal human being. Colors do two things simultaneously; they unite and separate people into groups. So, as long as the mentor see herself as white and her young friend as non-white, a divide will always exist between them.

Featherstone, unfortunately, falls into the same boat as the mentor because she also accepts the concept of race as valid. An opportunity to teach and enlighten not only the young African American girl but also the two European American women was missed because they were all trapped in the race box. Most people today know that race was invented by the leaders of the majority society to control and discriminate. The term race was invented to take the place of the term species, but the two words are not the same nor can they be used interchangeably. Species is a scientific term that places all human beings in the same family, while race is a non-scientific term used to unite and separate people. To underscore the unscientific use of the term race we simply need to reference the times people identify themselves as being or belonging to a white or black species or being bi-species or mixed-species.

The rapid pace of ethnic diversity development in America is also aiding in debunking the concept of race and color. When we fail to accept the scientific findings that help us to exit the race box, we stay trapped in the past and continue to be burdened with all its negative baggage. Given the appropriate information, all the participants in this situation can begin to move forward in their understanding of our changing American society. Once they can replace the false concept of race by color with the understanding that all people are brown, just different shades, and that we belong to the same species—human beings, then their perceptions, language, and behavior will also change.

What we need to know is that all people have two identities: a national (cultural) identity, and an ancestral (ethnic) identity. We choose our national identity, but our ancestral identity comes to us from our birth parents. We have been conditioned to give our ancestral identity rather than our national identity when asked our identity. A person’s ancestral identity is separate and apart from the national, and color has no part in either. For example, when a visitor from another country comes to America, the only identity that is required is national, i.e. German, French, Spanish, Nigerian, etc., because their ancestral identity is insignificant. However, in America, since we have used color and ancestry to discriminate against some people, social value is often associated with it.

Although we have not yet arrived at the point in America where the concept of race and color are no longer an integral part of the social fabric, we are headed in that direction. The biased perceptions of human beings must be challenged and replaced so the relationships among ethnic groups can occur freely without the barriers of ignorance

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