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

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

Paul R. Lehman, Identity confusion persists among Americans concerning race, ethnicity, and nationality

March 24, 2020 at 3:45 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, anglo saxons, Bigotry in America, biological races, black inferiority, blacks, China, DNA, education, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, France, Human Genome, identity, immigration, language, Media and Race, minority, Negro, race, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, social conditioning, white supremacy, whites | Leave a comment
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When the founding fathers invented and instituted their system of Anglo-Saxon/ European Identity confusion persists among Americans concerning race, ethnicity, and nationality American supremacy they knew that it was based on a myth and using color to define race was an illogical choice, but as long as they could maintain, support, and promote the concept, there was no fear of the myth being replaced by facts. Unfortunately, time has a way of uncovering things meant to stay hidden, but race as an identity is not one of them. Today, many Americans are confused as to their identity because society and the government have deliberately invented the confusion by mixing terms that are distinct and different from one another and using them as though they are interchangeable. All the words focus directly on personal identity, but when used refer to different things: race, ethnicity, and nationality.
What happens, generally, when Americans are asked their race? Too many will respond with an answer that includes a color; usually black or white because that is how society and the government have conditioned society to see themselves. If the words black and white were not used then words that signify the same idea are used like negro, colored, and Caucasian, etc… While these words might make reference to a so-called race, the fact is that race is an invented word and does not exist in the taxonomic classification. In addition, these words actually prevent a person’s factual identity from being recognized or used.
After delivering a lecture one afternoon at a small community library, one of the attendees, a senior European American woman raised her hand to ask a question. After I acknowledged her, she asked, “What is the European American you keep speaking about?” I explained to her that if she identified herself as white then she was a European American as far as society and the government was concerned. She responded that she was actually white. I asked her what did white mean. Her only answer was the color of her skin, she had forgotten about her ethnic identity and nationality. My next comments went to explain to the group the concept of ethnicity and ethnic groups.
Early scientists discovered variations in our species and found no biological differences in those variations, but because of their observations and experiences involving other peoples, they formed ideas and biases relative to many of these people. Rather than credit the cultural differences to the groups and their ways of life, many of these scientists, scholars, doctors, and others used their biases to identify various groups. All people belong to an ethnic group in some way or another. An ethnic group is defined as a group that sees itself and that others see them as a distinct community that possesses certain characteristics that sets them apart from other groups. What is considered ethnicity are shared characteristics such as culture, language, religion, and traditions, which contributes to an individual or person’s identity. None of these characteristics are biological, so they cannot be transferred from one person to another biologically.
So, every person on the planet has two identities, one ancestral and one chosen. The ancestral identity occurs when a person is born because that person takes the identity of the parents whatever that happens to be. For example, if both parents were Korean than the child’s identity would be Korean. However, if both parents had different ethnic identities, then the child would share both identities, but conform to the cultural practice of the group as to which one to present publically. In this example, the ethnicity and culture are the same, Korean. However, what would happen if that Korean child grew up and moved to France and decided to become a citizen there? Well, the child’s ancestral identity would remain the same, Korean, but the cultural identity would change to French.
“So, why do I identify myself as white,” she asked. I explained that probably because your parents decided that life in America would be more rewarding by discarding their ancestral and cultural identities for the one highly prized white identity. She seemed satisfied.
The American identity confusion persists in that race and ethnicity are perceived as the same which they are not; race is a myth, and ethnicity has nothing to do with biology. Nonetheless, the confusion continues when we introduce the term nationality. This term nationality refers to an identity that includes culture and a geographical location that is distinctive from other cultures and locations, like China or America. When Americans leave America to travel to other parts of the world the primary identification they take with them is a Passport. A brief examination of the Passport will show that no reference to a person’s physical appearance except in a photo of the person; no reference to skin color or ethnic identity is included. The same is true for individuals entering America. In essence, a person’s identity is based on their nationality, not their skin color or ancestral identity. Nationality has no biological component to its definition because it is inclusive to all that take shelter under it. When foreigners become American citizens they simply become Americans, not Irish Americans or Haitian Americans, just Americans.
Demographics have been rapidly changing America’s social landscape to the point that predictions indicate by the year 2045, the majority of Americans will be people of color. What that means is the system of European American supremacy will have a loss of its power to control the majority by using skin color. America’s practice of grouping people together by skin color was a way to control and discriminate the population and although other avenues of approach to achieve those ends exist, at least this one will no longer be available. Simply said, a person’s race is human, their ancestral ethnic identity comes from their parents, and their personal identity comes from their nationality. So, unless someone is writing an article or a book about someone, no need exists to provide an ancestral or cultural identity. In America, when someone is asked, “What are you,” the answer is simply—American. And what does an American look like? Just like you. And that’s all folks.

Paul R. Lehman, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the book, is not revered by all readers

November 5, 2019 at 7:27 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Dream, American history, American Racism, blacks, Christianity, Constitutional rights, criminal justice, democracy, discrimination, equality, Ethnicity in America, European Americans, happiness, integregation, justice, Negro, Prejudice, Race in America, skin color, Slavery, social conditioning, social justice system, white supremacy | 2 Comments
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According to a recent article in AARP: The Magazine, (June/July 2019) one of the most important books that helped to influence our thoughts about ethnic bigotry and prejudice in America is To Kill a Mockingbird, by the late Harper Lee. The article noted that “It’s one of our nation’s most revered texts—and it’s probably the book that has most shaped our collective understanding of the evils of Jim Crow.” How the writer arrived at that assessment of the book was not disclosed, but a number of people might question the supposed results of it being the most revered text that enabled our understanding of Jim Crow.

Any literature worth the ink used to print it can easily support a variety of interpretations and keep the reader searching for more points of interest. Mockingbird is such a work that invites the reader to find meaning and social value. Because of its popularity, “more than 40 million copies since it’s publication in 1960,” much has been written and said about it. A lot of the attention seemed to have fallen on the character of Atticus Finch who is often viewed as the story’s hero. While viewing Finch as a hero might be easily established and supported, one interesting assessment of the book leaned toward the book having no hero, but simply represented a picture of America’s society with emphasis on its past, present, and future.

Without having to deconstruct the entire novel, we can say that the story is told by Scout Finch, a young girl, the daughter of Atticus Finch. She and her younger brother Jem lived with their widowed father who was a well-to-do lawyer. They lived in the small southern town of Maycomb. Scout and Jem made friends with another young boy, Dill, who visited their town for the summer. The three children and their adventures represented one aspect of the book but also connected with another focus of the book that dealt with Atticus. A young African American man, Tom Robinson, was arrested and charged with assaulting a young Southern European American female. The sheriff of the town asked Atticus to represent the man and since he was one of the town’s people who had the least to fear or lose, he accepted. Another character that provided an essential social element to the book was Calpurnia, the housekeeper, cook, and guardian of the children. With this brief summary, we can now look at how the book represented the past, present, and future.

The past is represented by the townspeople of Maycomb in their attitude and view of people of color generally, and the young accused African American male. With the institution of slavery and the concept of race by color, European Americans saw themselves as superior to all non-European American people. They saw African Americans as less than a human being and believed that treating them like animals was no crime against God or nature. The first inclination of the townspeople upon learning of the assault of the young woman was to get the accused and lynch him—a trail was not necessary. Fortunately, what saved the town from being viewed as savage and barbaric was the sheriff who exercised his legal authority and felt the need to protect the young African American, Tom, from a mob.

The present was represented by Atticus who served as the lawyer for Tom Robinson. Many readers relied on the performance of Atticus as the lawyer and his attempt to save his client as fuel for him being seen as a hero. In all likelihood, Atticus knew what the outcome of the trial would be even before he took the case. The case provided Atticus an opportunity to display his knowledge of the law and his dramatic presentations underscored his belief in the law. The words he spoke, however, fell on the deaf ears of the townspeople whose minds were already set and the African Americans who were forced to sit in the balcony of the courtroom and who had no expectation of justice from the court. The only people emotionally affected by the trial were the children, and they represented the optimistic hope for the future.

The future is revealed primarily through Scout, the children and their relationship to Calpurnia, an African woman, her African American community, and of course, the trial. The townspeople became angry at Atticus for defending an African American, but because he was wealthy and independent, they represented no threat to him or his well-being. His children, however, were not protected from the jabs and sneers of the local children.      When Calpurnia took the children with her to her African American community, the children saw for the first time, a contradiction in what they had been conditioned by their society to believe about African Americans. Rather than feeling fearful and threatening by the African American community, Scout and Jem felt compassion, warmth, and safe.

Scout experiences a loss of innocence throughout the story, but especially near the end after she and Jem were attacked. She knew what happened to Tom Robinson and what Boo did. She also heard what Heck Tate said about the experience: “Tom Robinson died for no reason, he says, and now the man responsible is dead: “Let the dead bury the dead.”  The townspeople knew that Tom could not have committed the crime, but punished him anyway. Tate knew that Boo had killed Bob Ewell, but looked the other way.

So, given the fact that an innocent African American man died for a crime, he did not committee and a European American man is excused for the crime he committed, we recognize how ethnic bigotry and prejudice along with European American privilege worked in America. In other words, a relationship with the younger European American generation gave hope to the future relations of the communities in that a bridge of ignorance was crossed that revealed the existence of other human beings, African Americans, not animals or inferiors.

When we read the book with reference to the past, present, and future, we wonder why the book is so revered. We find no hero or a need for one since the story looked at society and justice relative to time. The Maycomb community’s sense of justice was not changed; the African American community’s status did not change. Finch’s words defending Tom were like Shakespeare’s Macbeth, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”Could the importance of the book depend on the ethnicity of the reader?

We need to understand that change is the only constant reality we have to reckon with in striving towards social justice.

Paul R. Lehman, What’s in a name—the “N” word and Identity

May 4, 2019 at 4:34 pm | Posted in Africa, African American, American Bigotry, American history, biological races, black inferiority, blacks, Disrespect, DNA, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, France, identity, immigration, language, Media and Race, Negro, Prejudice, race, Race in America, respect, skin color, skin complexion, social conditioning, the 'n' word, white supremacy, whites | 1 Comment
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Several years ago I had the occasion to give a lecture to some citizens of a small rural town at the town’s library. An audience of about twenty people attended the lecture and remained for a question and answer session. In responding to a question, I made mention of European Americans and their relation to the question. Soon after I finished my comments, a small, white-haired, senior lady raised her hand, and I acknowledged her. She asked, “What is this European American you talked about?” Smiling at her, I said, “you. You are a European American.” She seemed perplexed, so I explained to her that at one time in America the only people who could become citizens had to identify themselves as either Negro (black) or white. Many immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe did not qualify as either, so they had to use their ethnic identity which set them apart from the so-called whites. In the early 1920s, two Asian men applied for American citizenship and both were denied because the courts said they were neither black nor white. Following the second trial, a Supreme Court justice said that only Europeans could be considered white and they could recognize one from another. One of the consequences of that statement led many immigrants to stop identifying themselves by their ethnicity and just identify themselves as white because it provided elements of social and civic power and prestige.

Still looking somewhat confused, the lady asked, “What is my ethnicity?  I have always been told that I am white.” I asked her where she and her parents were born if not in America. She mentioned that her family had not spoken about being from another country in general but she had heard some references to France and Italy. I mentioned that the term European American provided a more specific identity reference than simply saying white because white does not refer to nationality, country, language, religion, or culture. She thanked me for the explanation.

This incident came to mind when I heard two young African American men talking on Facebook about economic challenges and problems experienced by African Americans and people of color. What caught my attention was their reference to African Americans as “N”. They used it as though it was an accepted and legitimate term with no historical or social significance. Evidently, they assumed that because they were, apparently, men of color their use of the word was okay. Their use of the “N” word actually communicated a number of things that were not positive. They ignored the word’s history, denotation, and connotation, social and cultural significance.

The word Negro comes from the Latin language as an adjective referring to the color black but came to be associated with people from Africa with dark skin complexions. When enslaved Africans were brought to America, they were stripped of their names, language, culture, religion, and personal history. They were forced to accept and adjust to the elements of slavery in America, but most definitely the new language through which they were to be known and referred to as Africans, Negroes, blacks, and slaves. The term Negro was the most commonly used term in America with the spelling and pronunciation varying from the different geographical areas of north and south. The slaves had no choice but to refer to one another as Negro or “N” because that was the only language they were permitted to speak.

Under slavery’s rule in America, the denotation of the word Negro made reference to people, regardless of their skin complexion, who was known to have any African blood. In this context, the reference was made only for identity. However, in the connotation, the word took on a totally different meaning. As a form of projection the “N” personified sexuality, lewdness, laziness, dirtiness, and untamed hostility. In addition, the elements of foul odors, threatening, aggressive and libidinous behavior became associated with the character of the “N” and were perceived by the average European American as normal. Altogether, the concept of excrement came to be associated with the “N” to the point that his social value was equated with it and found to be of lesser value.

Before, and definitely after Reconstruction in America, African Americans have been trying to divorce themselves from the term “N” because it never did, in fact, defined or described them, but was used to enslave them mentally. Society has labeled the “N” word pejorative and socially unacceptable because of its historical significance. However, the word has been given a life-line through entertainment and artistic expressions by some African American performers. Unfortunately, the word does not lose its pejorative quality through continued use and speaks to a sense of historical ignorance or self-deprecation by the users.

An old saying advises that one cannot throw dirt on others without getting some on one’s self. This saying works equally with the use of the “N” word because it reflects on the character of the users by questioning their self-perception and their judgment of others they associate with the word. The objective of the slave masters in imposing the “N” word on people of color was to force them to see themselves through the biased eyes of the slave masters, not their own eyes. So, for as long as the people of color continue using the master’s language relative to themselves, they will remain mentally enslaved and unable to see who they really are.

If the “N” word did not carry negative social value in society then its use would not be in question. But it does still carry negative value. So, one wonders why two intelligent young African American males would constantly use the “N” word to their audiences unless they do not realize that by doing so they are showing disrespect to themselves and their audience. With all the demographic changes taking place in the world, and especially in America today, and with many people discovering their ancestral roots, one would think that constant reference to the past via a derogatory term would be counterproductive. The continued use of the “N” word seems to suggest that some people of color want to remain mentally enslaved or do not want to know their true identity.

Paul R. Lehman,Why the movie The Green Book failed to carry a positive message for African Americans.

February 27, 2019 at 3:55 pm | Posted in African American, African American and chicken, African American celebrities, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, Black Englisn, black inferiority, blacks, desegregation, discrimination, Disrespect, employment, Equal Opportunity, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, integregation, justice, minorities, Negro, Prejudice, Race in America, racism, respect, segregation, skin color, social conditioning, social justice system, socioeconomics, white supremacy, whites | 2 Comments
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Family, friends, and acquaintances were the order in which African American musicians and other entertainers used for hospitality, food, and lodging in the days before desegregation. During the early 1950’s when my cousin “Little Walter” Jacobs came to town for a show or two, his biggest decision was with whom he would stay. His room at the local hotel for people of color was only for his belongings. Jacobs was not alone in this endeavor, most African American entertainers depended on their relations in the communities they visited for hospitality where they were usually treated as celebrities. Because this form of accommodation was ordinary for African American entertainers, most road managers and agents saw to it that the flyers announcing the coming attractions were in place weeks before the actual shows. That way, the family, friends, and acquaintances would be prepared for the celebrity’s arrival.

The key to a successful tour for African American entertainers in large part fell to the managers and their connections with other managers on the “Chitlin Circuit,” which was a collection of performance venues throughout the Eastern, Southern, and upper Midwest areas of the United States that provided commercial and cultural acceptance for African-American entertainers. A Green Book was not usually necessary for these entertainers because of the information network of the managers. For other African Americans traveling around America and especially through the South The Green Book was important. Somehow the movie, The Green Book, did not touch on the experiences of African American entertainers traveling through America.

For some American viewers, the movie The Green Book was very entertaining and likeable simply because it included a well-known musician of color, Don Shirley and a historical perspective. Unfortunately, viewers sometimes do not see the forest for the trees, or they concentrate on the movie rather than the message it presents. When we examine the movie for it message, we discover that the movie was disappointing from three aspects—the Green Book, the musician, and the bouncer.

Although the movie carried the title—The Green Book, little attention was paid to the actual book, it author and content. Yes, Tony the bouncer did refer to the book a number of times, but usually without any mention of it. The author and publisher of the book, Victor Hugo Green was not mentioned nor was the way Green acquired the information for the book. Also, what was  not mentioned in the movie was the fact that the book was actually a survival tool for many African American travelers who often faced a life or death situation on the road. African Americans were not only prevented from staying in hotels and eating in public cafes and restaurants but also refused gas at many service stations. So the importance of The Green Book had more significance and value than reflected in the movie.

Next, the movie failed to represent African Americans (if that indeed was an objective) through the character of the pianist Ali. Although he was portrayed as a brilliant and talented musician, his character appeared as a naïve, innocent, ignorant and an anomaly of a person of color. Why would such a seemingly uninformed person of color agree to a tour through a country whose majority viewed him not as a human being, but somewhat of a spectacle similar to that of an animal that could perform some unusual tricks for their entertainment? The simple fact that Ali’s character was not familiar with fried chicken or rhythm and blues disqualified him from even pretending to be an African American. The character of Ali was en essence a freak, an oddity in the context of the movie since we learn little about his personal life. Throughout the movie Ali performed at the various venues with little or no regard for the fact that he was there only for the entertainment of the European Americans, not as a human being of equal social value. The entire movie focused on a short period of time in his life–from the beginning of the tour until the end of the tour at Christmas. The movie was certainly not about him.

Tony Vallelonga, the Italian from New York, who was hired as Ali’s chauffer and body-guard, was a bigot who accepted the job for the money. Through the course of the tour the two men got to know each other on a personal level, but never as equals. Tony understood that the fabric of ethnic bigotry was part of society’s character and therefore he was in a position to protect Ali from his ignorance on a limited basis. We learn from the movie much about Tony’s life, his family, his friends, aspects of his ethnic identity. In a number of instances Tony saved the day for Ali when confronted by European American bigots. Although the two men grow closer together in accepting one another, that acceptance was as members of two distinct ethnic identities and character roles. The movie came closer to being Tony’s story rather than a story about a book or a pianist of color.

Between the two characters of Ali and Tony, the one that seemed to grow in understanding human relationships was Tony. Ali’s character was that of a spoiled and somewhat controlling talented social orphan who just happened to be a person of color. Ali’s knowledge of The Green Book seemed limited at best as was his awareness and understanding of the African American experience in America. The most important thing to him was his talent and the opportunity to perform before mainly European American audiences and, of course, money.

Although some aspects of the movie were entertaining in a limited context, the overall effect was that of disappointment because nothing of value was gained from the experience of the characters development. Tony arrived home to the welcome of his family and friends who still retained their biases of eggplants. Tony learned to accept Ali, but that acceptance did not extend to all people of color, just Ali.

Ali’s character turns out to be that of a sad, lonely and pathetic individual who never learned the value of family, friends, and acquaintances. African Americans cannot live successfully in America without the support from others which Ali experienced when he visited the local African American club in the town where he was supposed to perform. The movie ends on a sad and tragic note when Ali appears at Tony’s home to save himself from alienation at Christmas not knowing that he was simply an eggplant coming in from the cold.

 

Paul R. Lehman, Talking to kids about race should be a thoughtful, truthful, and rewarding undertaking for the kids

February 8, 2019 at 12:53 pm | Posted in African American, African American hair, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, black inferiority, blacks, Declaration of Independence, democracy, desegregation, discrimination, DNA, education, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, fairness, Hair, Human Genome, identity, integregation, justice, language, Media and Race, minorities, Negro, Oklahoma education, Prejudice, public education, race, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, social conditioning, The Oklahoman, tolerance, white supremacy, whites | Leave a comment
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An interesting and troubling article, “Diversity discussion: How to talk to kids about race,” by Melissa Erickson, (The Oklahoman 1/28/2019) appeared in the paper recently and caught my attention because of the topic and the subject mentioned. The first concern was the activity suggested that someone—talk to kids about race. The problem with that activity depends on several things:  the teacher must be someone familiar with race, ethnicity, culture, and nationality; the ethnicity of the students to receive the information, and the approach to discussing the subject. A closer examination of this article was necessary.

A six-year-old boy came home from school one afternoon and surprised his mother with the question, “are you white”? The irony in the question was the fact that his mom’s maiden name was White, so she had to ask him to be more specific. Since he did not have a grasp of the significance of “white” viewed as an ethnic identity, the mother took the time to explain that she was not white and that a person’s skin complexion does not determine an identity unless he or she believes in myths.  Since mothers are their children’s primary teachers caution must be taken in discussing the subject of race with children because the manner in which the information is presented can, and in many cases, affect the children’s psyche in a positive or negative way.

If the teacher or individual introducing the subject of race to children or anyone for that matter, is not knowledgeable regarding race, ethnicity, culture, and nationality then whatever information given the children will be questionable. The most important decision the teacher must make is whether to discuss race as a myth, or race as a reality, or race as a myth viewed as reality. The results of the teacher’s choice will have a lasting effect on the children’s psyche and how they see themselves as well as how they see others, and how others see them.

Serious challenges accompany each of the choices in that the invention/occurrence of race in American society must be presented and justified. If race is viewed as a myth, then its continuation in society is a problem that society must address until the facts become the guiding principle of its use. All myths can be replaced with facts, but not all people will freely accept the facts. The fact about race is that only one exist, the human race. The benefit in presenting race as the myth it is serves to discount all the derivatives associated with race like racism, racial, biracial, etc….

If race is discussed as a reality then the subjects of its derivatives must also be presented which would include bigotry, prejudice, segregation, discrimination, and integration all of which introduce the overarching topic of European American (white) supremacy. The effect that discussing European American (white)supremacy can have on children was noted in the article: “Studies from the 1940s demonstrated that black American children [African American] as young as 3 associated more negative characteristics :(”bad,” “ ugly,”) to dolls with darker skin and more positive attributes to dolls with light skin and blue eyes (“pretty, “good” ).” So, teaching information about race as a reality would produce a negative affect on how children view themselves and others based on their skin complexion. The teacher would also be tasked with justifying the system of European American (white) supremacy in its many manifestations, especially, European American (white) privileges.

If race is discussed as a myth viewed as reality then the teacher has the responsibility to acknowledge the difference between the two and deliberately choose the way of hypocrisy. In other words, if the teacher knows that race is not biological but chooses to ignore that fact and discuss the myth as reality then a gross disservice is committed against the children and society.  The teacher’s decision to follow the myth as reality involves viewing American society as two-sided—one side that wants and fights from the democratic principles imbedded in the Constitution and Declaration, and one side that is bigoted, self-centered, and controlling using a philosophy of ethnic supremacy  favoring European Americans. Although the teacher’s intentions might be seemingly good, the effect of teaching young children about race, diversity, and tolerance would condition their young minds to look for differences in each other that are man-made and minor while avoiding the majority of things they have in common that are good and biological.

When race is taught so is bigotry because it unites and divides—us and them. One cannot avoid the facts of American slavery and ethnic diversity that accompanies a discussion on race. How would the teacher explain the actions of a Christian society that dehumanized people of color by enslaving them and then blaming their enslavement on the color of their skins? How would the teacher prevent the European American children from feeling guilty for the treatment of the slaves by their ancestors? How would the teacher underscore to the children the objective of teaching diversity that should seek to unite all people as one human family and not individual biologically races, while focusing primarily on their differences? The article noted Darnise C. Martin’s comment that “Conversations can be had about dolls, hair, superheroes and just generally helping children know that they are not any less because of skin color.” The problem with that comment is the underling assumption that race is acceptable and tolerable, but can be explained to the children without any psychological effects.

What happens at time when certain subjects are considered for discussions is that little effort is given to defining the terms to be used in and during the discussion because the assumption is that everybody already knows the meanings. Too often we act as though we do not see or realize the bigoted side of American society while we are enacting laws and policies that do just that. For example, sub-standard schools did not appear by accident nor were they invented by African Americans. The history of the African American and other people of color have never been a regular part of the public school curriculum, only Western civilization’s story. So why would we want to continue to promote a history of race to young children that would continue to promote, maintain, and protect bigotry?

So, what are we suppose to do? Why not just tell the truth about race being a myth and know that as long as we act like it is real, it will appear to be so, and in spite of the fact that our DNA says we are more alike than penguins? However, the minute we decide to focus on truth and facts, the myth will begin to deconstruct.

Paul R. Lehman, Bigotry in our language is a not so hidden secret we can afford to ignore

September 3, 2018 at 6:44 pm | Posted in Africa, African American, African American hair, American history, American Racism, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, Civil Right's Act 1964, Constitutional rights, criminal justice, Declaration of Independence, discrimination, DNA, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, fairness, Hair, Human Genome, identity, justice, justice system, language, law, Media and Race, minorities, Negro, Prejudice, race, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, social conditioning, social justice system, socioeconomics, white supremacy, whites | 2 Comments
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The objective from the very beginning was division and on a permanent basis as the reason the founding fathers invented two races, a black and a white. Unlike the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution that said we are one people, the concept of race has kept us separate and unequal. Subsequently, if we continue believing in the concept of races we will continue to be separate and never fulfill the objective of our democracy. If we are to ever have one nation, we will have to change the way to look, speak, and act towards one another. We also need to understand that the language we use helps to keep us separate. For example, as long as some people view themselves as black and white, they will not come together because of the historical significance of those words. They were meant to keep us apart.

Many well-meaning civic groups actually work against themselves by choosing a name that creates a negative and defensive feeling in others towards them. Take, for example, Black Lives Matter, a group that has an objective that is in keeping with the concept of democracy, but because of the word black in the name, it creates a defensive reaction in the minds of many European Americans.

We also have groups that use words like white, Aryan and caucasian that they believe makes them different from people who do not look like them. Their pronounced goal is to save or preserve the so-call white race. They need to visit history to learn what happens to people who are separated or separate themselves from other people; they become extinct, like for example, the Australian Tasmanian Aboriginals, and in America, the Eire people and the colony of Roanoke.

When civic activists call for unity among people of color, they miss the opportunity to enhance their programs by not inviting all concerned people. We as a society have been conditioned to identify ourselves based on our so-called differences when our objective should be for all to use the same identity. We are all Americans, so why is it necessary to use color or ethnicity as part of identity? When visitors come to America, they come using their cultural identity. When Americans get a passport they provide a picture, but no racial or ethnic identity, because our cultural identity is American, not black or white, Hispanic or Asian etc.

We do ourselves a constant disservice by identifying ourselves as separate groups which have been our legacy since slavery. We have to grasp the reality of our situation understanding that the concept of biological races is a myth, invention, social construction, and lie. Prior to the Human Genome Project, everything about races with the numerous divisions, classifications, and characteristics was conjecture and opinion. We now have scientific proof, validation, and evidence that all human beings are more alike than penguins, and the skin complexion, eye shape and color, and hair texture are not unique to a select group of human beings. We are of one race of beings whether we like it or not.

We might think that language does not play so great a part in our lives and our behavior, but studies old and recent underscore the fact that when the words black and white are used in a sentence referring to an identity, a measured reaction occurs. The reaction for the European American, usually an increased heartbeat, is observed when the word black is used because of the social conditioning associated with the word. African Americans do not experience a similar reaction when the word white appeared in a sentence because they are conditioned to seeing it and without feeling threatened.

The media in American society contributes greatly to the separation of ethnic groups by the way they use inappropriate identity language. For example, if a bank is robbed and the robber was apprehended, nothing pertaining to the robbery is gained when the ethnicity of the robber is identified. Except, in American society today the identity of the robber is omitted if he or she happens to be European American, but the identity is almost always given when the robber ‘s identity is a person of color. The effect of the naming the identity of the ethnic person serves to strengthen the negative stereotype society already has of the person of color.

Another way in which the media contributes to the negative stereotypes and biased attitudes held by some Americans relative to people of color has to do with the mentioning of the geographic location of an incident that is readily identified as being in a location where predominately people of color reside. Again, the mere mention of the location adds to the negative stereotype held by many people familiar with the location.

Today, with all the problems America is facing relative to our government and the various policies being addressed both positively and negatively, we need to take the opportunity to add our concept of race and identity into the mix and deal with it once and for all. We continue to talk about racism as if it was legitimate rather than bigotry which is what has been and continues to be practiced in society. Yes, our language uses the word racism to talk about social biases, but simultaneously serves to keep the concept of races alive and our society separate. We need to decide what kind of society we want to live in as well as our children and grandchildren. Once we make that choice, we need to get to work and make it happen. We have been talking about racism for three hundred years to no avail because we are still talking about it without a change in the daily behaviors of people. Racism is not the problem, we are because we refuse to accept the fact that we have been living in a false reality. What we cannot continue pretending to not see is the rapidly changing demographics that will force changes in society relative to cultural and ancestral identities.

We currently have an opportunity to make great strides in addressing our oneness as a society by debunking the myth of race and working to make America what it was meant to be a democracy. We will not and cannot get to where we want, and need, to be if we do not change from using our misleading ethnically biased language of bigotry.

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