Tags: African Americans, black and white race, Brown v Topeka, Confronting Myths, current-events, European Americans, human-rights, OHC, Oklahoma Humanities, Oklahoma Humanities Council, politics, race, religion, School segregation, science, society
The Oklahoma Humanities Council has just published a Summer 2012 edition of its magazine, “Oklahoma Humanities.” The focus of this edition is Reconciliation: Looking Back, Pushing Forward Conversations on Race.” The publication is very handsome with excellent graphics and a number of articles with a focus on race. The only problem with this focus on race is that it does not move the discussion one iota towards a so-called reconciliation for a number of reasons: no mention of what is being reconciled, why it is being reconciled, and what it will look like.
One of the problems generally associated with any discussion of race in America is that it lacks a clear definition. What people usually discuss are the results or repercussions of social injustices committed against African Americans with race as the primary object. To make matters more confusing, the history of slavery in America is also factored into the discussion. So, when a discussion of race takes place no one knows for certain what is being discussed. For example, one of the articles in the OHC magazine is entitled “A ‘healing journey’ to confront the issues of race and prejudice.” The article includes some excellent pictures of remnants of buildings in Africa associated with early 1500’s to the middle 1800’s African slave trade. This article could have been written in 1960 for the information it provides relative to the title. The ‘journey” belongs to the writers of the article and provides little information for the readers to build on as for as a reconciliation is concerned. The article talks about slavery and racism as a legacy in America.
In order to understand what is not happening in these articles as well as any article that pretends to deal with race in America, we must understand that these articles will all focus on the past and present with no constructive view of the future. No constructive view of the future is possible because the discussions presented in the articles are enclosed in a small circle that can only focus on what is inside the circle. In essence, when the writers of any work on race begin by accepting the premise of race as being factual, the discussion is over because it cannot move beyond that concept.
My point is not meant to criticize the OHC or the writers of any of the articles, but to question their premise of adding something new or different to the discussion on race when in effect they only offer information about the American past and present that includes slavery’s legacy. Attempting to reconcile something that is not defined is like trying to answer the question “what makes water wet?” If one does not stop and think about the question first, chances are he or she will make the mistake of trying to answer the question. The fact is about wetness is that it is a condition that can be created by water; it is not a part of water. Water is not the only liquid that can cause wetness. Race and all its derivatives are all based on something that was socially created and based on false premises.
One common mistake involving discussions on race has to do with how it is perceived. Most social historians examine the narrative, history or story on a chronological line with a starting point and indicating times of significant occurrences along that line. By using this method, periods of time can be identified as past and present with emphasis on significant influences along the way. One result of this method is that the various time periods can be seen as separate entities when in fact they are parts on the same narrative. The problem with this approach is primarily because the narrative is interrupted and viewed in segments and each one can be seen as representing the basic problem. With respect to race, the problems of Identity, discrimination, prejudice, segregation, injustice, and fairness exists.. These elements , however, are not the problem—it is the acceptance of the concept of race.
For example, let us look at the problem of segregation that was addressed in the Brown v Topeka Broad of Education in 1954. The Supreme Court’s decision was to order desegregation of the schools. What the Court did not examine was the cause of the segregation—the concept of race. So, while the schools began to desegregate, the elements of bigotry and all the associated forms of injustice continued to grow. When each of the forms or derivatives’ of race are taken as the primary problem, then trying to remedy that particular concern does nothing to remedy the cause of the problem. As long as the cause of the problems created by the acceptance of the concept of races is not addressed and challenged, no progress or reconciliation is possible.
What is generally missing from any discussion of race today is an understanding of how the history really exists. Rather than being in a straight line, the history exists in a circle, connected to the past, present and future. John Paul Lederach, author of The Moral Imagination, says it this way, “As the indigenous world view suggests, social meaning, identity, and story are linked through narrative, which connects the remote past of who we are with the remote future of how we will survive in the context of an expansive present where we share space and relationship.”In other words, we must rethink the way we look at history to better understand the social problems caused by our concept of race so we can better understand how to create the remedy for those problems. For example, some people might assume that since slavery happened a long time ago that it has no relevance to them today. The reason for that kind of thinking is the idea of time being associated only with the people living during that time; they fail to understand that time did not stop nor did the influences and legacies created during that time stop, and that their lives represent an accumulation of those influences and legacies. We cannot place time in a capsule—only things with symbolic meanings relative to a time.
The problem for our society today is to try and acquire a better understanding of who we are, where we are, and how do we want to get to the next level. Our having a better understanding of race would be a good starting point, but the discussion must begin with first defining race and then moving beyond it. The articles in the OHC magazine provide some interesting experiences and information relative to race, but then miss the boat completely on the idea of reconciliation.
Tags: African Americans, america's race problem, black and white, Civil Rights, current-events, entertainment, equal justice, European Americans, Jesse Jackson, justice, Legal rights, media, Opinion /Editorial writers, politics, Prejudice, rev al sharpton, The Oklahoman
Too often opinions offered on opinion/editorial pages of the newspaper as well as the electronic media cause confusion and misinformation if the writers or speakers are not informed about the subject. We certainly do not stand in judgment of someone’s opinion if it is offered as an opinion. However, when an opinion is offered as fact and it is inaccurate, then we should call it into question. A particular selection published in the Oklahoman (4-13-120) entitled “Media circus is the last thing Tulsa needs after killings” focused on the visits of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Rev. Al Sharpton to Tulsa, Oklahoma. The language, attitude, and tone of the article promoted the ideas inconsistent with reality and the truth.
The choice of words used by the writer of the article seems to suggest disrespect and disgust with the subjects, Jackson and Sharpton, as well as the situation, the recent killing of three African American men and the wounding of two more by two European American males. The mere suggestion of a circus coming to town in the persons of Jackson and Sharpton creates a sense of entertainment rather than seriousness about the incident. The underlining suggestion is that Jackson and Sharpton are clowns and therefore their appearance in Tulsa is for a show or entertainment. The headline is correct in stating that a “circus is the last thing Tulsa needs after killings,” so why would it suggest the appearance of these two men would create a circus?
The first paragraph of the article reads:”The Rev. Jesse Jackson came to Oklahoma City 17 years ago this month to express solidarity with black victims of the federal building bombing. Fortunately, we were spared the presence of Rev. Al Sharpton.” This statement suggests that Jackson came to Oklahoma City specifically to express solidarity with African American victims of that event only. To suggest that is misleading and untrue. Jackson expressed solidarity for all the victims. As a Christian and a minister he recognized that all people are children of the same God. The article reference to the city being “spared” the presence of Rev. Sharpton suggest that he would have brought something sinister or destructive to the city with him. One wonders what that might have been in order to cause such a negative reaction.
In the next paragraph we get a sample of more uncomplimentary language associated with Jackson and Sharpton: “ Tulsa won’t be so fortunate. Jackson and Sharpton will descend on Tulsa just as (and because) the national media has descended on Tulsa following the Good Friday killings that appear to be racially motivated.” So, the suggestion is that the national media is the real reason for Jackson and Sharpton “descending” on Tulsa, and not the killings. Wrong again. Jackson and Sharpton were both asked and invited to come to Tulsa because the people in Tulsa knew that the national media would follow Jackson and Sharpton. By bringing those two men to Tulsa, national attention would focus on the killings. History and experience underscores the fact that most crimes in America with African Americans as victims receive very little media attention if any at all.
In addition to the denigrating language associated with Jackson and Sharpton, the attitude suggested in the article is one of suspicion and deceit. The article states that “Police, prosecutors and city officials have their hands full trying to tamp down the emotions surrounding this case. The last thing they need is a media circus with Jackson and Sharpton serving as ring masters.” One wonders what evidence, facts and or experiences lead that writer to think that Jackson and Sharpton would start some sort of physical, violent, and unlawful disturbance? The only evidence of any kind of unlawful, unorganized, and disruptive actions comes from the writer’s own words. Jackson and Sharpton have always maintained that their objective in accepting the invitations extended to them by people involved in situations where justice and fairness is concerned is to seek justice and fairness, nothing more, nothing less. So, why would they be characterized as “ring masters” when, in fact, there is no circus in town?
The tone of the article is one of arrogance and stupidity regarding history and present day occurrences. The article’s author makes a reference to the national interest in Tulsa with reference to the 1921 Riot. The statement reads “What’s the connection? None. In the earlier case armed gangs divided along racial lines. It was certainly not a mass murder like the bombing or the Tulsa shootings. It was less a race riot that a race war.” Evidently, this statement shows a gross lack of concrete facts and reliable information regarding the 1921 riot as well as recognizing the difference between a riot and a war. He might want to read Tim Madigan’s The Burning, or Rilla Askew’s Fire in Beulah for an account of that tradegy. His emphasis is unfortunately, on the physical violence and destruction when the real problem is the administration of justice and fair treatment for all people. He certainly cannot say that the African American community in the Greenwood section of Tulsa was treated fairly after the 1921 riot, and to a degree today.
Without going over the entire article paragraph by paragraph to point out the various areas of ignorance and stupidity let us look at two comments to make our point. Again, referencing the 1921 riot, the article states: “What happened in Tulsa in 1921 was an outbreak of violence exposing widespread racial division that’s not evident in Tulsa today.”If that is true, then no bigotry exists in Tulsa, and the two European Americans arrested cannot be charged with a hate crime (they have been charged with committing a hate crime). If bigotry is no longer a reality in Tulsa why have not the city moved to make amends for the destruction it participated in back in 1921? The article suggests that no so-called racial division exists in Tulsa today. How true is that? If that is so, why were three African Americans killed by the two European Americans and charged with hate crimes?
Finally, the article’s author asks the question why Jackson and Sharpton are in Tulsa: “So what’s the point of the Jackson-Sharpton visit and the lamentations of members of the Legislative Black Caucus? What will these things accomplish that excellent police work, vigorous prosecution and swift sure punishment of the guilty won’t do by themselves”? That is precisely the point! Jackson and Sharpton want exactly that to happen now, because it has not happened with any regularity in the past. By their presence, the need for equal justice and fairness for all American citizens will be closely scrutinized by the national media brought there by Jackson and Sharpton.
If the writer of the article would stop and think for a moment, what should become apparent is the fact that Jackson and Sharpton are not the enemy as they are portrayed. They simply want for African Americans and all Americans fair and equal justice under the law. Why would anyone object to that? The language, attitude, and tone of this article indicated a fear and expectation of evil, violence, and unlawfulness that is purely unwarranted.