Tags: African Americans, American Bigotry, bigotry, black, communication, Confronting Myths, current-events, Dr. Robin DiAngelo, ethnicity, European Americans, FORSETTI'S JUSTICE, Prejudice, race, Race in America, skin color, skin complexion, white
People from famous writers to Supreme Court Justices to presidents and even to everyday people have acknowledged the fact that America continues to be separated by color, and try as we may, little progress has been made to bridge that gap. Certainly, strides have been made to bring the two groups together, but nothing seems to work for very long. The fact that ethnic bigotry was instituted at the very beginning of this American experience and continues today underscores its strength. The social conditioning of Americans to respect the power and privilege of skin color manifests itself in everyday life in all of our society’s institutions. Why cannot the gap that separates the two groups be filled? Actually, it can be filled; we just have to decide that we want to come together as one unified un-bigoted nation.
When a group of European Americans was asked if it were possible would they like to live their lives as African Americans? They were asked to raise their hand if the answer was yes. Not a single European American raised his or her hand. Why? Two reasons come to mind, one is that European Americans realize the privilege and power they experience because of their skin color and do not want to lose anything. Another reason is that European Americans know how American society treats African Americans and they do not want any parts of that treatment. These two questions also represent the reason many European Americans do not like to talk about race. One question that these two reasons bring to mind relative to European Americans is since they know how they feel and know how African Americans are treated in society, why do they not speak out against it as unjust and unfair? One answer is a lack of effective communications between the European Americans and the African Americans.
One of the main points of contention involving effective communications between African Americans and European Americans is the fact that they have different perceptions of reality. The European American cannot tell the African American how to address his problems because he does not perceive the problem as does the African American. For example, the problem involving a lack of good relations between the police force and the African American community is that the police still have the perception of bigotry and fear towards the African American. For them, the remedy for this problem is more troops and more training—for African Americans that is the wrong answer. The actual remedy would be an education that replaces the bigoted image of the European Americans towards the African American community to one that embraces all people as part of the human family. By doing so, the development of organizations that work together for the betterment of the communities can be constructed.
Unfortunately, many European Americans believe that their perception of reality is fair and just; they are mistaken. Society has conditioned them to see people of color as inferior and European Americans as normal and superior. No one has to teach them this bias; our society in all its institutions continues to reinforce this concept. When all the suggested solutions offered by European Americans continue to view two separate groups of people, then that is not a solution. The first order of business in resolving a problem is to recognize and understand the problem. If the problem is perception, then that is the first problem to resolve.
Blame and criticism for different perspectives should not enter the discussion, only the fact that they are different and must be made acceptable to both sides. Since society has conditioned European Americans to assume superiority as normal, not pretentious, they need to be shown that their view is biased. Achieving that particular accomplishment will be extremely challenging for as Dr. Robin DiAngelo noted in her study of white fragility that: “It became clear over time that white people have extremely low thresholds for enduring any discomfort associated with challenges to our racial worldview.” She added that “We [European Americans] can manage the first round of challenge by ending the discussion through platitudes—usually, something that starts with ‘People just need to,’ or ‘Race doesn’t really have any meaning to me,’ or ‘Everybody’s racist.’ Scratch any further on that surface, however, and we fall apart.”European Americans generally consider any effort to connect them to the system of ethnic supremacy as very unsettling and an “unfair moral offense.”None-the-less, the challenge must be made if any positive change is to be expected in replacing ethnic bigotry.
Another concern that bears consideration is the ethnic bias that is so deeply embedded in some European Americans that almost any challenge will prove ineffective. In an articles entitled “The dark rigidity of fundamentalist rural America: a view from the inside,” published in FORSETTI’S JUSTICE, ALTERNET( 27 NOV 2016 AT 09:40 ET) the writer noted that this group of people has their own way of viewing life in general, which differs from the way urban people see life: “Another problem with rural, Christian, white Americans is they are racists. I’m not talking about white hood-wearing, cross-burning, lynching racists (though some are). I’m talking about people who deep down in their heart of hearts truly believe they are superior because they are white. Their white God made them in his image and everyone else is a less-than-perfect version, flawed and cursed.” The writer was writing from his experience as a resident of rural America.
From the nature of the above quote, and the deeply fixed notion of a racial identity, no amount of facts, evidence, proof or explanations will replace such a bigoted mindset. With all the changes taking place in our society and the world, the charade of races by color is not long for this world. The sooner European Americans and people of color can begin to see each other as belonging to the same family of man the sooner all the confusion and myth-believing concerning race can be replaced. The changes will take place regardless of one’s beliefs in a race, but being aware of the facts will help the transition occur smoothly rather than with great difficulty. The changes can only begin in earnest when the lines of communications that are free from ethnic bias are established.
Paul R. Lehman, President Obama signed a bill eliminating the word Negro that signals change in identitiesAugust 15, 2016 at 11:24 pm | Posted in African American, American history, American Indian, American Racism, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, discrimination, DNA, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, Hispanic whites, identity, immigration, law, minority, Non-Hispanic white, President Obama, public education, Race in America, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, U. S. Census, U.S. Supreme Court, white supremacy, whites | 1 Comment
Tags: American History, ancestral identity, black, cultural identity, current-events, ethnicity, European Americans, Hispanics, Kamala Kelkar, minorities, Negro, Obama and American Bigotry, PBS NEWSHOUR, President Obama, race, Republicans, skin color, skin complexion, slavery, white
When Africans were brought to this country and enslaved, one of the first things taken from them was their identity. Taking away their identity was important because it represented the history of who they were and that they were valued. Although each enslaved African would be given a slave name, they would all be commonly called black or negro because of their skin color. The African identity was taken away from the enslaved, but the slave sellers and owners knew who they were, what they did (farmer, fisherman, craftsman, etc…) and where they were from because their selling price would be influenced by that information.
An example of the value of the African’s identity was underscored in a 1764 poem by James Grainger, “The Sugar Cane.” This poem was constructed using four parts called books; the fourth book, “On the Genius of Africa,” shows the value of a slaver knowing the identity of the African captives: “Negroes when bought should be young and strong. The Congo-Negroes are fitter for the house and trades, than for the field. The Gold-Coast, but especially the Papaw-Negroes, make the best field-Negroes: but even these, if advanced in years, should not be purchased.” This information focuses on males, for females the advice is when looking for a sound Negro: “Where the men do nothing but hunt, fish or fight, all the field drudgery is left to the women: these are to be preferred to their husbands.” The reference continues for males: “The Minnahs make good tradesmen, but addicted to suicide. The Mundingoes, in particular, subject to worms; and the Congas, to dropsical disorders.”(The Making of the Negro in Early American Literature, Paul R. Lehman, 2nd edition, Fountainhead Press, 2006, P. 38)
For enslaved Africans in America, their identity was taken away so their history and value would be tied to American slavery. If the only identity an enslaved person had was that of being American black or Negro (both terms mean the same) then they did not exist except in the system of slavery. The only personal identity they had linked them to their owner, as in the reference—John Smith’s Negro, “Tom.” During the early 1700’s,the term for slave went from Negro and black to simply “slave” due to the common coupling of the two phrase “black slave” or “Negro slave.” However, many of the enslaved were still Europeans and American Indians, but the majority of the enslaved was African/ African American.
Once the government instituted the system of white supremacy and black inferiority, race by color became an important part of personal identity in American society. Americans were no longer able to identity with a particular ethnic or culture group. Kamala Kelkar, (PBS NEWSHOUR, 5/22/2016), noted that “In 1790, the U.S. Census counted people by lumping them into one of three categories—slaves, free white females and males, or all other free persons.”The most important identity an American could have or want to have was white. The most damning identity one could have was that of either slave or Negro.
Immigration to American from around the world, but especially Eastern and Southern Europe brought many changes to the invented concept of race. Although most European immigrants were not referred to as white, they all were willing to give-up their cultural identity to be called white. For people of color, the term Negro was used regardless of their place of birth outside of the U.S. As recently as 2010, the Census form still included the term Negro or black, but the list for other people of color had expanded. Kelkar explained that “The Department of Energy Act has for decades described “minorities” as, “Negro, Puerto Rican, American Indian, Eskimo, Oriental, or Aleut or as a Spanish-speaking individual of Spanish descent.”Because of the system of white supremacy and black inferiority, people of color were identified as “minorities.”
For over two-hundred years the words race and ethnicity were generally undefined and used indiscriminately to the confusion of all, especially the U.S. Census. As recent as 2010, Americans in a number of categories were told on the Census form to identify themselves as white, if they could not find an identity that suited them. This group included mixed-ethnic individuals such as Asian Americans, American Indians, and Hispanics. In effect, the concept of race by color had reached a point of meaninglessness. The problem was that the terms race was interpreted as pertaining to multiple biological groups of human beings or ethnic groups. The fact is that only one race of human beings exists—Homo sapiens. Ethnicity or ethnic groups pertains to the variety of cultural groups within the human race.
Every human being on the planet Earth has two identities—one ancestral or ethnic, one cultural. The ancestral or ethnic identity is represented by a person’s biological parents; the cultural is the identity the individual selects. For example, an Asian American has Asian as an ancestral identity, and American as the cultural which he or she embraces. The terms Negro and black do not allow for either identity nor does the terms white and Caucasian. Fortunately, things are about to change.
President Barack Obama just recently signed H.R. 4238 “which amends two federal acts from the 70’s that define “minorities” with terms that are now insensitive or outdated.” In addition, the bill was sponsored by Rep. Grace Meng, D-NY, with 74 Democratic co-sponsors and two Republican ones;” it passed with 380 votes. The two words removed from the books are Negro and Oriental. According to Kelkar “The new bill changes the language to, ‘Asian American, Native Hawaiian, a Pacific Islander, African American, Hispanic, Puerto Rican, Native American or Alaska Native.’”
The changes in identity were inevitable because race by color was an invention based on false assumptions and beliefs. Black or Negro and white or Caucasian were never biological categories of the human race but were put in place because of the government’s control. No one ever came to America with only the identity of black, Negro, or Caucasian or white; they always had an ancestral and cultural identity. Once in America, however, the Europeans recognized the value of being identified as white and so the abandoned their ancestral and cultural identity for white. People of color coming to America realized the stigma associated with being call Negro or black and usually decided to retain their ancestral and cultural identity. Now the people of color who were previously called Negro can be specific in their ancestral and cultural identity—African American. For whites and Caucasians, no official changes have been made although the term European Americans was used on occasion by the Supreme Court, but they always had the freedom to identify themselves using their ancestral identity such as Irish, Italian, Polish, German, etc. In any event, the fact is that identity-based on race by color is rapidly being deconstructed.
Tags: African American 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.
Tags: Affirmative Action, African Americans, American women, black, Civil Rights, Civil Rights Act, Civil Rights Act of 1964, Constitutional rights, equality of opportunity, ethnicity, European Americans, Prejudice, Public Accomadations, The U.S. Constitution, Title IX, white
Today, some fifty years after the Civil Rights Act was signed many Americans still do not know what it was about and some of the results of the signing. From a political and historical perspective, the 1964 signing of the Act by President Lyndon B. Johnson spelled the beginning of the end of the Democratic Party in the South. For African Americans, women, and other American minorities, it represented the beginning of new opportunities for life, liberties and the pursuit of happiness. Many European Americans viewed the Civil Rights Act as the government’s efforts to give special privileges to African Americans. The reason for the Act was due to many ethnic and minority Americans not being able to enjoy the rights and privileges of a first class citizen.
Many European Americans believe that the Civil Rights Acts was written specifically for African Americans because Martin Luther King, Jr.’s name has been associated with it. The truth is that the Act says absolutely nothing about African Americans or any other Ethnic Americans. So, the critics that try to discredit the Act by claiming it is for African Americans are just plain wrong. If one is serious about wanting to find fault with the ’64 Civil Rights Act, they need to take a time out and look at what has happened since the Act was signed.
Women and other minorities were prevented from attending some of the most renowned colleges and universities simply because the colleges had the right to pick and choose who they wanted at their institutions. For proof, all one needs to do is look at the graduation class pictures of any of these schools and count how many women and minorities are included. Then find a picture of a recent graduating class and compare the number of minorities and women. Chances are the results will show a drastic increase of women and minorities in the recent pictures. Why, because the Civil Rights Act made it unlawful for institutions to discriminate against individuals because of their color and/or gender. As a result many women European American as well as African American women have benefited from the new opportunities provided by the Act.
The first paragraph of the Act states that:
To enforce the constitutional right to vote, to confer jurisdiction upon the district courts of the United States to provide injunctive relief against discrimination in public accommodations, to authorize the Attorney General to institute suits to protect constitutional rights in public facilities and public education, to extend the Commission on Civil Rights, to prevent discrimination in federally assisted programs, to establish a Commission on Equal Employment Opportunity, and for other purposes.
If we look at the results that the Civil Rights Acts have had on African Americans, we discover a mixed- bag of experiences. The purpose of the Act was to ensure justice and fairness for all Americans because before the Act, only European American males enjoyed the liberties and privileges afforded the first class citizens. Discrimination against African Americans, women, and other American minorities existed in education, employment, public accommodations as well as some federal programs. Since the passage of the Act many Americans have experienced opportunities to improve their lives, none more than the European American female. So, for someone to say that civil rights is for African Americans is false; all Americans have civil rights, it is just that African Americans, women, and other Americans minorities were never provided with the opportunity to enjoy theirs.
The passage of the ’64 Civil Rights Act did not bring immediate relief to those Americans who had been discriminated against since the beginning of American society. A brief reminder of the past tells us that the American women did not get the vote until 1920; African Americans attended segregated public schools until 1954; and it was not until the 1964 Civil Rights Acts that women began making headway in the medical and legal professions. Again, we are not speaking of African American women, but all American women.
Much of the recent progress of African Americans, women, and other minorities comes as a result of programs like Affirmative Action and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act. Many people today take for granted the participation of women in the legal, medical, athletic professions, not to mentions the areas of service like law enforcement, postal workers, fire fighters, construction workers, and a host of others that were closed to women and minorities for many years.
African American and other minority males have benefited from the Civil Rights Act, but not to the extent that women have and still are benefiting. For example, more women attend and graduate from college than men. That is not the say that all Americans are treated fairly because of the Act. That would be false. The fact concerning the Civil Rights Act is that many Americans who never understood it are still against it. Some individuals continue to challenge programs like Affirmative Action because they believe it discriminates against the European Americans in areas like college and university admissions where they believe African Americans are given a preference.
After more than three-hundred-years of segregation, discrimination, and bigotry American society making a smooth transition to a fair and just society would be a miracle. Change takes time because some people who were born into a society where they received privileges and power, come to believe those things came with their birth and skin complexion. These people need to become acquainted with the Constitution under which they live so they will realize that the rights and privileges they presume to have are no longer given to people because of their skin color.
So, the next time someone makes the claim that civil rights are only for African Americans, like some individuals of national repute have done, they should be required to back-up those claims with documented proof. After all, the preamble to the Constitution states that “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United State of America.” Nowhere is there a reference to color, gender, or ethnicity in that statement. All Americans should enjoy their civil rights.
Tags: African Americans, American Education, Best Man Holiday, black, Confronting Myths, England, ethnicity, European American, European Americans, France, movies, Nigeria, politics, race, skin color, South Africa, USA Today, white
Americans are ethnically conditioned to discern other ethnic groups with one exception; that exception would be recognizing European Americans. Read any newspaper or magazine article and if the subject of the article is European American, that information is usually not stated, but assumed. If the subject of the article is other than European American, then the ethnicity is identified. The primary reason for this activity is based on the influence and control European Americans have had on Americans for several hundred years. During American slavery and shortly after the Civil War, emphasis was placed on the irrational conception of race by color; that is, society created two dominant races, one black, the other white. Ever since that creation, fruitless efforts have been made to try and make the myth reflect reality. Nonetheless, what American society has been able to do is promote the concept of multiple biological races with relative success. Along with the concept of multiple biological races came the acceptance of the European American as the only normal representative of human beings. In effect, European Americans were conditioned to see themselves as not belonging to a race or ethnic groups because they were the model of mankind. So, the inclusion or exclusion of the European American ethnic identity in the print media simple reflects that concept of normalcy.
The concept of European American as being normal manifest itself in a variety of ways daily in society. The majority of models used to sell goods and services are European American. When models of other ethnic groups are used to sell what is generally viewed as normal goods and services, they attract attention because they are not seen as normal based on how they look. For example, beauty products aired on television usually employ European American models, male and female. Today, when an ethnic American model is used in advertisement the recognition of the difference is almost immediate. Again, the reason for this recognition is based on the conditioning we as a society have been exposed to regarding what is seen as normal and what is not.
One of the great challenges we have in America today is discontinuing the misguided practice of discerning ethnic groups and then stereotyping them according to what is considered to be social norms. For each of the major ethnic groups in America today, society has a stereotype of some sore used to characterize that group. These stereotypes lend themselves to separating and dividing Americans rather than uniting them. Take, for example, the celebrations of Thanksgiving and Hanukah, occasions that serve to honor events in American and Jewish history respectively. As a diverse society America recognizes and supports the rights of the Jewish people to celebrate some of their history just as America celebrates part of its history. In effect, we are more alike as human being than we are different. We need to learn to accentuate our similarities rather then focus on our differences. First, however, we must become aware of how we continue to separate ourselves.
A recent headline from USA Today identified the movie The Best Man Holiday as having a race theme. That assessment was probably due to the fact that the cast was predominantly African American. The suggestion implied from the reference to race is that because of the color of the majority of the cast, the movie’s theme had to be about race. A number of concerns are presented with the assumption of a movie being associated with a race; first is the acceptance of the false assumption of multiple races, and second is the assumption that skin complexion determines a so-called race. We need to clear the air on the two false assumptions.
If a statement is made about a movie being a race-theme production, then the idea of either a black or some other colored race is intended, because movies using European Americans are considered normal. The faulty logic in a statement referring to a race theme movie is that no such race exists. If the reference is to a so-called black race, then any movie with a cast of people of color, regardless of their geography or culture would be considered black. For example, a movie made in Nigeria, with a Nigerian cast, or in South Africa, with a South African cast, or in Brazil with a Brazilian cast would all be considered a race theme movie, because of the skin complexion of the cast members. However, a movie made in England with an English cast, or Germany, with a German cast, or France, with a French cast would simply be a movie because of the skin complexion of the cast members. We can readily understand just how ridiculous the concept of race by color is confusing and useless.
Because Americans are conditioned to see race based on color, they also accept the idea of so-called racial differences associated with the stereotypes. In essence, a so-called race theme movie would depict the elements of love, hate, happiness, and the range of human emotions based on the idea of some specific so-called race. Therefore, following that logic, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet performed by African Americans would be a play with a race theme. How stupid are we?
We, as a society could eliminate a large part of the ignorance and stupidity by forgoing the use of the terms black and white and their reference to so-called races. We know, but need to accept, the fact that only one human race exists, and we are all part of it. Every American belongs to the human family regardless of his or her ethnicity. We readily acknowledge the cultural differences that economic, education, geography, and social standing represent, but all those things are man-made. When we take the time to observe and examine our differences, we learn quickly that we are more alike than different and that movies, regardless of the skin complexion of the cast, are about human beings and the challenges they face learning to live with one another
Tags: African Americans, American Education, Confronting Myths, current-events, Douglass High School, ethnic stereotypes, ethnicity, European Americans, Ladanae Thompson, Little Axe, Matt Tilley, Prejudice, society, The Oklahoman, tornado clean-up, volunteers
An article printed in The Oklahoman (5-2-13) showed just how uninformed and steeped in ignorance certain segments of society still are. The article, “Douglass Students battle stigma through volunteering,” involved a group of Douglas High school students, a predominately African American school, traveled to a small town in Oklahoma that had been hit by a tornado to help with the clean-up efforts. Being neighborly, they wanted to show their compassion and caring towards the people who had been affected. Upon arriving at the town, some of the town’s people were alarmed at the sight of all these African American youths. Their first reaction was defensive because they though these young people had ridden in busses to their town to loot and steal whatever they could from the damaged area of town. The article noted that “A resident expressed fears of looting when the group arrived for the cleanup effort Friday.” The local people, evidently, relied on stereotypes relative to the school and its African American students for their fears.
According to the article, “The Oklahoma City School’s sophomore class helped clean up tornado damage in Little Axe, but first some local residents had to be convinced that the young people were there for a good purpose.” Little Axe is a rural community about 20 miles from Norman, Oklahoma with a population of predominately of European Americans. So, seeing several busloads of young African Americans in the town was not a customary occurrence. However, to assume these students had come to Little Axe in school buses to loot and steal defies common sense. In any event, we are told that “Matt Tilley, a 10th-grade English teacher and trip organizer, said Wednesday that he had to vouch for the students.” We wonder what is meant by Tilley having to “vouch for the students.” We know what the word “vouch” means, but why would students sitting in big yellow school buses need to be validated by their teacher to the local resident? Although the article did not state it, we must assume that Tilley is European American, and the resident would not accept the word of the students.
The students apparently thought that volunteering to help at a site damaged by a tornado would be welcomed. We learned that “About 120 students worked in teams for four hours to remove tree branches and debris from residents’ home and take it to the curb.” In addition, “Many of the students had never volunteered before nor had they seen such intense tornado damage.” So, this trip was an opportunity for both the students and the residents to learn something about each other.
The reaction of the residents of Little Axe made a serious and troubling statement about the lack of information in our society regarding the changes in the negative stereotype of ethnic Americans. What we can recognize in the residents reaction is that society in general, and the media specifically helps to promote the negative stereotypes of ethnic Americans rather than the positive. In effect, most Americans see or read about non-European Americans generally in a negative context. The positive activities and events associated with Ethnic Americans are not usually promoted. We can use this article as an example of limited access to the media. The chances are the efforts of these young Douglass High students would not have been covered by the press and come to public awareness had it not been for the negative reaction they received from some of the residents of Little Axe. The attention these students would have received by the media without the negative reactions from Little Axe would not have been considered worthy of reporting. Could it be that the actions of these students did not fit the stereotype?
For years Americans have been living in segregated communities not interacting with people who do not look like them. Our educational institutions as well as the media contribute to the ignorance we have concerning our fellow citizens. So, when we are confronted with people we are not accustomed to seeing in our community, the lack of accurate and current information about these citizens serve to create fear and negative stereotypes we have been fed for far too many years.
One student commented on the reaction of a resident’s fear stated that “’They had heard so much news from Douglass about fights or stealing, they probably expected it to happen there, too, but it never happened.’” Society and the media have a long history is creating and promoting negative stereotypes regarding ethnic Americans. Because the majority of stories involving ethnic Americans is negative and generally involves crimes, the fear of some ethnic Americans is created. What are obvious to many ethnic American males are the actions of mature European American women who clutch their purses tighter, lock their car doors, and cross the street to the other side when they see an ethnic American walking towards them. Although these actions are good measures to be taken in generally for safety reasons, it takes the sight of an Ethnic American to trigger the response.
What the people of Little Axe did not realize is that the world and society has and continues to change whether they know it or not. Their community seems to be closed to all but the inhabitants and anyone else became suspect especially if he or she happens to be ethnic American. However, something happened, according to the article, “When the residents saw what the students could do, their attitudes changed. The young students saw tears, received thank you notes and were invited back to Little Axe.” The experience turned out to be a learning one for both the students and the residents. The Douglass students were looking for an opportunity to contribute in a positive way: “Our class motto is ‘with our own hands,’ and it’s basically saying when a road to success can’t be found we build one with our own hands, and that’s pretty much what we did,’ Douglass sophomore Ladanae Thompson said.” She added that “We helped clean up. We helped another community with our own hands; that is what the class of 2015 is trying to do.”
We trust that the residents of Little Axe and similar communities can benefit from this experience where people can discard long-held negative stereotypes and beliefs of ethnic Americans and embrace the common sense reality of people just wanting to help other people. We will, however, need the media, our educational institutions and society to step-up their contributions in presenting a more balanced and realistic picture of America with all its diversity.
Tags: African Americans, Alzheimer's study, black, Confronting Myths, Daniel Chang, DNA, ethnicity, European Americans, human genome study, medical school researchers, Miami Herald, miami medical school, Race in America, science, The Human Genome Project, University of Miami, university of miami medical school, white
The need for our society to divorce itself from the use of color as an identity becomes more apparent every day. For example, an article by Daniel Chang in the Miami Herald (4/11/13) titled “Researchers identify possible new gene linked to Alzheimer’s disease in blacks” creates more questions than it answers. What good is a study that uses unreliable information? We are certainly not against studies that can be beneficial to society and strongly support them, but not studies that seem a waste of time and money such as the one mentioned above.
Chang states that “University of Miami medical school researchers working with geneticist and physicians from other institutions have identified a new gene associated with Alzheimer’s disease in blacks…” Let us stop here and ask the question—how are blacks defined? Did the study select African Americans to participate in the study and refer to them as blacks? We are not told. If the study uses the word black as an identity does it refer to only people with black or dark complexions? If the study used African Americans and referred to them as blacks, how does the study account for the African Americans of light or fair complexions? If the study refers to people with black skin or dark complexions, then it would not be limited to people in America. Since we are not told just who the study subjects are except for the word blacks, we are at a loss to understand the value of the study.
One of the major discoveries of the Human Genome study involving DNA was that all human beings are 99.9% alike. They discovered that since all humans belong to one race that discerning a race from DNA was not possible: “DNA studies do not indicate that separate classifiable subspecies (races) exist within modern humans. While different genes for physical traits such as skin and hair color can be identified between individuals, no consistent patterns of genes across the human genome exist to distinguish one race from another. There also is no genetic basis for divisions of human ethnicity. People who have lived in the same geographic region for many generations may have some alleles in common, but no allele will be found in all members of one population and in no members of any other.” (genonics.energy.gov) For some reason the people working on this study did not get the memo.
The article continued by noting that “While Alzheimer’s occurs as frequently in blacks as other populations, researchers say there are important differences in the molecular mechanisms of the disease among people of different races and ethnicities.”What and who are we to believe? The study on DNA says that race cannot be determined, yet, this Miami study says it can. We need all the helpful information we can get to help in treating and curing Alzheimer’s disease, but we also need reliable information. When confusion regarding the existence of race is in question, the results of any study that does not clearly define its subjects will be suspect. We are told by Chang that “The study that led researchers to identify the gene, called ABCA7, will be published …in the Journal of the American Medical Association this month. Why?
The Miami study seems to directly undermine the findings of the Genome Project when it makes reference to “different races” and when it apparently identifies blacks as a race. One must question the logic of their statement that “Identifying these differences could help researchers develop treatments and drugs that are more likely to be effective because they’re tailor-made for an individual’s genetic make-up.” The individual in reference to the statement belongs to a black race? We thought that the study focused on a group of people—black people with the same gene, but now we are told that drugs will be “tailor-mage for an individual’s genetic make-up.” Are the people in question black complexioned or just called black rather than African American? The confusion continues because the subjects of the study were not clearly defined.
Chang does provide the following information:”The research project that led to the discovery of the new gene is believed to be the largest genome-wide association study conducted on late-onset Alzheimer’s disease in blacks.” Again, we must assume that blacks is a reference to what or who? He continues “It [the study] included 1,968 cases and 3,928 controls collected at multiple sites between 1989 and 2011. We do not know anything about these cases except some were controlled.
The ridicule made regarding this Miami study is not directed to Daniel Chang, he simply reported the story. The complaint falls to the creators of the study for not clearly defining their subject by ethnicity or by referring to people having the same “new” gene ABGA7. Since race is not possible to discern except by color, restricting the treatment to blacks could negatively affect other people, non-blacks with the “new” gene from receiving needed treatment. If the creators of studies involving human beings would focus on the problem rather that the supposed race of the subjects, more people might benefit from the study. Nothing prevents these study creators from using ethnicities or ethnic groups as the focused population to study, but using race and color dooms the study from the start.
So, what are we to make of this important study that focused on blacks? The ethnic make-up of American society is changing so quickly that the old form or system of identifying an individual based on his or her color is no longer effective. Many countries do not consider the skin complexion of their citizens as part of their personal identity. So, when any of these people come to America, they comes using their own unique identity, not one of black or white etc… The sooner we as a society stop using color and the concept of multiple races as valid or factual, the better off we will be, and studies that focus of specific cultural or ethnic groups will provide some benefit.