Paul R. Lehman, America’s problem: the myth and superstition of race and bigotry

April 1, 2020 at 7:24 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, anglo saxons, Bigotry in America, biological races, black inferiority, blacks, criminal justice, democracy, discrimination, DNA, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European Americans, identity, justice, law, Negro, Prejudice, President Obama, race, Race in America, racism, respect, segregation, skin color, social conditioning, tolerance, U. S. Census, white supremacy, whites | Leave a comment
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For centuries man has viewed the cat as having mystical powers, some for good, and some for evil and has even included the concept of the cat having nine lives. We generally view the many and various beliefs concerning the cat as myths and even superstitions. However, before a superstition can become a superstition it must first begin as a myth, a story, event, action, person or thing possessing magical, mystical, illogical or irrational powers. The accounting of the myth provides the necessary information for the possibility of belief. For example, at one time it was a common belief that it was a sign of good luck if a black cat came into a house or onboard a ship uninvited. The belief was that the owner of the house or ship would experience good luck and that the cat should never be chased away because by doing so, the good luck would go with the cat. So, the statement simply provides the information relative to the powers of the cat. As long as the information serves as just information, it remains a myth. However, when the supposed powers of the cat become accepted as real and influence the actions and expectations of the home or ship-owner, the myth becomes a superstition. In effect, the information moves from a passive to an active form and become a part of the individual’s psyche.
Why do myths and superstition still exist when the knowledge to explain the so-called mystical or magical powers posited in them can easily be debunked? Scholars say that present-day myths and superstitions are the remains of faded or forgotten faiths, rituals, and beliefs and that in spite of the passage of time the acquisition of information has not robbed them of their powers to still influence people today. For example, “When we touch wood to avert misfortune or drop pins into a wishing-well, or bow to the new moon, we do so only because of a vague idea concerning luck.”That idea of good luck is something passed down to us: “Our pagan forefathers did much the same, but they were moved by a genuine belief in the sacred character of trees, or water, or the moon, and their power to affect those who reverenced them for good or evil. Because of that belief, their actions were rational.”Unfortunately, Christianity and science have not been sufficient to eliminate the power of superstition from many modern-day minds.
In one of his hit songs, Stevie Wonder summed up the primary mental condition and challenges in American society: “When you believe in things you don’t understand, then you suffer. Superstition ain’t the way.” America has been living a life based on superstitions in that it accepted the story of the myth of race and then began living life as though the myth was real. Because the majority of society invented and instituted the myth, the rest of society went along with the program. However, when we take the time to examine just what society has believed relative to the superstition of race, we must ask ourselves, why? The answers are easily recognizable: social control and dominance based on ethnic biases especially of African Americans and other people of color.
Believing that bad luck will follow when a black cat crosses your path is one thing, but believing that simply because of a person’s skin complexion that each and every person of color possesses the same exact characteristics and that these characteristics are biologically fixed in every individual is lunacy. Nonetheless, America has been embracing this concept as real since its beginning. We can see evidence of this lunacy in practically every institution in society. In many rural towns across America one can still find cemeteries marked “Colored” and “White” as signs of just how deep and ubiquitous superstitions can affect a society. Ethnic bigotry has been a part of the American social fabric for so long that trying to acknowledge its existence causes a challenge—the preverbal elephant in the room.
People of color and especially African Americans have had to pay the price for America’s superstition but the changes in the nation’s demographics escaped notice, for the most part, until Barack Obama was elected President of the United States. That election sent a shock wave through a part of America that challenged the myth and subsequently the superstition because Obama represented the antithesis of how the African American is perceived. According to Peter Loewenberg, “In the unconscious of the bigot, the black represents his own repressed instincts which he fears and hates and which are forbidden by his conscience struggles to conform to the values professed by society.”He added that “This is why the black man becomes the personification of sexuality, lewdness, dirtiness, and unbridled hostility. He is the symbol of voluptuousness and the immediate gratification of pleasure.” Finally, he noted that “In the deepest recesses of the minds of white Americans, Negroes are associated with lowly and debased objects or with sexuality and violence.”In essence, the superstition that had been in effect since the founding of the nation had been debunked by Obama’s election and the country was turning sane, almost.
Leaders in Congress, rather than accept the reality of the race superstition being debunked, gathered forces to combat the sanity and reinforce the superstition. We must remember that myths and superstitions are based on belief and according to Solomon Schimmel, “…beliefs are often affirmed even when they are highly implausible, irrational, or even absurd, because of their actual or presumed rewards for the individual and community who affirm and reinforce them.” He further noted that the reason for resistance to letting go of a belief can be extremely difficult in spite of all the evidence against it because of “…the actual or imagined aversive effects of doing so, for the individual and the community. The believer is not always fully aware of these underlying fears and anxieties.”Therefore, while beneficial changes are being made to replace the superstition of American bigotry, efforts continue to promote, maintain, and support it.
With the rapidly changing demographics and greater involvement and participation of people of color in politics and government, the battle for America’s sanity is gaining momentum. The first order of business for America in removing ethnic bigotry, however, is to recognize and then acknowledge the myth and superstition of race.

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