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 Americans, America, barack obama, black, Civil Rights, Confronting Myths, current-events, European Americans, free stuff, giveaways, Hillary Clinton, mitt romney, Obama, politics, Prejudice, President Obama, President Reagan, Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, Republicans
In a recent article entitled “We Are Not Coming Back,” by Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, a Jewish Rabbi from Teaneck, New Jersey, he laments the state of affairs in America and places the blame on President Barack Obama, totally disregarding facts, history, Congress, and common logic. His article appeared in The Israel National News. We will take a look at this article in an effort to enlighten the Rabbi.
The claim the Rabbi makes via Obama’s election is that “We are not coming back.” What specifically does he mean? Where would we come back to? Times when we had dirt roads, when women could not vote, when we had outdoor toilets, back when Jews and other lesser Americans were being discriminated against? Because the article begins with an illogical statement, we can safely assume that the remainder will be opinions and conjecture regarding the state of affairs. We are not disappointed in that respect when the Rabbi noted that Mitt Romney lost the presidential election because he did not get enough votes, but then added:” That might seem obvious, but not for the obvious reasons. Romney lost because the conservative virtues – the traditional American virtues – of liberty, hard work, free enterprise, private initiative and aspirations to moral greatness – no longer inspire or animate a majority of the electorate.” He does not include justice, fairness, charity, compassion, care for the poor and helpless in his virtues—things that America is known for around the world and at home.
The reason he gave for Romney’s loss to Obama “was because it is impossible to compete against “free stuff.”Under ordinary circumstances we might give him the benefit of the doubt, but he began to employ code words of the right-wing conservatives that point an accusing finger to people of color as well as poor people as villains rather than victims:
Every businessman knows this; that is why the “loss leader” or the giveaway is such a powerful marketing tool. Obama’s America is one in which free stuff is given away: the adults among the 47,000,000 on food stamps clearly recognized for whom they should vote, and so they did, by the tens of millions; those who – courtesy of Obama – receive two full years of unemployment benefits (which, of course, both disincentivizes looking for work and also motivates people to work off the books while collecting their windfall) surely know for whom to vote. The lure of free stuff is irresistible.
What the Rabbi fails to point out is that long before Obama, President Reagan attacked the unions in an effort to destroy them—he fired 11,000 Air Traffic controllers. In addition, he made it easy for businesses to file reorganization bankruptcy which caused workers to loose their salaries, employment benefits, retirements, and health benefits, along with other perks. Add to these conditions in the workforce, the introduction of NAFTA. In addition to the jobs that were lost through union busting and bankruptcy, many employers started to move their businesses outside of America, thereby displacing thousands of working Americans.
We certainly recognize that some people will play any system that is created to help people in need, but to characterize all the people needing food stamps and unemployment insurance as recipients of “free stuff” are un-American. A worker cannot receive unemployment insurance unless he or she has worked and contributed to the insurance fund through the employer. So, what is society to do with the American citizens who are in need? Ignore them? That is not who we are as a society.
We also noted that the Rabbi did not mention the “free stuff” the government gave to the banks, corporations, and industries, while the Congress failed to pass a minimum wage. Even one of the world’s riches men, Warren Buffet, complained that his secretary paid more income tax than he.
So, according to the Rabbi, the “giveaways” and “free stuff” represent the first reason for Romney’s defeat. He added that Obama’s actions also helped to point out the second reason: “That engenders the second reason why Romney lost: the inescapable conclusion that the electorate is ignorant and uninformed. Indeed, it does not pay to be an informed voter, because most other voters – the clear majority – are unintelligent and easily swayed by emotion and raw populism.”Although this comment was meant for liberals and democrats, it also represents the people who continue to vote against their own best interest, especially in the red states.
A known fact in America today is that the majority of the wealth is owned by one percent of the population. We also know that the average wage has not gone up along with inflation. Because of the wide gap in income, we know that the middleclass is disappearing. So, people are working more and making less. Still the Rabbi noted:
Obama could get away with saying that “Romney wants the rich to play by a different set of rules” – without ever defining what those different rules were; with saying that the “rich should pay their fair share” – without ever defining what a “fair share” is; with saying that Romney wants the poor, elderly and sick to “fend for themselves” – without even acknowledging that all these government programs are going bankrupt, their current insolvency only papered over by deficit spending.
What are people to think when Congress wants to not raise minimum wages, cut health insurance, not fund workers compensation, but continue to give tax breaks to the wealthy? What the Rabbi did not mention, however, was that today, the economy has recovered from the 2008 fall, banks and businesses are making large profits, the unemployment rate is down to 2008 level, and the deficit has been cut in half. So, why preach doom and gloom?
None-the-less, the Rabbi sadly predicts a win in 2016 of Hillary Clinton because she will follow Obama’s lead. He closes with the statement: If this election proves one thing, it is that the Old America is gone. And, sad for the world, it is not coming back. The problems we face today are there because the people who work for a living are outnumbered by those who vote for a living.”How illogical and irrational can one be? America and the world are constantly changing.
The Rabbi places all the responsibility for all the ills, as he sees them in society, on President Obama. Any person with knowledge of history and government knows that in a democracy we have three divisions of government, not a dictator. No, we are not coming back, and indeed, we should not even think of going backwards to whatever he had in mind. The Rabbi should gather his facts and history then provide for his audience with positive information that can be used to build on, not tear down and despair over. The Rabbi should be ashamed of himself.
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, America, america's race problem, black, black skin color, Chief Justice John Roberts, cultural identity, current-events, discrimination, ethnic identity, ethnicity, European Americans, identity, Marian Wright-Edelman, race, Race in America, skin color, slavery, white
Without realizing it, many educators and people of influence are supporting and promoting the separation and discrimination of people by race and color. The way it is being done is through the use of race by color, i.e., black race and white race. Let us take a close look at these phenomena called race by color and see what problems and challenges it continues to place of humanity, especially in America. The word race initially did not contain an element of color when it was used by the Angles and Saxons to distinguish themselves from the Brits. To the people then, the word race carried a sense of a biological difference among nations. Today, we know “What is false in this dogma is the belief that a nation is a race, a group sharing a common biological descent. Equating nation with race defies the most elementary knowledge of history. From time immemorial, Europe and America have been playgrounds of miscegenation” (Jacques Barzan, From Dawn to Decadence, 1500 to the Present).
Race by color became important in America when Africans became the primary source of slaves. Creating two races, one black and one white served to strengthen the power, prestige and control of majority society. The Europeans/European Americans were identified as white; meaning that all the positive attributes of human beings would be posited in them. For the African/African Americans, the reverse was alleged to be true. This illusion of race would and could work because the enslavers held all power over the slaves, and to a large degree, society. The power did not reside only in the skin color, but how the skin complexion was valued in society. For example, under the belief system of race by color, only a so-called white man and a so-called white woman could produce a so-called white child. In effect, no other man or woman on the planet could do that. All people of color (who were less valued in society than the so-called white) could never produce a so-called white child. Any and all off springs of European men would take the identity of the mother. In an effort to prevent European servant women from marrying African men, the state of Maryland created and passed the first miscegenation law in 1661. The slave industry even created a system whereby the degree of whiteness could be measured in Africans and other slaves of color which increased their market value—mulatto, quadroon, octoroon, etc.
The illusion of human and social value associated with the skin color is still very much a part of American society today, and because of that, America can make only limited social progress. Part of the problem comes from many Americans who are unwilling to recognize the fact that race is an illusion and want to hold on to their color as an identity. The problem with holding on to race by color is that it cannot be defined except on a very limited basis, and then it falls apart. People who identify themselves as black may not in fact have a black skin color, so what does black mean in those situations? Some people will suggest that black means African American. Well, black and African American are not the same or interchangeable. Black does not distinguish a personal identity based on color, culture, ethnicity, or geography—the only relevance black has is to a black race that was created during slavery with all negative contexts. The same thing can be said of European Americans who call themselves white, except the contexts are positive.
When the young Civil Rights workers of the ‘60s reacted to the phrase “white power” with “Black power,” they were able to change to the sentiment of blackness from negative to positive, but only in the African American community. The white or European American community did not have to change a thing regarding color. So, today when word, black or white, is used with reference to a person’s identity, it serves to support and promote so-called racial separation and all the things that accompany it. Chief Justice of the United States, John Roberts, was correct when “In a 2007 case, he wrote: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”That is, when we stop using race as if it is accurate and valid, we can get to the real problems of justice and fairness. Getting rid of race does not mean getting rid of ethnic or cultural differences, but it means changing the focus from our differences to our commonalities.
In a recent article, “The Emotional Toll of Growing Up Black in America,” Marian Wright-Edelman wrote that:
“Everybody in the classroom and teaching children today — when for the first time White students will no longer be the majority in our nation’s public schools — needs to be culturally sensitive and culturally trained. This is true for all child-serving institutions. We need to watch out for the subtle as well as the overt ways in which we treat non-White and White children and those who are poor differently. And we need much more diversity in children’s literature so that White, Black, Latino, Native American, Asian American, and all children can be exposed to the rich mosaic of America’s melting pot to help them see themselves and what they can be.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marian-wright-edelman/the-emotional-toll-of-gro_b_5738420.html?utm_hp_ref=email_share
The primary point that this blog makes is the very point that is missed in the above article—people, especially children, do not want to be treated differently; they want to be treated fairly and justly, regardless of their ethnic and/or cultural identity. We know that the metaphor of the melting pot nation was never realized and the proof is seen in the misrepresentation of African Americans in many of the social categories of unemployment, ineffective education, and incarceration rates. We certainly need to respect ethnic, cultural, and geographical differences where necessary, but we do not need to burden our children with false identities such as black and white. If a child is the product of a mixed ethnic couple, identifying with either the mother or father would not be fair to the parents or the child. In that case, let the parents decide the cultural identify of the child, but not mixed-race or black and white. Ethnically or culturally mixed children simply want to be children, no more, no less. Race as a social identity has outlived its usefulness to society.
Tags: African American History, African Americans, American History, black, Civil Rights, current-events, ethnicity, European Americans, Ferguson, Michael Gerson, politics, Prejudice, protest, race, slavery in america, the Black codes, The Oklahoman, white
We have seen and heard about the treatment of African Americans by the police establishment from the East coast to the West coast and many places in between. Sometimes the question “why does this pattern of aggression by the police against African Americans exist? Whether than trying to answer that question now, we must first take a look at why the attitude and behavior of the police establishment is in question in the first place. Then, we will understand what is going on in our society relative to the African American community and the police today.
When slavery was in its early years in America, race and color were insignificant because the objective was profit. Slavery was always a business and the only value slaves had to their owners was measured in dollars. However, the English brought over to the new world the concept of Africans as a lower order of humans and were not viewed as equal to the Europeans. Most slaves were treated equally bad except with respect to the European (white) slaves. Even as slaves, they were given special treatment as we learn from history:
In 1705, masters were forbidden to ‘whip a Christian white servant naked.’ Nakedness was for brutes, the uncivil, the non-Christian. That same year, all property—horses, cattle, and hogs’—was confiscated from slaves and sold by the church wardens for the benefit of poor whites. By means of such acts, social historian Edmond Morgan argues, the tobacco planters and ruling elite of Virginia raised the legal status of lower-class whites relative to that of Negroes and Indians, whether free, servant, or slave (The Making of the Negro in Early American Literature, p.35).
So, from the very beginning, people of color were discriminated against in favor of Europeans. The term “Christian” was used as pertaining to people from Europe who were considered civilized. The importance of this history is to note the lack of social value or respect given to people of color and especially Africans and African Americans.
When we move ahead one hundred and fifty years to the Civil War period, we find the same attitude and sentiment regarding the lack of social value and respect withheld from the African Americans by the majority society. The need to keep total control of the African Americans after the Civil War by the majority society can be seen in the laws that were created by the various states; those laws were known throughout the South as the Black Codes. These codes further established and endorsed the devaluing of the African American as we see in the reference to the Mississippi Black Code:
The status of the Negro was the focal problem of Reconstruction. Slavery had been abolished by the Thirteenth Amendment, but the white people of the South were determined to keep the Negro in his place, socially, politically, and economically. This was done by means of the notorious “Black Codes,” passed by several of the state legislatures. Northerners regarded these codes as a revival of slavery in disguise. The first such body of statues, and probably the harshest, was passed in Mississippi in November 1865. (http://chnm.gmu.edu/courses/122/recon/code.html)
The perception of respect and social value of the African Americans began to change after the Brown v Topeka Board of Education case in 1954, and continued on through the Civil Rights Acts of 1964-1968. America’s changes were starting to become more inclusive of African Americans regarding Constitutional and Civil Rights, much to the dismay of many did not like or want the changes. Throughout America’s early history the need to recognize and respect the presence and rights of the African American were so low that the phrase “A ‘n’ ain’t worth shit” pretty much summed-up the sense of value society had for the African Americans.
When we look at the relationships the police nation-wide have with communities of color, especially African Americans, we see reflected the same old attitudes and perceptions that have long been a staple of the European American mind-set. Regardless of the visible changes occurring in America today edging more towards an ethnically diverse society, many Americans refuse to accept the change. The police departments generally reflect the attitude of the majority society and therefore, see not a unified community, but two—one European American (white), and those who are not—generally people of color.
What the nation is experiencing in Ferguson, Missouri is not something totally unexpected, but an example of a changing society. As we morn the loss of the many African Americans to the bigotry and biases of the old mind-set expressed through law enforcement agencies, etc…, we can take heart in the fact that they do not die in vain, but in an effort to bring to the fore the problems that must be addressed in society to meet the changes that must take place. Ferguson, as well as the nation, will be a better place for all to live once the problems of representation and cooperation are addressed—problems that would have remained hidden without the tragedy of loss. As a society, we have yet to recognize and debunk the fallacy of race. No problems of equality, fairness, and justice will ever be resolved in America as long as people see themselves as black and white. No such races exist except as part of an illusion.
To underscore the lack of understanding of this problem, we turn to a comment made by Michael Gerson in a recent article, “The paradox of diversity,” where he noted concerning Ferguson, Missouri:
“But events in Ferguson demonstrate the paradox of American diversity: An increasing multicultural nation remains deeply divided by race and class. There are many more friendships and marriages between white and minority Americans (about one in 12 marriages is interracial)—but at the same time racially charged suspicions and anger persists among millions. And a broad perception of our own racial acceptance has created a different form of isolation—a self-satisfaction that obscures or masks deep social divisions. (The Oklahoman, 8/16/2014)
Gerson’s comments represent the problem and the solution in that the nation is divided, but changing to a less racial society. The changes will come as a result of the actions of the people who are adversely affected by the problems that are uncovered when the actions of the society, or a police force, raises their, as well as the rest of society’s consciousness. As a nation, we must continue to tear down the wall of races that separates us unnecessarily. The times are changing, and we cannot stop that.