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, A suggestion of how Rachel Dolezal can resolve her problem of a black/African American identity

May 19, 2018 at 12:26 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, discrimination, DNA, education, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European Americans, identity, interpretations, liberty, minority, passing, race, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, tolerance, white supremacy, whites | Leave a comment
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All the criticism, complaints, and negative comments about Rachel Dolezal need to stop because she has the right to live her life as she chooses. However, we need to clarify her position and those of her critics so an understanding of this situation can be fully realized. In a recent article by Clarence Page (The Oklahoman, 5/12/2018), the title asks the question: “Why Rachel Dolezal still tries to bend racial rules” relative to the defense of her black identity. The article is basically a review of the movie, “The Rachel Divide,” which Page describes as a “Netflix documentary on which director Laura Brownson began to work shortly after the scandal broke [and it] peels away more layers of that mystery by giving us a closer look at Dolezal’s troubled family and upbringing.” He added that “It may not answer all of the questions as to why she wanted so desperately to be black, but it offers a more complete picture of the life she was trying to escape, along with the social construct of race as the rest of us know it.”More than likely, the movie adds more confusion to Dolezal’s situation and to that of her critics because of one simple word—race.

The problem of Ms. Dolezal’s critics is that they have fallen victim to accepting the concept of race as valid and accurate and because of this acceptance they view everything through a black and white lens. The problem with Dolezal is that she also has fallen victim to accepting the concept of a black race and a white race. Confusion relative to race exists on both sides– Dolezal’s and her critics because they both accept the concept of race by color as valid. Race as Page mentioned is a social construct; i.e., a myth.

When the captured Africans were brought to America, one of the first orders of business for the masters was to take away any sense or feeling of self-worth or value. That was accomplished by taking away their personal identity and providing them with a new identity. The effect of calling the Africans blacks or negroes, which means black, was to deprive them not only of their cultural and ancestral identity but also of their history. By referring to the African captives as blacks or negroes, their history begins with their experience as slaves.

The constructing of a black and a white race by the founding fathers was the basis of what is known as the system of white (European American) supremacy, a system that has the European Americans view themselves as the most important people on the planet. American society supported the supremacy concept by having all the social institutions comply with that concept. Consequently, many Americans believe the concept of a black and a white race to be true. Two facts about the concept of race remain: one, race by color has never been defined; second, race by color cannot be defined because the colors are not consistent or definite (fixed). Therefore, the system of European American supremacy can only exist by law, or agreement, voluntary or forced. According to recent scientific findings, all human beings belong to the same family or race known as Homo Sapiens; no other race of human beings exist on the planet.

The problem, as well as the confusion regarding Dolezal and her critics, is that both sides accept the black/white race concept as legitimate. Both sides are wrong in their thinking about race. The point that needs to be underscored in this matter is that all human beings have two identities—one cultural, one ancestral. The cultural identity is the one that the individual selects, usually based on the culture and/or geographic location in which they lived or were born into. An example shows the difference as when a person who, for example,  was born and raised in Haiti immigrated to America and became a citizen. That person’s cultural identity would be American with no reference to skin color or any other physical characteristics; that person’s ancestral or ethnic identity would be Haitian. If that Haitian person married an American and a child was born to them, the child’s cultural identity would be American, with no reference to skin color; however, the child’s ancestral or ethnic identity would be Haitian and American to reflect the identities of both parents. The ancestral identity is not usually viewed as a necessary or primary part of a person’s cultural identity. For example, when a person of color comes to America, only their cultural identity is necessary such as German, English, French, Nigerian, Egyptian, and Jamaican etc.

Dolezal’s problem with her identity is based on her reference to an ancestral identity that does not exist for her since both her biological parents are Americans of European heritage. As long as she identifies herself as an American, regardless of the ethnic cultural she chooses, she should have few conflicts. However, because she wants to identify her cultural identity which is American, as an ancestral identity, which to her is black/African American, a problem is created with the critics who realize that that identity would be false.  One way to avoid the problem which Dolezal found herself in is to simply identify herself as an American woman of color. No reference to an ancestral identity is necessary and no feelings will be hurt. After all, all human beings originated in Africa and that is part of our DNA. Besides, all people are brown, just different shades of brown.

The acceptance of race as valid and correct is and has been the problem for centuries. The language we use helps to keep us ignorant of who we are and what we are—all human being belong to one race. The fact that ethnic identity is usually based on geography does not mean that a biological difference exists among people. David Reich, a Harvard University paleogeneticist whose new book called Who We Are and How We Got Here, noted that “There are not fixed traits associated with specific geographic locations, Reich says, because as often as isolation has created differences among populations, migration and mixing have blurred or erased them.”In essence, no separate homogeneous race exists.

What this all means is that no one person or group has a monopoly on race regardless of skin color. So, if Dolezal wants to identify herself as an American woman of color, she has every right to do so, because references to an identity on a cultural basis are purely voluntary. Biologically, skin color is just that, skin color.

Paul R. Lehman, The unexpected results of DNA programs regarding genetics, ancestry, and race

February 23, 2018 at 7:23 pm | Posted in Affirmative Action, African American, American Bigotry, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, discrimination, Disrespect, DNA, DNA programs, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, Genealogy,, Human Genome, identity, justice, Michigan, Prejudice, race, Race in America, racism, respect, skin color, skin complexion, U. S. Census, University of Michigan, white supremacy, whites | 1 Comment
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Genealogy has become a popular area of concern for many Americans lately, and many organizations have sprung up to help people needing assistance in building their family tree. Many Americans start out by using research tools available on the internet and in many libraries; much of their early searches involves a paper trail. However, since the advances of science and the introduction of DNA, many successes, as well as many disappointments have resulted in what is discovered. In an article entitled “Unexpected Roots,” (2/12/2018) by The Washington Post writer, Tara Bahrampour, the leading phrase of the article points to the conundrum: “As more people learn of their genetic makeup, African heritages emerge.”

The article focuses on a few people who took advantage of the two currently popular programs for help: “Now, for under $100, it has become increasingly easy to spit into a vial and receive a scientifically accurate assessment of one’s genetic makeup. Companies such as 23andMe and Ancestry.com provide a list of countries or regions where the predominant genetic traits match those of one’s forebears.” While the test results might seem reassuring to some of the test takers, they can be unsettling to others because the outcome was not what was expected.

Many Americans accept the false concept of race by color, and because no standard exists for color, no factual or concrete definition of race has ever been forthcoming. So, many Americans simply do not question the false concept of a race until it directly impacts them. The article noted that “While little data exists comparing people’s perception with the reality of their ethnic makeup, a 2014 study 23andMe customers found that around 5,200, or roughly 3, 5 percent, of 148,789 self-identified European Americans [whites] had 1 percent or more African ancestry, meaning they had a probable black ancestor going back about six generations or less.” How many of the individuals deal with their newfound information varies from one to the other depending on their self-identity.

Much of the blame for many European Americans seeing themselves as white can be traced to our founding fathers who deliberately instituted a two-race society—one black, and one white, with the white being superior to the black and all other people of color. That system had faults from the very beginning because many Americans, whose skin complexion and hair texture was similar to that of the European Americans, simply “passed” or assumed the race of white. An excellent example of “passing” by an African American was in the novel, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912) by James Weldon Johnson. This novel is mentioned because it fits the actual life experience of Nicole Persley, in the article: “For Persley, 46, the link [to her African ancestry] turned out to be her grandfather, who had moved away from his native Georgia as started a new life passing as white in Michigan. He married a white woman, who bore Persley’s father.” The results of her DNA confirmed that she is nearly 8 percent African. Her reaction was “That was a bombshell revelation for me and my family;” she adds later that “I’m absolutely proud of my genealogy and my heritage, but I think my father would have thought I was dishonoring his father, because it was a secret and I dug it up.”

While the article was interesting and entertaining, it was also informed in the sense that many people still do not know who they are. Many people do not know the difference between race and ethnicity or know the meaning of a cultural identity and an ancestry one. Part of the reason for this ignorance is society’s conditioning towards ethnic biases and away from reality. More precisely, we know any number of things that could help us avoid the problem of identity. Namely, only one race of human beings exists today, Homo sapiens; the Homo sapiens originated in Africa so all Homo sapiens will have a degree of African ancestry in their DNA. While these testing programs like 23andMe and Ancestry.com might be able to show ethnic relations, they cannot indicate race. Why?  Bahrampour noted, “There is no DNA category for race, because a genetic marker for it does not exist.”If some programs inform customers that they belong to a certain race or races then the program is a scam. That information might be difficult for some people to accept because they want to believe something else.

The concept of race by color in America is undergoing a rapid change due to the demographics as the article reported: “In recent years, multiracial Americans have increasingly entered the national consciousness. Between 1970 to 2013, the portion of babies living with two parents of different races rose from 1 percent to 10 percent, the Pew Research Center found.” In addition, “From 2010 to 2016, those who identified as being of two or more races grew by 24 percent, according to census data, a jump that could have had as much to do with the changing way in which Americans identify themselves as an actual increase in the racially mixed population.”

While this Bahrampour article was interesting and informative, it was disappointing in the final analysis because it continued to use the language that keeps the conundrum alive and well. She informed the readers that no DNA marker exists for a category of race. Subsequently, if no category for races exists, then no way to identify that races exists as well. So, why continue to promote the myth and add to the confusion by using the terms race, racist, racial, mixed-race, and multiracial? Of course, she was seeking the responses of other people, not making judgments or pronouncements on her own relative to race and DNA,

In her article, her use of the terms European-American, and African-American indicates the changes taking place in the media moving away from the stereotype of black and white. We know that just simple steps as small as these can help to change the perceptions of many Americans who view themselves through a color.

Paul R. Lehman, What’s wrong with white people (European Americans)

October 27, 2017 at 7:48 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, blacks, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, justice, Prejudice, Race in America, whites | 3 Comments
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Some European American people are in a quandary about what to do about their knowledge of bigotry and how it affects them. A number of things to consider in attempting to address this conundrum involve an awareness of reality, and an awareness of language. To deal with reality is to understand that many European Americans do not realize that society has conditioned them to view themselves as the model of humanity or see themselves as not belonging to a race but as representative of the human race. That conditioning also has them view all people not like them as inferior to them. This conditioning is something that is acquired from living in a society that controls the social atmosphere and shows the European Americans how to see other people, what to think about other people, and how to behave around other people. Therefore, being biased against non-European people comes naturally and seems normal, nothing out of the unusual. For European Americans seeing themselves as the center of the universe is also normal. The awareness is that all the conditioning is base in falseness, myth, lies, illusion and it is bigoted.

They could not see the illusion because society presented everything to them as occurring naturally. The bigotry, segregation, discrimination and other abuses were present in society, but because they were viewed as normal to many European Americans, they did not feel compelled to do anything to address them as social and human wrongs. When the African Americans protested for civil rights, many of the European Americans remained silent although many of them were aware of the injustices African Americans were experiencing. Regarding civil rights legislation, not a single act or law was directed specifically to African Americans, but all Americans. Never the less, African Americans were implicated in every piece of civil rights legislation that included the word race; an action used to make certain the concept of races continued.

One of the ironies relative to bigotry in America involves the efforts of the civil rights organizations. While many European Americans did not support the protests of the civil rights activists, the major segment of society to reap the greatest benefits from the civil rights gains is the European American women as a result of Title lX of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Today, some fifty years after the Civil Rights Act, African Americans experience the least success from Affirmative Action. For example, “The median white [European American] household has 13x as much wealth as the medium black [African American] household; and 10x as much as the medium Hispanic household. Even with a college education: The medium white [European American] person has 7.2x the wealth of a similarly educated black [African American] person.” (The Nation, September 2017, p.5)

The challenge for many European Americans comes from finding ways to deconstruct the illusion they have lived under all their lives. Their initial response to this awareness might come as a shock, not wanting to believe that their lives have been a game of pretending. Shock is the appropriate term because the other stages of awareness follow the Kubler-Ross stages of grief. These stages are important because for European Americans coming to the awareness of their lives being an illusion and replacing that illusion with reality is similar to losing someone to death. The stages are shock, denial, anger, rejection, examination, understanding and acceptance.

Once the acceptance of reality has been achieved next comes how to deal with the reality. Language is the biggest threshold to overcome because we never questioned the language since we grew up with it. So, if European Americans called themselves white now, what will they call themselves instead of white? The ideal would be that they call themselves Americans. Here we must introduce the two identities we all have: a cultural and an ancestral identity. The cultural identity is the one that we choose; the ancestral identity is based on the ethnicity of our birth parents. However, when the founding fathers invented the concept of race by color, both the cultural and ancestral identities was taken away and put in their place were the colors black and white. For many Europeans, the opportunity to call themselves white was worth giving up their identities; for African Americans, the choice was not available.

Unfortunately, many European Americans do not know that they have an ancestral and cultural identity; the only identity they know of is white. If that white identity is taken from them, they are left without a sense of value and worth. For those European Americans who know the value of white supremacy and white privilege, the fear of losing that white identity represents their reason for living. So, they become defensive when they believe that identity is threatened. Any social progress by African Americans and people of color represent to the bigots, a threat to their white privilege.

The constant challenge for America is that people of color see themselves as human beings, even when European Americans see only themselves as normal human beings; they see everyone else as different and abnormal. The problem is how they, the European Americans, see themselves and others, not how others see themselves and European Americans. European Americans have been socially conditioned to see people who do not look like them as inferior to them, and that conditioning, however, feels natural to them.  Undoing the bigoted social conditioning of European Americans must be the responsibility of enlightened and knowable European Americans who know and understand the system of white supremacy. The primary starting point for undoing the social conditioning is with language, beginning with the words race, black and white. Once those words have been debunked, then the process of replacing the bigoted concept of white (European American) supremacy can begin.

In looking at the topic of this essay, how it is interpreted depends on what word or words are emphasized—wrong or white people (European American), and who is doing the interpreting.

Paul R. Lehman, Race is being replaced by ethnic group and ethnicity to eliminate confusion

February 14, 2017 at 4:32 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, American Indian, American Racism, blacks, DNA, education, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, Human Genome, identity, India, Media and Race, mixed-marriage, race, Race in America, Russia, skin color, skin complexion, U. S. Census, white supremacy, whites | 1 Comment
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When the founding fathers invented the system of European American (white) supremacy and African American (black) inferiority their basic mistake was to base their system on race by color. As long as they controlled society, they controlled the system, but they could not control the color of each group or the fact that we humans belong to one species of Homo sapiens. Time would eventually debunk the myth of race and begin to deconstruct the social conditioning forced on society. Many Americans are still today confused relative to the difference between race and ethnicity. Much of the confusion was caused by the scientist who wanted to push their own theories about race since it has never been defined socially. Even the term “white” experienced a number of transitions in its application to various immigrant groups to America—examples of Anglo-Saxon whites, free whites, lesser whites, and Caucasians were common. All these groups, including people of color, were considered ethnic groups, except the Anglo-Saxons.

With all the demographic changes taking place in America and the world today, a clear understanding of the terms race and ethnicity is in order. We began by stating that all human belongs belong to one race.  What we commonly refer to as races today simply does not exist. We are all of one blood. The differences we experience in others come from our cultures and places of habitation. Those differences represent our ethnic differences and have nothing to do with race. The problem has been that we use race to mean ethnicity or confuse something purely cultural with something we think is biological. According to Bill Nye, author of Undeniable, (2014) “In evolutionary terms or fact, we are all almost identical. We each share 99.9 percent of the same DNA.”

All of our social identities are based on either our cultural and/or geographical attachments; one or the other or a combination of both geography and culture represent the ethnic identity. People from countries like China or India will have their culture included in the country’s name. The name of the country usually serves as the person’s ethnic identity if that country is the one of his or her birth. If, however, the parents of the person are known for their cultural identity, for example, American Indian, then the cultural identity serves as the ethnic identity. Because of these two influences, all people have two separate and often distinct identities—one ancestral or ethnic, and one cultural.

An example is in order here: If a Russian male and an Iranian female marries and have a child, that child will have an ancestral (ethnic) identity that includes both Russian and Iranian parents. However, depending on the country in which the parents are living, their child’s cultural identity might be totally different from the parents. That is, if the family is living in Iran, then the child’ cultural identity will, unless certain circumstances prevent it, reflect that country and culture. If for example, the couple lived in America, the child’s cultural identity would be American. At some point in the child’s life, a choice of a parent’s ethnic identity might be embraced. The child’s cultural identity of American will remain unless and until it is relinquished.

Another way of viewing ethnicity is by looking at the identities of the diverse people who come to America. No one comes to America legally with an identity where color is stipulated, only the geographical identity which more often than not includes the cultural identity. For example, many professional athletes from foreign countries come to work in America and regardless of their ethnic and/or ancestral identity, are identified by their geographical identity. For example, the following professional basketball players of brown complexions, are simply called  Brazilians: Nene, Anderson VarejaoTiago Splitter, Lucas NogueiraBruno Caboclo, and Leandro Barbosa. Two players from Australia, Kyrie Irving and Patty Mills, players with brown complexions, are known as Australians, not by their ethnic identities, but by geographical (cultural) ones. That is not to suggest that their ancestral identities are not important to them, they are not necessary to underscore their cultural identities.

Because our founding fathers instituted the system of supremacy and forced the social conditioning on all Americans, race has been at the core of all social challenges. All the social biases Americans of color experience today are based on race. Now that society is starting to understand the confusion caused by race by color and is working to replace the system of bigotry, not knowing what to do about race is a problem. We know that race is an illusion, but one that we have been living with since the beginning of our society. As race continues to lose its social value, it has to be replaced with something and that something is ethnic and cultural identities. Ethnic identities were and are important in collecting data so society and the government can monitor what is taking place relative to the general population and each ethnic group. The U.S. Census began in 1790 was a way to maintain and control the population, especially the ethnic groups of color. The changing demographics in our world and society continue to blur the lines of race as an acceptable term suitable for social identities.

Today, if each group is identified by ethnicity rather than race, discrimination by race would no longer possible. As society pushes through this process of change from racial identities to ethnic ones, we must recognize that arriving at ethnic identities is just a temporary pause, because the end result, in an idealistic sense, is having a need for no other identity than American.

The primary reason for some Americans to identify themselves as European American, African American, and Asian Americans etc…comes from a lack of information about their countries of origin. The results are seen in the terms European, African, Hispanic, etc… that rely on either geography or culture to fill in that space before “American” for ethnicity identification. The over-all objective of identity in our democratic society is for everyone regardless of their ancestral, ethnic or cultural identities to be seen and known as Americans. Embracing, promoting, and being proud one’s ethnic identity does not take away from the fact that America should value all ethnicities. Two facts remain—no one chooses his or her ancestral (ethnic) identity, and everyone can choose his or her cultural identity.

Paul R. Lehman, President Obama signed a bill eliminating the word Negro that signals change in identities

August 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
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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.

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