Paul R. Lehman,How and why bigotry persist in America

August 14, 2018 at 2:49 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, black inferiority, blacks, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, identity, justice, language, Prejudice, race, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, white supremacy, whites | Leave a comment
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An adage frequently heard is “we can’t see the forest for the trees,” serves as an appropriate description of the problem of bigotry in America. A closer look at how and why bigotry persists in America should give us a better overall perspective.

When the enslaved Africans were brought to America, they were human beings with names, cultures, histories, and languages. Once they arrived, the first order of business for the slave masters and owners was to rid them of the only tangible possessions they had, their names. A person’s name is very important because it makes him or her unique, even if the same is the same as others people because each human being is unique. Without a name, we would seemingly not exist simply because no one would know us and so they could not make reference to us because we had no name. So, the first thing the slave masters did was to dehumanize the Africans by taking away their names.

Although a person’s name might not seem that important, it is because included in the name is the person’s history. When a person’s name is taken away, so is his or her history because nothing is available to identify and connect a nameless person with other people. The importance of names and the history they represent are underscored, for example, in the Mexican custom of two given names followed by the father’ and mother’s name. The person’s full name is used, generally, only for legal purposes. Naming children in families after other family members as well as a host of other reasons is common practice today, but when the captured Africans were brought to America, their names were taken away. In place of the names taken, the slaves were renamed by the slave masters, but with only one name. Giving the slaves one name served to prevent them from possessing anything that could be passed along to children. So, a new history was begun for each African captive with the renaming and everything unique and personal relating to their original history was gone. The new names such as slave, negro or black provided no personal identity or significance aside from the connection to the system of American slavery.

The next important element the slave masters and owners took away from the African captives was their language; they were no longer permitted to speak in their native language. The purpose of this action was to prevent the African captives from being able to communicate with fellow countrymen because the ability to communicate with another human being provides a feeling of personal value and worth which also underscores a positive identity. For the slave masters, the process of remaking the African captives could not allow for anything that would give them hope or reference to a former life.

In addition to eliminating the African captives’ ability to speak in their native tongue, the slave masters knew that by preventing any reference to their former language the captives would also lose their culture. The culture of a people is embodied in their language, so when the language is removed, so too is the former culture. So, the process of enslavement is not reserved to the physical body, but also to the mind. Unfortunately for the captives, the mind was as important to the slave masters as the body.

When the African captives were enslaved, they lost their physical freedom; they lost their personal identification; they lost their history, their culture and their language. They were stripped of everything of value to a human being. The slave masters knowing that they must have complete control of the enslaved immediately began the process of conditioning them to a new world. To begin the process, each slave was shown through brute force and intimidation (chains, shackles, and physical abuse) that they were not free. Then they were given names they had to accept and respond to when ordered, and a new language they must learn. The key element of control was transmitted in and through the slave masters’ language.

The primary function of the new language was to inculcate in the minds of the African slaves the system of Anglo-Saxon (white) supremacy. Therefore, as long as the language goes unchallenged the system will remain intact and the minds of American society will continue to be affected by the social conditioning of bigotry. The slaves had to learn to view all Anglo-Saxons (white), and European Americans as the people who controlled their lives as well as their deaths (not natural); that everything relative to them was considered normal; that they represented the normal human being and as such set the standards for life in American society. The things that gave the Anglo-Saxons, and European Americans the power and privileges aside from the laws they instituted, was their skin complexion and the language.

The language informed the African slaves that they were less than human beings; in fact, they were no higher than the animals. The language informed them that their black skin color was frightening, ugly, dirty, and smelly and more like that of the apes than humans. The language told them that their facial features were ugly and biologically not the same as the Anglo-Saxons’ beauty. The African slaves were forced to accept or appear to accept these conditions whether they believed them or not.

Once physical slavery ended, the language, as well as the system of supremacy continued. As late as 150 years ago, an article appeared in the Nation magazine written by Taylor Lewis that made mention of the language and its continued effect of dehumanizing the African American: “Even when we advocate the cause of the African, we do it in a manner that would be though insulting and utterly undemocratic in any other case. We use the language of masters and owners.” He added that “The way in which we speak to the colored man, and of the colored man, shows an unconscious yielding to the anti-christian prejudice we are striving to overcome.”So, the purpose and power of the language have never been a secret to many European Americans, but seemingly, remains to be one for many African American.

The system of European American, Anglo-Saxon (white) supremacy and African American inferiority continues to manifest its presence in the language. Real social progress will begin when we as a society learn to communicate with one another in an unbiased language.

 

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Paul R. Lehman, The challenge of facing the delusion of whiteness

January 4, 2015 at 4:31 am | Posted in African American, American Dream, American history, American Racism, Bigotry in America, blacks, democracy, DNA, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, Human Genome, immigration, Matthew Frye Jacobson, minority, Prejudice, Race in America, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, social justice system, Thomas A. Guglielmo, White of a Different Color, White on Arrival, whites | 2 Comments
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Many people who identify themselves as white have consciously or unconsciously been living a life of delusions—“a persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence, especially as a symptom of a psychiatric condition.” Now that we recognize our society is changing and the truth is coming to light, holding on to false belief becomes more difficult. Just what are these false beliefs? The first is the belief in a so-called white race. Science has proven through DNA the truth that only one race of human being exists on the planet Earth; the concept of a white and black race was created as an act of capitalistic self preservation; the concept of white skin as normal and supreme was a means to social control. All these beliefs are false.
One of the first things European Explorers discovered once they venture outside of Europe was that eighty percent of the world’s population was people of color. That meant only twenty percent of the world was populated by so-called whites. In order to preserve and control their destiny, they devised a plan to accomplish their objective—create a concept of biological races and make the so-called white race superior to all the other non-white races. If the white race could convince the eighty percent people of color that they were superior, then their position would not be challenged; they would be safe. So, the so-called white people used every conceivable element available in society to promote their thesis of white superiority: the law, the Bible, science, history, etc. The problem with the creation of race by color, however, was that it was not consistent or reliable.
A so-called white race cannot be superior to other races if only one race exist, so other forms of support had to be acquired to keep the false belief going. The idea to make the members of the so-called white race the only “normal” human beings was brought into being for white people from all walks of life, from the doctor to the clergy, the businessman to the sharecropper. But how does one reason the fact that eighty percent of the human family is people of color, while only twenty percent is white, but the twenty percent calls itself normal? To accept that scenario defies all common sense and logic. In essence, whites are really the abnormal members of the human family; most just do not know it.
In all fairness to the people who identify themselves as white, we must realize that many of them were born into a society that had already created a deluded society for them. The concept of races, for example had undergone many changes; however, one concept in particular endorsed a five-tier scheme that included “Caucasian, Mongolian, Ethiopian, Malay, and American.”In considering the so-called European races,” William Ripley created a three-tiered scheme that included “Nordic,’ “Alpine,” and “Mediterranean.” At the top this group was the Nordic who were considered “vastly superior in intellectual endowments to all other races.”(Thomas A. Guglielmo, White On Arrival))
At the top of the Nordic race was the Anglo-Saxon race whose concept of white supremacy supported the idea of “Manifest Destiny”: “while U.S. conquests across North America and the Pacific at once enacted and reinforced a principle of white supremacy, between at least the 1840s and early twentieth century they were carried out under an ideological banner of Anglo-Saxon supremacy.” Some people, like Josiah Strong, believed “that this race…is destined to dispossess many weaker races, assimilate others, and mold the remainder, until…it has Anglo-Saxonized mankind.” (Matthew Frye Jacobson, Whiteness Of A Different Color)
Unfortunately, something happened that the Anglo-Saxons did not anticipate—Immigration. They believed that the “Europeans from the north and west are infinitely more desirable than those from the south and east: the ‘rising tide of aliens’ or the ‘invading hordes” were making the country ‘the dumping ground of Europe’: and only selective and restrictive immigration legislation would ‘keep the United States American’ [meaning Anglo-Saxon] and would avert ‘national suicide.’” (Guglielmo)
We learned that “a deluge of southern and eastern European immigrant—alternately scorned as ‘slow poison,’ ‘the scum of Europe,’ ‘foreign mush,’ ‘good-for-nothing mongrels,’ or ‘parasite races’ suddenly swamped America. These people ‘half ruined’ and ‘slum-Europeanized’ the country.” (Guglielmo) The result of this concern was the Johnson Act that, in essence limited immigration to Northwestern European immigrants. However, thanks to Johann Friedrich Blumenbach and his coining of the term ‘Caucasian’ in 1798, the southern and eastern Europeans would have a term with which they would be identified. We learned that … “Jacobson takes seriously the racial language that courts, reformers, academics, and others applied to new immigrants and provides an elegant narration of how Italian, Slav, Greek, German, French, Irish, and other European races were gathered under the term “Caucasian” in the twentieth century and thus unified as ‘conclusively’ white.” (David R. Roediger, Working Toward Whiteness)
Many whites know how they came to be identified as such, but they also know that the information denoting race is false and cannot withstand scientific scrutiny, especially since the advances in DNA. The belief that skin color makes a difference is difficult to dismiss among a people who all their lives have been conditioned to think that their color made them special. Today, with the many changes in our society and world, the veneer of whiteness is wearing away and the truth is staring to break thru the façade of race. The negative attitudes, fears, and anger projected by many European Americans relative to African Americans are all based on the social conditioning of bigotry over many years. We know that eventually many of the old Anglo-Saxon ideas and prejudices will be replaced with a sense of a (human) family and patriotic unity.
What we need to understand is that bigoted men created a two-race society, one white, the other non-white or black. To the white race was given privilege, power, prestige, and a sense of normalcy over all non-white races. Over the years many European Americans (whites) simply accepted society’s conditioning without question. Today, all of those misconceptions, that make-up the delusions, are being called into question and debunked. One of the biggest problems society will have to face is recognizing the conundrum. The next is how to go about correcting the delusions. How does one go about undoing years of mind conditioning? One simple thing that can be done is to start avoiding the use of the terms race—black and white; their use separates us. Instead,try using African American and European American respectively or simply American.

Paul R. Lehman, America needs to start showing the world what an American looks like

September 17, 2013 at 12:02 am | Posted in African American, blacks, democracy, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, immigration, Prejudice, Race in America, skin color, Slavery | 2 Comments
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What does an American look like? If we were to go back to the 1840s in America, we might find some people who believed that the “real population” of America was of “Anglo-Saxons, Celts, Teutons, Slavs and a few other races. This description would be misleading because the Celts, Teutons, and Slavs were not accepted as “the real population” and were depicted not as racially distinct “but as consanguine ‘whites.’” Many Americans who today consider themselves white were not viewed as such until around the 1920 and after. The reason for all the fuss was that the Anglo-Saxons believed themselves the model of the human race. Some Americas were so consumed with the concept of America being a nation of white people and for white people with the Anglo-Saxons being the supreme white people that they were instrumental in getting laws passed to restrict the immigration of non-white people.
Harry Laughlin was one of the most active individuals in influencing the American eugenics policy. He was especially effective in obtaining compulsory sterilization legislation. He was once described him as “among the most racist and anti-Semitic of early twentieth-century eugenicists.” In 1934, he advised the Special committee on Immigration and Alien Insane “That no immigrant be admitted, whether by quota or otherwise, who is not—First, a member of the white race’; and that, for the purposes of immigration law, ‘a white person be defined as one all of whose ancestors were member of the white or Caucasian race.’” So, regardless of America telling the world that it was a nation open to all people with each citizen’s right guaranteed, we find the hypocrisy and prejudice apparent in who could qualify as a citizen or even who could be admitted to this country based on a created concept of race.
America has always been a country built on ethnic diversity and as early as the middle 1700s an observer of American society, Michel-Guillaume Jean de Crèvecoeur, wrote “What, then, is the American, this new man? He is neither an European nor the descendant of an European; hence that strange mixture of blood, which you will find in no other country.” He continued by underscoring his point concerning American diversity, “I could point out to you a family whose grandfather was an Englishman, whose wife was Dutch, whose son married a French woman, and whose present four sons have now wives of different nations.” He defines an American by stating that “He is an American, who leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraces, the government he obeys and the new rank he holds.” We should have no doubt about America being a diverse nation with no one group holding claim to the nation’s identity.
Unfortunately, when the concept of race was created and instituted in society, it was done so by people who identified themselves as Anglo-Saxons. Bringing their old prejudice with them from England, they assumed their group to be superior to all others. Their beliefs were contrary to the creed of their new nation since slavery was also instituted as an acceptable social feature. If hypocrisy was a joke, we would forever be laughing because rather than using diversity as a strength to unify the country, it was used in a contrary way. Instead of society working towards unifying the country, efforts were made to ensure class differences while not admitting to a class structure. The statement about “what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive” seems appropriate to the conundrum in which America finds itself today relative to diversity. Society puts on the mask of unity to hide the face of bigotry and prejudice because it still has not come to grips with the fallacy of multiple biological races.
So, what ignited this discussion on American ethnic hypocrisy? We began with the question of “what does an American look like?” The reason for the question was based on the reactions of some citizens to the selection of Nina Davuluri as Miss America 2014. Miss Davuluri is an Asian American and what should have been received as evidence of a nation growing in acceptance of its creed accepting our diversity as a strength, turned into a display of bigotry and prejudice. To make matters worse, her platform for the contest was called, “Celebrating Diversity Through Cultural Competency.” The runner-up for the title was also Asian American.
As a society, we need to start being more accountable for educating those who have no idea of what American democracy means. Those people who made disparaging remarks concerning the ethnicity of the new Miss America showed their ignorance of American history as well as a prejudice that is based on that ignorance. People who still want to hold on to the idea that America is a white country owned and controlled by white people need to be informed that the concept is false, an illusion. At one time in our history the concept was promoted because the people with money and power as well as the government had the ability to control the concept. Today, we know beyond a doubt the truth of mankind being of one race. We need to spread the word to those who still embrace the illusion.
The judges in the Miss America contest did a number of services for the country in choosing Miss Davuluri as the new Miss America for 2014. First, by choosing an Asian America they showed America and the World that the standard of beauty is no longer that of the European American. For years, no ethnic American was allowed to enter the contest. The second service they rendered was to show America and the world that America is indeed a nation of ethnic diversity and just what Americans look like. The process is slow, but each day brings us closer to the realization of the American creed that speaks to all people being created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights. Many young American girls who watched the contest can rest easily now knowing that Miss America can and does look just like her.

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