Paul R. Lehman, The power of language continues to enslave American society

August 21, 2018 at 3:58 pm | Posted in Africa, African American, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, Civil Right's Act 1964, democracy, desegregation, discrimination, education, employment, entitlements, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, fairness, Genealogy,, identity, integregation, justice, language, law, lower class, Media and Race, minority, Prejudice, race, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, social conditioning, socioeconomics, Stokely Carmichael, the 'n' word, the Black Codes, white supremacy, whites | Leave a comment
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One of the constant conundrums challenging America today is race; the reason for it being constant is because while we experience and observe it, we can only describe it, not defines it. We cannot define race because it is a concept based on conjecture and myths.  Since the Greeks and Romans did not know why the sun rose and set every twenty-four hours, they made up a story about it. The story had some facts in it relative to the movement of the sun, but the facts were surrounded by fiction. Apparently, they thought that Apollo drove his chariot around the heavens riding up to the center of the sky in the morning, and down to the horizon at night. Fortunately, scientists came along to give more precise information about the sun and its relations to the earth. Today, the world knows the actual movement of the sun as well as the other celestial bodies in the universe and no longer need to invent myths. Unfortunately, we have not arrived at that point with the use of the term race. The myth continues because we have not decided to rid ourselves of its power to control our mind and bodies.

Language is the most important tool used in transmitting not only information but also a controlling influence over society. When the slave masters took away the slaves’ identity, history, and culture, they forced on the slaves a language that was meant to keep them enslaved. The language was such an important tool that the slaves were forbidden to learn to read and write it. The punishment for anyone caught teaching a slave to read or write were heavy fines, whippings, or imprisonment, depending on the state in which it occurred. The slave owners knew that language as a tool could be used to control minds, but they also knew that it could also be used to liberate minds as well.

One way in which language was used to control society was when it constantly reminded European Americans that they were superior to all people of color, and it reminded people of color that they were inferior to European Americans. Once the captive Africans arrived in America and were stripped of their identities and past; they were forced to accept the reality of slavery. The language they used always pictured them as inferior and European Americans as powerful, privileged, and in total control of society. The African captives knew that they were not Negroes, blacks, or other terms associated with their identity, but they were defenseless to do anything about it for fear of repercussions, including death. After years of social conditioning in which the language constantly reminded the African Americans that they were Negroes, blacks, colored, and a host of other denigrating terms, their actual identity became less of a concern than their civil rights as citizens.

In the early 1960’s language was used as a tool for protest by African Americans who combined identity with the fight for civil rights with the phrase “Black Power.”  Africans were forced to wear the identity of black from the beginning of American slavery and it was used as a derogatory and denigrating term. Even African Americans used the term as derogatory within the African American community. However, when the phrase “Black Power” was used by Stokely Carmichael during a 1960’s civil rights rally, it gained legs and moved throughout the national African American community as well as society at large via music and media. The reference to “black” was used to engender a new sense of pride and positive value to what was once viewed as insulting and denigrating to African Americans. The power of language to influence worked to change the negative concept of blackness as an identity for African Americans to one of positivity, pride, and beauty.

While the language shift worked to provide a new sense of self for the African Americans relative to a black identity, it accomplished little for the European American since no change occurred in their conception and use of the word black as derogatory. The major misconception of the African American community nationally was that the word black would somehow be transformed to represent a new identity. The problem with that happening is that the space the word black occupied in the language could and would not be replaced simply by repetition. Although European Americans could use the word white for their identity, it carried no negative connotations, just the opposite.  Many Europeans abandoned their cultural identity to accept the white identity because of the power and prestige it provided them. African Americans because they did not use their cultural or ancestral identities were forced to be identified as blacks and Negroes. Two reasonable identity choices are African American or people of color, but only for ancestral identities. The cultural identity has always been American.

Many people of color in America accept the word black as a form of identity without realizing that the words black and white are adjectives, not nouns; that is, as nouns they represent colors, but as adjectives, they usually precede the noun race. Therefore, if the word black is used as a noun, it serves no purpose as an identity because it represents no cultural or ancestral ethnicity. If the word black is used as an adjective proceeding race, then the identity is based on a false concept of a black race that is viewed as a monolith which is also incorrect. In other words, the use of the slave masters’ language still represents some control over society’s identities.

The late Malcolm X learned that language as a social tool could provide an element of power and influence. So, he worked hard to become proficient in the use of language, and as a result was able to educate, enlighten, inform, irritate, and intimidate his audiences. Partly due to his early death he had not gained the level of understanding that would have helped to unlock the door of ignorance relative to how language managed to retain control of the concept of race. He did, however, recognized that the identity given the African captives upon their arrival was not their true identity and so he rejected his family name (usually taken from the slaves’ former owner or master) and replaced it with the letter X which is symbolic for the unknown.  American society’s challenge now is to recognize how language has been used to control us so we can set about the business of freeing ourselves. We cannot resolve a problem if we do not recognize that it exists.

 

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Paul R. Lehman, The use of the word Racism precludes the appropriate use of the word Bigotry

August 7, 2018 at 2:40 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, Bigotry in America, blacks, Constitutional rights, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, fairness, justice, Prejudice, race, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, social conditioning, social justice system, socioeconomics, the Black Codes, whites | 1 Comment
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For far too many years we Americans have employed a term that did not reflect the actions and deeds of individuals represented by that term. The term is racism and as defined by most dictionaries resembles the following: “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and those racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” In America race was described and identified by skin complexion of black and white with white deemed the superior of the two. Subsequently, whenever anything in society points to or indicates a privilege or advantage for the so-called white race (European American) over that of the so-called black race (African American) the act is labeled as an act of racism. If we were to follow the logic of the acts of racism, we might determine that the whole of the African/African American experience has been one of racism. All one needs to do to verify racism is to look at several significant legal adjustments made since the Civil War regarding the treatment of African Americans.

The term racism was taken from the term race which has been misappropriated and misinterpreted in order to justify its use relative to the superiority of the European Americans. The fact that the term is still in use today is owing to the social conditioning of American society that invented the social elements that underscored and guaranteed the essence of European American superiority. When we look at the history of social concerns such as jobs, education, housing, finance, to name a few, that were used to control the progress of the African Americans we realize that they were designed to keep the African American in a state of inferiority compared to the European American.  For each of these social concerns African Americans had to fight in courts, usually, the Supreme Court, to finally receive some semblance of fairness. The fight was against the government, not individuals, and the fight was not against racism, but against injustice and bigotry.

African Americans and many conscientious Americans have been fighting since before the Civil War for justice and full citizen rights for African Americans and other people of color. Although the term racism has been employed as the cause of the bias, prejudice, and discrimination preventing full civil rights for African Americans the fact of the matter is that racism was just an excuse to maintain psychological control of the race concept and the perception of superiority. The reason for the persistence of the social concept of racism is because it is a belief, not an action or a thing. A belief cannot be destroyed; it must be replaced. An example of how a belief can remain unchallenged or in place is found in our view of the tomato, which for many years we thought to be a vegetable but in fact is a fruit. Nonetheless, in almost all supermarkets and grocery stores the tomato is placed in the vegetable produce section. By placing the tomato in the vegetable section, our false concept of it as a vegetable and not a fruit is reinforced. So it is with the term racism that when we see it being employed we do not think about it reinforcing ethnic superiority, but simply focusing on some reference to social injustice.

Unlike the term racism that is based on a false concept, the term bigotry is free from any sense of illusion, myth or social invention. Bigotry is defined as a “stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.” In other words, bigotry is the property of the individual, not a group and as such any act of bigotry reflects on the individual who owns total responsibility for the act or action. A bigot would possess the elements of narrow-mindedness, biases, and discrimination as part of that mindset. Here the difference between a bigot and a so-called racist is that while the racist only believes in ethnic superiority, the bigot acts on the biases to prove or underscore the belief.

The numerous incidents of European Americans calling 911 to report a person of color being in a place the caller thought were not appropriate for them to occupy demonstrates acts of bigotry. Any individual can possess a belief and never act on it, but once an act has been committed, the experience becomes real, not imaginary. Since racism is not a legitimate term relative to race by color, the appropriate term for the individual committing the biases act is a bigot and the belief system is bigotry.

To ethnically biased Americans the words racist and racism do not give a reason for pause because they serve as a compliment since it underscores their mindset. The social conditioning that many European Americans experience views ethnic bias and European American privilege as natural and right. When those concepts are challenged the European American automatically becomes defensive and strives to protect what is considered an infringement on their Constitutional rights. One can understand the European American’s reaction because American society has spoon-fed the European American to view these privileges as ordinary, lawful, and socially acceptable. For example, when the Starbuck employee called 911 because two African American men in the store made her feel uncomfortable, her efforts were recognized and rewarded by the law enforcement officers when they arrived; they handcuffed the men and led them out of the establishment. Although the men were not charged and finally released, they had never done anything wrong in the first place, including not causing a disturbance. The employee who made the call was never made to view her feeling of discomfort as a part of her biased social conditioning.

When we look back at the definition of bigotry and bigot, we recognize that the bigotry of the Starbuck employee as well as most of the other incidents where European Americans that called 911 relative to the presence of people of color was what initiated the action against the people of color, not the belief that they belonged to a race superior. Bigots can be held responsible for their actions, racists not at all. In America, racism is a safe haven for bigots

Paul R. Lehman, Reasons why European American (white) police shoot and kill African Americans

March 31, 2018 at 7:30 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Racism, amygdala, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, Breaking Ranks, criminal justice, discrimination, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, Norm Stamper, Race in America, social conditioning, the Black Codes, white supremacy, whites | 3 Comments
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The police officers shooting and killing an unarmed African American man in Sacramento, California recently should come as no surprise to anyone who has been following the news the last four to five years. The excuses for the shootings are always the same: the officers reveal that they feared for their lives or they felt their lives were threatened, or the victim made a threatening gesture or movement towards them or they thought he or she had a gun in their hands. All of these reasons are viewed as justifiable for the shooting of a suspect. On the other hand, the family of the victim always asks the questions: why did you not wait to assess the situation before you fired shots? Why did you not use another of the tools available to you like the tazer, rubber bullets, nightstick, and bean bags? Why could you not have shot him or her in the arm or leg or some non-deadly place? Why did you not give the victim time to respond to your commands?

The fact that this scenario keeps happening over and over again is not an accident or the action of a few bad officers but part of a culture that permeates the entire criminal justice system. Most officers know that regardless of their actions, their department and union will always take their word as valid over any citizen, so the fear of serious repercussions for a wrong deed does not represent an impediment to their actions. The American public has witnessed many times the results of a police shooting via video that contradicts the report of the officers. Yet, the officers walk away without being held responsible for the misdeeds committed. To blame be officers for not being held responsible for their deeds is not their fault but the system that supports them including the Attorney General, District attorney, prosecutor, judge, jury, and society.

What many African Americans understand about the criminal justice system in American is that it has always been biased against them as clearly recorded by history from before Reconstruction, the Black Codes, and Jim Crow. Many European Americans generally support law enforcement actions without question and by doing so allow injustices to continue against people of color. Some present and former police officers have readily admitted that a culture of hate, fear, anger, and bigotry against African Americans exist in law enforcement.  From where do these feelings derive? The most obvious answer identifies social conditioning as the primary contributor to ethnic bias in American society that is retained by people who become part of the criminal justice system directly and indirectly.

Norm Stamper, a former police officer and author of the book Breaking Rank (2005) underscored the European American law officers’ perception of the African Americans: “Simply put, white cops are afraid of black men. We don’t talk about it, we pretend it doesn’t exist, we claim ‘colorblindness,’ we say white officers treat black men the same way they treat white men. But that’s a lie.”These feelings are not reserved for European American law enforcers only. Paul Butler, in his book Choke Hold (2017), noted that recent scientific research shed some light on how many African Americans are generally perceived: “When people see black men they don’t know, they have a physical response that is different from their response to other people. Their blood pressure goes up and they sweat more. When a white person sees an unfamiliar black male face, the amygdala, the part of the brain that processes fear, activates.” Earlier studies also indicated that the negative reactions of European American law officers towards African American males may because by unconscious social bias rather than deliberate actions.

Michelle Alexander in her book The New Jim Crow (2013) noted that a number of studies showed how some European Americans reacted to images of European Americans and African Americans in an exercise that considered observation, interpretation, and reaction. She noted, “that racial schemas operated not only as part of conscious, rational deliberations, but also automatically—without awareness or intent.” This study might possibly explain why some European American police officers act irrationally when having to deal with African Americans and people of color in general:

One study, for example, involved a video game that placed photographs of white and black individuals holding either a gun or other object (such as a wallet, soda can or cell phone into various photographic backgrounds. Participants were told to decide as quickly as possible whether to shoot the target. Consistent with earlier studies, participants were more likely to mistake a black target as armed when he was not, and mistake a white target as unarmed, when in fact he was armed. This pattern of discrimination reflected automatic, unconscious thought processes, not careful deliberations (p. 107)

The fact that ethnic bias is central to the social conditioning in America accounts for the unconscious bias of many European Americans; that bias can be manifested either implicitly, explicitly or both. Consequently, many European Americans can honestly believe that they are not biased against African Americans because many of their friends, relatives, and associates are African American, however, that fact does not mean they are free of biases.  Alexander noted that “Implicit bias test may still show that you [European Americans] hold negative attitudes and stereotypes about blacks, even though you do not believe you do and do not want to. In the study described above, for example, black participants showed an amount of ‘shooter bias’ similar to that shown by whites” (107). Of course, fewer European Americans are shot and killed by African American police officers than by European American officers.

Armed with the scientific information from the various studies mentioned, we can assert that much more than police training is necessary to replace the biased ethnic culture in our criminal justice system. The problem of ethnic bias must be the first item on the agenda to be addressed, not through training, but education. Society must fully understand and reject the bias before it can begin to replace it.

Paul R. Lehman, American Democracy: Truth, Falsehood, Falsehoods as truths, and Reality (Part one of three)

May 8, 2017 at 3:56 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, black inferiority, blacks, Civil Right's Act 1964, Constitutional rights, democracy, desegregation, discrimination, Disrespect, DNA, education, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, fairness, happiness, identity, integregation, justice, law, liberty, life, Martin Luther King Jr., minority, Prejudice, President Obama, race, Race in America, racism, segregation, skin color, skin complexion, social conditioning, the Black Codes, The National Museum of African American History and Culture, The U.S. Constitution, tribalism, U. S. Census, whites | 2 Comments
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PART ONE  

A young European American (white) man in his middle to late twenties was being interviewed on a television show; he was dressed in a suit and wore a tie. What he said during the course of the interview was in effect, that he was a white man, and he wanted to see America regain its rightful place as a white man’s country. He was apparently upset because he believed that he was losing his power, influence, and privileges. From the expression on his face, it was apparent that the young man believed in what he was saying, and believed it to be the truth. Some Americans might be surprised by what the young man said because they do not believe that he was speaking the truth. Well, what exactly is the truth as far as the young man was concerned? The problem of truth began with America’s beginning.

Before we can begin a discussion about truth, we need first to have a working definition of truth. We might suggest that truth, in a statement, is represented by fact or reality. In another sense, we might suggest that truth is relative to the individual regardless of facts and reality. So, where does that leave us regarding truth? How can both suggestions be accurate? The key to the answer has to do with how we view facts and reality.

What we find in American society is evidence that truth is viewed as both relative to the individual and based on facts and reality. Here is how it works. Society first proclaimed certain truths, then proceeded to ignore them, inventing falsehoods in their place and convincing the people to accept the falsehoods as truth. Now that the falsehoods have been uncovered, the people do not want to accept the truth. To demonstrate how this happened, we need to look at history. We begin with the words from the Declaration of Independence:” We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The first thing we note in this statement is the word “truths, “which carries with it the semblance of facts and reality. We generally accept the sincerity and honesty of the word truth. The next phrase is equally important to our understanding of truth as being “self-evident “or clear and acceptable to all. We have no reason to suspect anything being amiss about what follows this first phrase: “that all men are created equal.” Well, if we know anything about early American history and the founding fathers, we know that the author of those words, Thomas Jefferson, as well as other founding fathers, were slaveholders. How can one believe in the equality of all men and be a slaveholder? Easy enough make slaves less than human. But what about other men and women who cannot enjoy the equal rights of the wealthy European American men? Simply write laws that control their freedoms.

In the phrase that follows, three words stand out: “endowed,””unalienable,” and “rights, “and all invite interpretation. The first word, “endowed” can be interpreted as a gift or something provided to the individual. The next word, “unalienable” can be defined as not transferable to another or not capable of being taken away or denied. The term “rights “can be defined as freedoms, entitlements or justified claims. Following this introduction of privileges that cannot be denied and are freedoms available to all, we learn what they are: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These rights and those contained in the Constitution are called civil rights. All American citizens are entitled to celebrate and enjoy them. We could examine each one of these rights to show that all Americans have never experienced them in reality because of two important things associated with American history: slavery and bigotry. The institution of slavery made certain that the words of the preamble to the Constitution would never ring true: “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice….” The remainder of the preamble loses its value when we realize that “justice” was never established while a system of slavery was in existence. After slavery, laws were instituted to retain control of certain groups of American citizens.

The young European American man who considered himself a white man represents the reality of a falsehood being believed as truth. He is not being an extremist or extraordinary with his assertions, he is simply saying what American society has conditioned him to believe. The social conditioning he has received all his life is at its core a system that fosters a belief in European American (white) supremacy. So, regardless of what the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution, or even the Pledge of Allegiance says about all men being equal with all their civil rights, including liberty and justice for all, reality provides those truths for European Americans only.

The system of European American (white) supremacy was invented and instituted by the founding fathers and woven into all America’s social institutions. What was unknown to the young European American man was that the system in which he was nurtured and conditioned was based on a falsehood. The system of European American (white) supremacy was based on the false concept of reality consisting of two races, one black, and one white. The European American (white) race was presented as being the model for humanity as well as America’s standard of beauty. European Americans generally do not picture themselves as belonging to a race. People who do not look like them belong to a race. Another characteristic of being European American was that they were to consider themselves as the center of the universe, superior to all people of color, so their only equals were other European Americans.

To ensure that the concept of supremacy was received and perceived as ordinary and normal, the government instituted segregation, which meant that European Americans could live their entire lives without having to interact with a person of color. Discrimination was instituted to ensure that European Americans receive privileges above and beyond what was offered to people of color, especially in education, jobs, health care, salaries, housing, and the law. In all these areas, the African Americans were denied opportunities to participate as first-class citizens and denied their civil rights.

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