Paul R. Lehman,The phrases: “black people” and “white people” contribute to the system of ethnic bigotryMarch 3, 2017 at 4:01 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, American Indian, American Racism, Bible, Bill Nye Undeniable, black inferiority, blacks, democracy, discrimination, DNA, Dorothy Roberts, entitlements, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, freedom of speech, Human Genome, identity, justice, minority, PBS NEWSHOUR, Prejudice, President Obama, race, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, U. S. Census, University of Penn., white supremacy, whites | 2 Comments
Tags: "black people", "white people", African American, American History, bigotry, Bill Nye, black, Confronting Myths, current-events, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, ethnic identity, ethnicity, European Americans, language, minorities, Negro, Oriental, Prejudice, President Obama, Prof. Dorothy Roberts, race, Race in America, Sarah Tishkoff, skin color, skin complexion, U of Penn, white
So, what is wrong with saying “black people” and “white people” as part of our daily language usage? The answer does not include a right or wrong response, but one of understanding the significance of those phrases. Both phrases make references to the concept of race by color which is a social invention, not a biological fact. The phrase “black people” is not the same as “African American people” nor is “white people” the same as “European American people”; they are not interchangeable. However, with each use of these phrases the system of European American (white) supremacy and African American (black) inferiority is maintained, supported and promoted. When people of note use those phrases, their usage gives the impression that the phrases are acceptable in our general speech.
We need to understand and acknowledge a fact of life: races of black people and white people do not exist on the planet. According to noted scientist Bill Nye, “Any differences we traditionally associate with race are a product of our need for vitamin D and our relationship to the Sun. Just a few clusters of genes control skin color; …and they are tiny compared to the total human genome.”He continued by noting that “We all descended from the same African ancestors, with little genetic separation from each other. The different colors or tones of skin are the result of an evolutionary response to ultraviolet light in local environments.”(Undeniable, p. 254-55)
Americans have been conditioned to view themselves and others as different through the spectrum of color when information to the contrary has always been present. Scientist, Neil de Grasse Tyson, was once asked the question “what are human beings”? He answered that we are all made of stardust. Before we take that response as a joke, remember what the Bible and other sacred books said of human creation: mankind was created from the dirt and clay. This information agrees with Neil de Grasse Tyson in principle but is emphatic in the Book of Common Prayer in the statement:”Ashes to ashes dust to dust” usually associated with the burial of humans. In any event, the skin color of a human being does not give favor or preferences to any shade or tone because as Nye stated: “Everybody has brown skin tinted by the pigment melanin. Some people have light brown skin. Some people have dark brown skin. But we all are brown, brown, brown. (Nye, p.255)
Because the system of ethnic bigotry is based on skin color, each reference to skin color reinforces the concept of European American (white) supremacy. However, the reference to black people and white people as racial identities have created problems for many years and can no longer be controlled. In an interview with two scientists discussing the issue of race in their works, Sarah Tishkoff noted that “We know people don’t group according to so-called races based purely on genetic data. Whenever the topic comes up, we have to address, how are we going to define race? I have never ever seen anybody come to a consensus at any of these human genetic meetings.”
A response was given by Dorothy Roberts: “That’s because race is based on cultural, legal, social and political determinations, and those groupings have changed over time. As a social scientist, looking at biologists treating these groupings as if they were determined by innate genetic distinctions, I’m dumbfounded. There’s so much evidence that they’re invented categories. How you can say this is a biological race is just absurd. It’s absurd. It violates the scientific evidence about human beings.” (https://africana.sas.upenn.edu)
So, confusion continues with the constant use of identities based on skin color in medical research as well as all other social areas.
Since we know that biological races are a false social concept, our continued usage of terms that underscore it’s existence only serve to maintain and promote ethnic separation and bigotry. The fact that the term “racism” continues to be used indicates a number of concerns; one, some people using the term are innocent or ignorant of its direct relationship to maintaining the system of ethnic bigotry; two, some people using the term are stupid and are simply following the conventions of a bigoted society; three, some people using the term are simply bigots and are well aware of its support of the system of ethnic supremacy and want to promote it; some people using the term know its social significance relative to the system, but are seemingly not fully informed or are not concerned with its impact on society.
While the phrases “black people” and “white people” are the primary focus of this text, other phrases serve nearly the same function of maintaining and promoting the system of bigotry. For example, people who identify themselves as bi-racial or mixed race actually lend support to the system of ethnic bigotry because by using those phrases they are underscoring their acceptance of the false concept of racial superiority of so-called white people. Much of the problem comes from the language used by the inventors of the system with American society not being aware of the system, just its effects. A system of bigotry cannot be replaced if knowledge of its presence is not known. Through the language, the effects of the system of bigotry could be very apparent while the system itself can go undetected, which is largely the case in America today.
The need for awareness of language was the focus and objective of House Resolution 4238, which amended two federal acts dealing with insensitive and/or outdated language. For decades the term “minorities” used in federal language referred to people of color: Negro, Puerto Rican, American Indian, Eskimo, Oriental, etc.”President Obama signed the new bill that changed the language to “Asian American, Native Hawaiian, a Pacific Islander, African American, Hispanic, Puerto, Native American, or an Alaska Native.”(Obama signs bill eliminating ‘Negro,’ ‘Oriental’ from federal laws, PBS NEWSHOUR, 5/22/2016) Rather than being lumped into a group called “minorities” each ethnic group now has the opportunity to use it own ancestral or cultural identity which reflects personal self-worth and social value.
When phrases like “black people” and “white people” are used, they lack specificity because no one group of people on the planet represents either a black or white race. Their use only adds to the support of the system of bigotry. Confusion exists when those phrases are used because the reference is unclear relative to a skin color or a vague concept of a culture. So, if we are serious about replacing the system of bigotry, we can begin by using the appropriate language. Truth to the word!
Tags: African Americans, ancestral identity, Australian, bigotry, Bill Nye, black, Brazilian, China, cultural identity, current-events, DNA, ethnic, ethnic identity, ethnicity, European Americans, Iran, Iranian, NBA, race, Race in America, Russia, skin complexion, U.S.Census, white
When the founding fathers invented the system of European American (white) supremacy and African American (black) inferiority their basic mistake was to base their system on race by color. As long as they controlled society, they controlled the system, but they could not control the color of each group or the fact that we humans belong to one species of Homo sapiens. Time would eventually debunk the myth of race and begin to deconstruct the social conditioning forced on society. Many Americans are still today confused relative to the difference between race and ethnicity. Much of the confusion was caused by the scientist who wanted to push their own theories about race since it has never been defined socially. Even the term “white” experienced a number of transitions in its application to various immigrant groups to America—examples of Anglo-Saxon whites, free whites, lesser whites, and Caucasians were common. All these groups, including people of color, were considered ethnic groups, except the Anglo-Saxons.
With all the demographic changes taking place in America and the world today, a clear understanding of the terms race and ethnicity is in order. We began by stating that all human belongs belong to one race. What we commonly refer to as races today simply does not exist. We are all of one blood. The differences we experience in others come from our cultures and places of habitation. Those differences represent our ethnic differences and have nothing to do with race. The problem has been that we use race to mean ethnicity or confuse something purely cultural with something we think is biological. According to Bill Nye, author of Undeniable, (2014) “In evolutionary terms or fact, we are all almost identical. We each share 99.9 percent of the same DNA.”
All of our social identities are based on either our cultural and/or geographical attachments; one or the other or a combination of both geography and culture represent the ethnic identity. People from countries like China or India will have their culture included in the country’s name. The name of the country usually serves as the person’s ethnic identity if that country is the one of his or her birth. If, however, the parents of the person are known for their cultural identity, for example, American Indian, then the cultural identity serves as the ethnic identity. Because of these two influences, all people have two separate and often distinct identities—one ancestral or ethnic, and one cultural.
An example is in order here: If a Russian male and an Iranian female marries and have a child, that child will have an ancestral (ethnic) identity that includes both Russian and Iranian parents. However, depending on the country in which the parents are living, their child’s cultural identity might be totally different from the parents. That is, if the family is living in Iran, then the child’ cultural identity will, unless certain circumstances prevent it, reflect that country and culture. If for example, the couple lived in America, the child’s cultural identity would be American. At some point in the child’s life, a choice of a parent’s ethnic identity might be embraced. The child’s cultural identity of American will remain unless and until it is relinquished.
Another way of viewing ethnicity is by looking at the identities of the diverse people who come to America. No one comes to America legally with an identity where color is stipulated, only the geographical identity which more often than not includes the cultural identity. For example, many professional athletes from foreign countries come to work in America and regardless of their ethnic and/or ancestral identity, are identified by their geographical identity. For example, the following professional basketball players of brown complexions, are simply called Brazilians: Nene, Anderson Varejao, Tiago Splitter, Lucas Nogueira, Bruno Caboclo, and Leandro Barbosa. Two players from Australia, Kyrie Irving and Patty Mills, players with brown complexions, are known as Australians, not by their ethnic identities, but by geographical (cultural) ones. That is not to suggest that their ancestral identities are not important to them, they are not necessary to underscore their cultural identities.
Because our founding fathers instituted the system of supremacy and forced the social conditioning on all Americans, race has been at the core of all social challenges. All the social biases Americans of color experience today are based on race. Now that society is starting to understand the confusion caused by race by color and is working to replace the system of bigotry, not knowing what to do about race is a problem. We know that race is an illusion, but one that we have been living with since the beginning of our society. As race continues to lose its social value, it has to be replaced with something and that something is ethnic and cultural identities. Ethnic identities were and are important in collecting data so society and the government can monitor what is taking place relative to the general population and each ethnic group. The U.S. Census began in 1790 was a way to maintain and control the population, especially the ethnic groups of color. The changing demographics in our world and society continue to blur the lines of race as an acceptable term suitable for social identities.
Today, if each group is identified by ethnicity rather than race, discrimination by race would no longer possible. As society pushes through this process of change from racial identities to ethnic ones, we must recognize that arriving at ethnic identities is just a temporary pause, because the end result, in an idealistic sense, is having a need for no other identity than American.
The primary reason for some Americans to identify themselves as European American, African American, and Asian Americans etc…comes from a lack of information about their countries of origin. The results are seen in the terms European, African, Hispanic, etc… that rely on either geography or culture to fill in that space before “American” for ethnicity identification. The over-all objective of identity in our democratic society is for everyone regardless of their ancestral, ethnic or cultural identities to be seen and known as Americans. Embracing, promoting, and being proud one’s ethnic identity does not take away from the fact that America should value all ethnicities. Two facts remain—no one chooses his or her ancestral (ethnic) identity, and everyone can choose his or her cultural identity.
Tags: African American, bigotry, black, Confronting Myths, current-events, discrimination, DNA, Donald Trump, Dr. Robin DiAngelo, European Americans, Obama and American Bigotry, Prejudice, Presidential election, race, skin color, skin complexion, white
Much of the trouble today is being caused by changes in our society and the world that people do not understand or appreciate. Many people are concerned and worried about the new president-elect Trump and what effect his presidency will have on society. The people to be most disappointed relative to Trump’s election and his presidency will be his base supporters. They will be disappointed because Trump will not be able to deliver on the promises he made during his campaign. Politicians make promises based on things they think their followers want to hear knowing that those many of those promises will never be fulfilled. The supporters of many politicians suffer from innocence, ignorance or biases that prevent them from seeing the unrealities of the claims and promises made by their candidate. Once reality sets in, the people will see where they were misled into believing things they wanted to happen were just not possible.
The theme of Trump’s campaign was “Make American Great again,” which in code language is “make America white again.” The phrase and its sentiments have been used time and time again to garner support from the European Americans who believe that they have been left behind by the government in favor of immigrants, women, LGBT, and people of color. They still, however, enjoy the privileges that come with being European American (white) but are in fear of losing them. So, when Trump said that he wanted to make America great again, his followers knew what he meant and felt encouraged that the social changes that had taken place would not threaten their privilege and control. Regardless of what the candidate promised one thing that cannot be stopped is change. Trump supporters called for change, but what they really wanted was no change except to go back to reclaim some of the advantages they believed they lost to immigrants, women, and people of color.
So, what exactly are many European Americans afraid of losing that would cause them to disregard their sense of integrity, character, decency, values, and standards by electing someone who reflects none of these traits? The answer can be found in the social conditioning experienced by Americans since the days of the founding fathers and their inventing and instituting the system of European American (white) supremacy and African American (black) inferiority. In other words, they invented the concept of a black and white race with the white race deemed superior to all non-white races for the purpose of controlling them. Dr. Robin DiAnglo commented on this experience: “This systemic and institutional control allows those of us who are white in North America to live in a social environment that protects and insulates us from race-based stress.” She continued by noting that “We have organized society to reproduce and reinforce our racial interests and perspectives. Further, we are centered in all matter deemed normal, universal, benign, neutral and good.”With the rapid changes taking place in America, the control presently in the hands of European Americans is under constant threat of change, and is, in fact undergoing change.
The social conditioning European Americans receive in society includes little if any reference to race; therefore, they are never stressful regarding race. Society has told them that they are the representatives of the human race; they are the normal people. All other people belong to a separate race. For example, when stories are reported in the media, usually, the only reference to ethnicity occurs when the subject or subjects of the story are not European American (white). If the story concerns European Americans, ethnicity (race) is never mentioned because society must assume that the subjects are European Americans and no ethnicity (race) is required.
Another feature in American society that conditions the European Americans, as well as the rest of America to the European Americans sense of normalcy can be observed in any pharmacy or department store. All one needs to do is to ask for stockings in a nude or natural color and look closely at the color. The color will match the skin complexion of European Americans. The same scenario exists with cosmetics as well as with bandages and Band-Aids; their color approximates the European Americans’ complexion.
European Americans being able to see themselves as normal or without race or ethnic identity is constantly reinforced by and through society. They are also conditioned to see themselves as superior to all other so-called races. Both the elements of normalcy and superiority comes with a large degree of a suspension of disbelief when one realizes that people of color, according to the sciences, were the first of the Homo sapiens to appear on the planet, and in Africa. So the normal color for a human being would be non-white, not white. Also, the concept of superiority seems questionable in light of the fact that when any person of color procreate with a European American (white), the off spring generally manifest physical characteristics of the parent of color. That would suggest that the superior genes reside within the people of color. In addition, eighty percent of the world’s population reflects people of color; that number alone would suggest that the longevity of European Americans (whites) is limited. All those things make little difference when we read that our DNA show we are all from the same family of man and a specific or distinct race cannot be discerned from DNA.
The invention and instituting of the system of European American (white) supremacy and African American (black) inferiority was based on a false concept of race. The fact that the system has been able to sustain itself for so long is due to the control that European Americans have had on society. Now that the system is falling apart due to changes constantly occurring in society, the fear of losing that control and all it represents was possibly at the heart the presidential election. Regardless of who is president, changes will continue to destroy the system of bigotry. The challenge for the European Americans today is replacing the concept of being white and superior with one of being simply a member of the family of mankind without reference to preferences and skin color.
Paul R. Lehman, President Obama signed a bill eliminating the word Negro that signals change in identitiesAugust 15, 2016 at 11:24 pm | Posted in African American, American history, American Indian, American Racism, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, discrimination, DNA, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, Hispanic whites, identity, immigration, law, minority, Non-Hispanic white, President Obama, public education, Race in America, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, U. S. Census, U.S. Supreme Court, white supremacy, whites | 1 Comment
Tags: American History, ancestral identity, black, cultural identity, current-events, ethnicity, European Americans, Hispanics, Kamala Kelkar, minorities, Negro, Obama and American Bigotry, PBS NEWSHOUR, President Obama, race, Republicans, skin color, skin complexion, slavery, white
When Africans were brought to this country and enslaved, one of the first things taken from them was their identity. Taking away their identity was important because it represented the history of who they were and that they were valued. Although each enslaved African would be given a slave name, they would all be commonly called black or negro because of their skin color. The African identity was taken away from the enslaved, but the slave sellers and owners knew who they were, what they did (farmer, fisherman, craftsman, etc…) and where they were from because their selling price would be influenced by that information.
An example of the value of the African’s identity was underscored in a 1764 poem by James Grainger, “The Sugar Cane.” This poem was constructed using four parts called books; the fourth book, “On the Genius of Africa,” shows the value of a slaver knowing the identity of the African captives: “Negroes when bought should be young and strong. The Congo-Negroes are fitter for the house and trades, than for the field. The Gold-Coast, but especially the Papaw-Negroes, make the best field-Negroes: but even these, if advanced in years, should not be purchased.” This information focuses on males, for females the advice is when looking for a sound Negro: “Where the men do nothing but hunt, fish or fight, all the field drudgery is left to the women: these are to be preferred to their husbands.” The reference continues for males: “The Minnahs make good tradesmen, but addicted to suicide. The Mundingoes, in particular, subject to worms; and the Congas, to dropsical disorders.”(The Making of the Negro in Early American Literature, Paul R. Lehman, 2nd edition, Fountainhead Press, 2006, P. 38)
For enslaved Africans in America, their identity was taken away so their history and value would be tied to American slavery. If the only identity an enslaved person had was that of being American black or Negro (both terms mean the same) then they did not exist except in the system of slavery. The only personal identity they had linked them to their owner, as in the reference—John Smith’s Negro, “Tom.” During the early 1700’s,the term for slave went from Negro and black to simply “slave” due to the common coupling of the two phrase “black slave” or “Negro slave.” However, many of the enslaved were still Europeans and American Indians, but the majority of the enslaved was African/ African American.
Once the government instituted the system of white supremacy and black inferiority, race by color became an important part of personal identity in American society. Americans were no longer able to identity with a particular ethnic or culture group. Kamala Kelkar, (PBS NEWSHOUR, 5/22/2016), noted that “In 1790, the U.S. Census counted people by lumping them into one of three categories—slaves, free white females and males, or all other free persons.”The most important identity an American could have or want to have was white. The most damning identity one could have was that of either slave or Negro.
Immigration to American from around the world, but especially Eastern and Southern Europe brought many changes to the invented concept of race. Although most European immigrants were not referred to as white, they all were willing to give-up their cultural identity to be called white. For people of color, the term Negro was used regardless of their place of birth outside of the U.S. As recently as 2010, the Census form still included the term Negro or black, but the list for other people of color had expanded. Kelkar explained that “The Department of Energy Act has for decades described “minorities” as, “Negro, Puerto Rican, American Indian, Eskimo, Oriental, or Aleut or as a Spanish-speaking individual of Spanish descent.”Because of the system of white supremacy and black inferiority, people of color were identified as “minorities.”
For over two-hundred years the words race and ethnicity were generally undefined and used indiscriminately to the confusion of all, especially the U.S. Census. As recent as 2010, Americans in a number of categories were told on the Census form to identify themselves as white, if they could not find an identity that suited them. This group included mixed-ethnic individuals such as Asian Americans, American Indians, and Hispanics. In effect, the concept of race by color had reached a point of meaninglessness. The problem was that the terms race was interpreted as pertaining to multiple biological groups of human beings or ethnic groups. The fact is that only one race of human beings exists—Homo sapiens. Ethnicity or ethnic groups pertains to the variety of cultural groups within the human race.
Every human being on the planet Earth has two identities—one ancestral or ethnic, one cultural. The ancestral or ethnic identity is represented by a person’s biological parents; the cultural is the identity the individual selects. For example, an Asian American has Asian as an ancestral identity, and American as the cultural which he or she embraces. The terms Negro and black do not allow for either identity nor does the terms white and Caucasian. Fortunately, things are about to change.
President Barack Obama just recently signed H.R. 4238 “which amends two federal acts from the 70’s that define “minorities” with terms that are now insensitive or outdated.” In addition, the bill was sponsored by Rep. Grace Meng, D-NY, with 74 Democratic co-sponsors and two Republican ones;” it passed with 380 votes. The two words removed from the books are Negro and Oriental. According to Kelkar “The new bill changes the language to, ‘Asian American, Native Hawaiian, a Pacific Islander, African American, Hispanic, Puerto Rican, Native American or Alaska Native.’”
The changes in identity were inevitable because race by color was an invention based on false assumptions and beliefs. Black or Negro and white or Caucasian were never biological categories of the human race but were put in place because of the government’s control. No one ever came to America with only the identity of black, Negro, or Caucasian or white; they always had an ancestral and cultural identity. Once in America, however, the Europeans recognized the value of being identified as white and so the abandoned their ancestral and cultural identity for white. People of color coming to America realized the stigma associated with being call Negro or black and usually decided to retain their ancestral and cultural identity. Now the people of color who were previously called Negro can be specific in their ancestral and cultural identity—African American. For whites and Caucasians, no official changes have been made although the term European Americans was used on occasion by the Supreme Court, but they always had the freedom to identify themselves using their ancestral identity such as Irish, Italian, Polish, German, etc. In any event, the fact is that identity-based on race by color is rapidly being deconstructed.
Tags: African American, African Americans, America, American Education, amygdala, black, black and white race, Chris Mooney, Confronting Myths, current-events, David Amodio, ethnic identity, ethnic prejudice, ethnicity, European American, European Americans, Mother Jones, Prejudice, race, racial group identity, racism, racists, tribalism, white
In a current (January/February 2015) article by Chris Mooney in “Mother Jones,” “Are You Racist? Science is beginning to unmask the bigot inside your brain,” we are introduced to a number of tests, exercises, games and other activities that are focused on helping to identify and control our prejudice. Most of the tests and activities involve our association with things that seemingly feed into our prejudices. Unfortunately, the article failed to achieve its objective if that objective was to help us identify ourselves as racist and to try to address the problem in a rational way.
The first problem in the article was its failure to define racist. Had the term racist been defined, then we would have a basis from which to launch a rational discussion. Racist is a spin-off of the term race that is generally associated with science. The concept of race in America is based on an illusion, a creation, and a lie when it becomes plural, as in black race and white race. As far as science is concerned, the only race we need be socially concerned with is the human race, and it is not based or defined by skin color.
Rather than making clear or defining the terms African American and European American, Mooney uses the words black and white interchangeably with them respectively. These terms are not interchangeable—they have separate and unique meanings; that is, all blacks are not or consider themselves African Americans, and all whites are not nor do they consider themselves European Americans. The article does not make that distinction. Consider the following statement regarding the test referred to as Implicit Association Test: “The test asks you to rapidly categorize images of faces as either “African American” or “European American” while you also categorize words (like “evil,” “happy,” “awful,” and “peace”) as either “good” or “bad.” Faces and words flash on the screen, and you tap a key, as fast as you can, to indicate which category is appropriate.
Sometimes you’re asked to sort African American faces and “good” words to one side of the screen. Other times, black faces are to be sorted with “bad” words.”
We notice the shift from African American faces to black faces in the about quote and this is no exception regarding these terms; it happens throughout the article. According to Mooney these tests and activities were created to measure ethnic prejudice in society, but seemingly overlook the fact that we were born into an ethnically biased society. Our perspectives are based on our social conditioning. The assumption made in the article is unrealistic:
“You think of yourself as a person who strives to be unprejudiced, but you can’t control these split-second reactions. As the milliseconds are being tallied up, you know the tale they’ll tell: When negative words and black faces are paired together, you’re a better, faster categorizer. Which suggests that racially biased messages from the culture around you have shaped the very wring of your brain.”
For the most part, the article examines activities that tell us what we already know—ethnic prejudice is a part of our mental make-up and is based on our social/cultural conditioning. What we should be focusing our attention on are ways to overcome these biases. Unfortunately, the article never debunks the notion of race as unacceptable but instead moves to the concept of tribalism as rationale. We know the benefits associated with tribal membership: identity, security, comfort, value, unity to mention as few.
Mooney’s visit with the scientist, David Amodio, a member of New York University’s psychology department, acquaints him with research regarding the brain, tribalism and prejudice: “One simple, evolutionary explanation for our innate tendency toward tribalism is safety in numbers. You’re more likely to survive an attack from a marauding tribe if you join forces with your buddies. And primal fear of those not in the in-group also seems closely tied to racial bias.” The professor added that his “research suggests that one key area associated with prejudice is the amygdala, a small and evolutionarily ancient region in the middle of the brain that is responsible for triggering the notorious “fight or flight” response.” The article continued; “In interracial situations, Amodio explains, amygdala firing can translate into anything from “less direct eye gaze and more social distance” to literal fear and vigilance toward those of other races.”
What seems apparent in this article is the fact that some scientists seem to want to verify what we already know—that prejudice exists in us and our society. The challenge is to over-come the prejudice, and we do that by educating our brains to recognize a different tribal group—the human family. One would think that the first order of business in making this shift is to first debunk to idea and concept of multiple biological races—we did it with Santa and lived through it. We certainly can do it with the illusion of race, notwithstanding Amodio’s research. We can not begin to deal with the problem of ethnic bigotry and prejudice until we face the fact that we have been living with an illusion for a few hundred years and now the time has come to face the truth.
Mooney recognized the problem of ethnic prejudice and realized that: “To be sure, it will take more than thought exercises to erase the deep tracks of prejudice America has carved through the generations.” He concludes the article with the statement: “Biases have slipped into all of our brains. And that means we all have a responsibility to recognize those biases and work to change them.” Actually, biases did not slip into our brains; in America they were cultivated through our culture, laws and social systems. One of the first things we can do is recognize that we belong to the same group by not referring to each other as black or white. What the European American needs to know is that each time he or she refers to him/herself as white, the race card is being played. Of course, the same goes for the African American and black. Ethnic bigotry, prejudice and racism will not simply disappear, it must be eradicated.
Tags: African American, African Americans, African ancestry, biracial, black, current-events, discrimination, DNA, ethnic identity, ethnicity, European Americans, identity, mixed race, Passing, Prejudice, race, skin color, skin complexion, slavery, white
One of the negative and lasting components of slavery and the creation of a black and white race is the value placed on being identified as white or part white. During slavery, a slave identified as being part white sold for a higher price than slaves who were considered Negro or black. Because race was based on skin complexion, fooling the system was easily accomplished by slaves who could present themselves as white. After slavery, that practice became know as “passing.”If a person moved away from his or her environment where his or her ancestry was common knowledge, then one could live his or her entire life using the white identity. However, the fear of being discovered by someone who knew the person passing was always present. Many stories, true and fictional, have been written recounting the experiences of individuals passing.
When we examine the stories of people involved in passing, we realize that the risk of being caught often resulted in death, but the rewards were opportunities for liberties and freedoms enjoyed by the majority society. The key to the entire system, however, was based on race by color, which was ineffective and faulty because it is an illusion, and lacking any empirical proof. After the Civil War the nation not only continued the system of race by color, but also introduced more illogical, unreasonable and irrational aspects to its existence. For example, Oklahoma, along with other states, created laws that stated in effect that any person of African ancestry was to be considered Negro or Colored. If we were to give some thought to that law, we would discover that the law evidently viewed Africa as a country, not a continent. Also, how would one discover the ancestry of another as African since eighty percent of the world’s population has dark skin? Today, because of DNA, we would have to include all human beings as having African ancestry. So, we know the system was flawed from the beginning.
The problem we face today is one that creates a variety of discussions because many people never challenged the system of race by color, but accepted it along with the supposed values that being white represented. Fortunately, our society is changing in ways that will soon make the concept of race by color irrelevant. The so-called “One Drop Rule” or African ancestry rule was based on illusion, not fact, so to continue to embrace it would be just as fool-hearty. None-the-less, many Americans identify themselves as being mixed-race, or bi-racial, or some other term used to discern the inclusion of white blood in their ancestry because they believe it adds to their social value. How ridiculous is that? If the creation of a white race was false at the beginning, regardless of how one mixes it, it will always be false.
A person’s race has nothing to do with his or her skin color; all people belong to the human race. The primary reason for African Americans being called blacks, Negro, and colored was to keep them from knowing and using their cultural and/or geographical identity by their slave masters. On the other hand, European Americans used their white identity as a symbol of power and privilege associated with the Anglo-Saxons. Rather than use their cultural or geographical identities, many Irish, Jews, Italians, Poles, Slavs and many others as well, changed their names and moved to locations where they “passed” as European American (Anglo-Saxons) to avoid discrimination. Ironically, once these so-called lesser Americans became accepted as whites, they adopted the same attitude of bigotry and biases as the majority society especially relative to African Americans. That way they could conceal their real ethnic identity.
Race is the primary point on which this discussion rest. If one accepts the term and how it has been employed historically, then one is doomed to confusion and frustration, because any argument involving race becomes curricular. That is, if one starts with a false premise, the result must also be false, and so it is with race. Many people of mixed cultural and geographic ancestry face difficulty in deciding how to identify themselves, and so they use terms like biracial or mixed race. These terms simply underscore the acceptance of the illusion of multiple biological races from which they choose to belong. Had they used the terms ethnic group or ethnically mixed, then their identity would reflect cultures and or geographical certainties once they disclosed them. What happens when someone of mixed ethnicity identifies him or herself by one ethnic identity, that selection should be made on the basis of the individual’s choice or preference; to make that choice because of what society or some irrational rule or law based on race by color suggest is illogical.
If someone makes the choice of ethnic identity based on what society suggests, like the one drop rule, then that person is doing a disservice to one or more aspects of his or her ancestry and of the parent representing the part left out. That choice is no longer necessary in our society. People do not have to identify themselves as black or white; they can, however, identify themselves as African American or European American, but even that is not mandatory. Just ask the Census Bureau.
Many African American people of note have been accused of avoiding their ethnic identity by passing for European American. The term passing has relevance only when one has accepted the false concept of multiple biological races. The desire to identify with a particular group is a normal tribal reaction because group identity provides a sense of comfort, protection, and unity, something most people want. But, since we are all human beings, no part of our ancestry makes us more or less than any other human being. Since we are all members of the same human family, we should begin to celebrate our likenesses rather than any superficial differences we might have.
America is changing and involved in a struggle relative to our social identity. However, the more we learn about ourselves, the better able we are to live in the present and prepare for a future that respects the value of each individual.
Tags: African American, African Americans, biogtry, black, Chaney, Civil Rights, Civil Rights workers, Confronting Myths, ethnicity, European Americans, Freedom Summer, Goodman, Mississippi, Prejudice, President Obama, Schwerner, slavery, white
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, a summer when thousands of young Americans of African and European decent descended on the South to help African American citizens register to vote. One of the painful reminders of that summer is the death of three young Americans—two of European ancestry, one of African ancestry. These three young civil rights workers, Michael Henry Schwerner, James Earl Chaney, and Andrew Goodman were killed by a group of Klansmen in Neshoba County Mississippi. They were killed because they recognized the gross injustice in America—preventing African Americans the right to vote—and wanted to help in rectifying that problem.
Many Americans understand and appreciate the ultimate sacrifice these three young men made for their country; however, one question continues to hang over the occasion of the deaths—why? The beast of hatred, fear, anger, and prejudice still lingers in society regarding the African American and his presence in society. What is it about African Americans that would cause other Americans to murder three young men who only wanted to help America live up to its promise of liberty and justice for all?
Whether we accepted it or not, the very beast that led to the murder of Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman is still alive and well in America today. We must ask the question of those who would do harm to Americans who are working to correct injustices, what good does the violence and killing do to relieve the angry, hatred, and fear? The fear was so great in those Klansmen that they killed these three men before they were able to begin work. We must surmise that the threat of exercising their right to vote would give the African American an opportunity to participate in their government. For bigots, and others, any involvement in decision-making by African Americans would be too much. Why?
Before, during, and after the Civil War, the culture of the South was based on European Americans depending on African Americans for their livelihood. Without African American slaves, and subsequently, freed African Americans, the South would not have existed to any appreciable degree because the people of color represented the workforce. African Americans represented the life-blood of the southern economy, but more importantly, they represented the only thing that gave the European Americans social value. With the help of the governments, national and state, laws and practices were created and enforced to keep the African American in a position of servitude to European Americans.
In addition to the physical restrictions placed on the African Americans, social conditions based on myths were created that separated the African Americans from the European Americans. The concept of biological races was introduced into American society prior to slavery that led the European American to believe that he belonged to a superior biological race. In his book The Descent of Man, (1871), Charles Darwin expressed the belief that the human races, regardless of the obvious differences in appearance, were not different enough to be considered separate species. His comments on the human races were ignored. Later, others would concur with Darwin, but with more specificity noting that all human beings belong to the same species. UNESCO has continued to make that pronouncement since 1945, and the recent Human Genome study verified the fact that all human beings belong to the same species. Despite the evidence to the contrary, the power and prestige that accompanied the belief in white supremacy was too much to consider loosing or giving up.
More than anger and hatred is the element of fear that continues to feed the beast that fights against social, democratic progress. When the fear of loosing the belief of ethnic superiority is so great that people strike out violently against the threat of change in that direction, then we realize just how serious it is. Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman were not killed for personal reasons; their killers did not know them. They were killed for what they represented—social change. For the bigot and others any change that brought the African American closer to 1st class citizenship represented a threat to the status of the European American. So, any effort towards social change in behalf of the African Americans wherever it occurred, north, east, west and south, had to be met with serious force and resistance.
The problem with the bigots is complex in that while they fear the change that social progress means for African Americans, they do not want to lose the physical presence of the African Americans. Without the African Americans to point to as being inferior, the bigots would have no reference on which to base their sense of superiority. If no African Americans were around the bigots, they would have little or no social value except that which comes from wealth, property, or position. Without African Americans, the bigots would have no need to feel proud of their skin complexion, because they would not have another color with which to compare; so, they need African Americans, but only want to accept them on a level that underscores the sense of supremacy, pride, and power they derive from seeing themselves as different.
Fifty years ago thousand of young Americans, African American and European American, joined forces to combat the injustice they saw in America. One wonders where those voices are today. We recognize the efforts of the beast to appear in plain sight as in the numerous cases involving President Obama and the many states trying to restrict voter’s rights. The President’s critics are not fighting against him personally, but what he represents. Yes, some of his critics attack him personally, but that action is just for them to try and underscore their illusion of their superiority and his supposed inferiority. Regardless of the bigots’ efforts, social progress continues. What the bigots and those fighting against social progress do not realize is that their bigotry and hatred is a self-made prison that keeps them from enjoying freedom. They are so obsessed with fighting against all signs of social progress that it keeps them from enjoying the freedoms and privileges they have.
Freedom summer was an effort by young Americans to try and create a society that would mirror the ideals that the society said it embraced. The beast of anger, hatred, fear, and bigotry that they encountered is still alive in America. What we Americans have confronting us can best be described by picturing two hungry elements inside of us that represent good and evil or a man and a beast, respectively. We must realize that the one we feed is the one that will grow..