Paul R. Lehman, Everyday bigotry and the language of social control

August 25, 2018 at 1:18 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, Civil Right's Act 1964, Congress, education, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, fairness, Hair, identity, justice, language, lower class, Media and Race, minorities, minority, political power, politicians, Prejudice, President Obama, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, whites | Leave a comment
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Everyday bigotry is basically a normal day in America. What makes it normal is that it is part of the fabric of American society that hides beneath the veneer of the idea of democracy. Social conditioning is a process that occurs when someone is born into a culture or adopts a culture and experiences that culture on a daily basis. The characteristics of that culture are acquired through living with and among the people in that society. The standards and values, customs and practices that are part of that society are not usually questioned or challenged by the people, but accepted as being correct and normal. So, when the system of Anglo-Saxon (European American) supremacy was instituted into society using language that identified two major races, black and white, with white as superior and black as inferior, no one questioned or challenged it. The Africans could not challenge the biased concept because they were powerless; the European Americans did not challenge it because they invented it. The power and control of society was derived through the language the people used and trusted.

The power and control of society through language can be demonstrated in the concept of physical beauty. The European Americans established themselves and their physical qualities as representative of the normal human being. In addition to making themselves the model of humanity, they also placed the highest social value on their features, especially their skin complexion. Therefore, anyone that looked like the European American was viewed as valued more than the people of color, especially the African Americans that did not look European. The slave masters and owners began early in the system of slavery to exploit the European physical features and the degree of so-called European (white) blood reported in the slaves as a profit builder. What they did was give names to slaves supposedly having degrees of European blood, names to underscore that degree. So, for example, if a slave was said to have a European American father and an African mother, he or she would be called a mulatto; this designation would allow the slave seller to ask more money for the slave over one with no or less European American blood; the greater the percentage of European blood, the higher the slave’s value.

What this practice did in addition to bringing in more money to the slave owner was to give the slaves with a degree of European American blood a sense of being valued over the slaves without noticeable European American blood. The reality was that regardless the amount of European American blood the slaves had, they were still slaves. In addition, the language told the African American slaves that they were ugly, black and dirty; that their hair was bad because it was kinky, nappy, curly and short. Possessing these physical characteristics, the African slaves knew that being beautiful was impossible for them. However, after slavery, some African Americans believed that acquiring some of the features of the European American might increase their social value. The language as a tool had convinced them to accept the European American standard of beauty as part of a social value system.

One of the wealthiest women in America in the late 1800’s was Madam C. J. Walker who happened to be an African American. Although she made many significant contributions to African American causes during her lifetime, the fact was that she acquired her wealth by exploiting the self-denigration of many men and women of color who wanted to improve their appearance. Even today we see primarily women of color whose natural hair color is dark brown or black with blond hair or undergoing cosmetic surgery on their eyes, noses and mouth in an effort to approximate the European American look of beauty. This attention to physical appearance is due to the influence of the language that causes some Americans of color to question their sense of self and their concept of beauty.

Although the Black Power movement focused on changing the stigma associated with the word black, one of the important and consequential changes to occur was the African Americans view of self and a challenge to the European American standard of beauty. Because they could see themselves as beautiful in the natural, they became free to express that freedom in any way they desired. One result of African Americans’  freedom of expression of their natural beauty was the European Americans’ efforts to adopt aspects of it.

What Americans should understand is that the language we use if not challenged will continue to control us. The language control manifests itself in the actions and reactions of European Americans as well as African Americans. For example, when the word minorities is used by European Americans it is not defined, but has inferred connotations.  So, who are the minorities referred to in the usage of the word? Americans generally assume that the word refers to all ethnic groups of color that reflect a smaller population than European Americans.  Another suggestion that is inferred in the use of the word minorities is the deference to a majority population as being superior, not necessarily numerically, but in influence and power. How will the word be interpreted when the European Americans numerically becomes the numerical minority in the foreseeable future? Will they still be referred to as the majority because of their power and influence? In any event, because the word is not defined, the meaning is never concrete and often seen as derogatory.

With respect to language being viewed as derogatory, President Barack Obama during his last days in office signed into law H.R. 4238 stating that the federal government will no longer use the terms Negro, Oriental, and Minorities in federal writing. The passing of this measure was a rare show of bipartisan  support by the House of Representatives and the Senate. The fact that America is constantly changing demographically demands that we pay attention to how the language is used as a tool for social control as well for as liberation. Just like our demographics change, so does our language with new words coming into usage while some words no longer serve a useful purpose because they are not accurate and are no longer socially acceptable.

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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.

 

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.

 

Paul R. Lehman, Steve Bannon accidently reveals secret of extremists use of language for control

August 18, 2017 at 4:27 am | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, blacks, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, extremists, justice, Kevin Drum American Prospect, Mother Jones, politicians, Prejudice, President, Race in America, racism, white supremacy, whites | 1 Comment
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The two most important elements of the system of white supremacy are race and racism; they are like wet and water. Without these two elements, the system would fall apart. The system was constructed in a way that keeps it running smoothly by the people it promotes and those it oppresses. For example, when a right-wing extremist is referred to as a racist rather than serving as an insult, it, in fact, serves to underscore his self-concept, working the same as a compliment. The system is supported and promoted every time the words race and racism are used because they underscore its existence. The fact that many Americans have tried to combat racism for several hundred years without any success is an indication of how clever the system was constructed. The key to the system’s strength and longevity is in the language it uses. By everyone using the system’s language without knowing its effect guarantees its uninterrupted continuance.

Today, like several hundred years ago, people speak about race and racism as if they have full knowledge of their impact. The fact of the matter is that what many users of those words do not realize is that by the very use of the words, the system of white supremacy is being validated. The system and how it works was detailed in my book: The system of European American (white) Supremacy and African American (black) Inferiority (2016). In that book the statement was made that racism cannot be defeated; it must be replaced. One reason it cannot be defeated is that one would be forced to reconcile the system by using the system’s language and that is always a losing proposition. Regardless of what anyone says about race and racism both remain undisturbed in the system they support. For that reason, people, especially politicians, can rant and rave about the negative effects and consequences of racism with impunity.

Americans have become accustomed to the parade of televised panels of race experts and scholars giving their assessment of the latest incident of social unrest or print media articles touting the ills of racism and its effect on society. In some instances, some good has come from some of those experiences relative to social and human relations in the national community. However, when the next incident of civil and social unrest occur involving race and racism, it seems that everything must go back to the beginning of a conversation relative to race.

A number of prominent individuals travel the country speaking and teaching about the ills of racism and attempting to show audiences what it feels like to be discriminated against because of one’s skin color. In addition to the good that comes from these experiences, little to nothing is done to replace racism. What these individuals do not realize is that they are using the system’s language, so while the knowledge of a system of white supremacy might be communicated, any opportunity to replace that system is lost.

An article appeared recently (8/16/2017) in Mother Jones by Kevin Drum, that read “Steve Bannon: Fighting Racism is for Losers.”  The article recounted an incident where Steve Bannon called the  American Prospect to “chew the fat.” During the conversation, Bannon was asked what he thought about combating racism and white supremacy. Bannon responded: “The Democrats,” he said, “the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”Here we have the words right from the mouth of one of the people associated with an alleged extremist group, a person who works in the White House as an advisor to the President.

So, why would Bannon state that he wants the Democrats, and one suspects, everybody else, to talk about racism. He knows that any talk about race and racism will lead to a dead-end and in so doing waste time and energy in a foolhardy enterprise. What Bannon knows is that race used as identity, black and white, is a lie, but Americans have been conditioned to accept it as fact. Once race has been accepted then additional aspects of it can be added to it, like racism, racial, mixed –race, biracial etc. While these words all look legitimate, they are just as bogus as race. Bannon knows this and enjoys the game because as long as he manipulates the language, he wins. The irony of it all is that as long as Americans identify with either black or white, they lose because race separates and unites simultaneously.

What the extremists know is that whenever the word black is used or the word white is used they both are followed by the word race whether stated or not. The use of each word serves the same purpose –to divide and unify since they are both followed by the word race. If society would stop using words black and white in favor of African American and European American respectfully, the divide would no longer exist. Using the words ethnic group or ethnicity instead of race would remove the divide caused by the language. However, because we have been socially conditioned, we are implicitly biased, and the bigotry comes naturally and therefore is difficult to replace.

Only when we as a society come to understand how the system of ethnic bigotry dominates our lives can we start to see reality. Bannon and his followers in the extremist movement do not want us to know that we have been and continue to be manipulated into believing that race by color and racism are legitimate. They do not want us to stop and think about the language we use which support and underscore their bigoted ideology. That is why they provoke and encourage the constant use of the words race and racism because all the effort and energy exerted to try to destroy them only serve to support and promote them. Once we come to our understanding about the system of European American supremacy and its language, we will be able to agree with Bannon that fighting racism is for losers and we know better than to continue down that path.

Paul R. Lehman,The phrases: “black people” and “white people” contribute to the system of ethnic bigotry

March 3, 2017 at 4:01 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, American Indian, American Racism, Bible, Bill Nye Undeniable, black inferiority, blacks, democracy, discrimination, DNA, Dorothy Roberts, entitlements, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, freedom of speech, Human Genome, identity, justice, minority, PBS NEWSHOUR, Prejudice, President Obama, race, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, U. S. Census, University of Penn., white supremacy, whites | 2 Comments
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So, what is wrong with saying “black people” and “white people” as part of our daily language usage? The answer does not include a right or wrong response, but one of understanding the significance of those phrases. Both phrases make references to the concept of race by color which is a social invention, not a biological fact. The phrase “black people” is not the same as “African American people” nor is “white people” the same as “European American people”; they are not interchangeable. However, with each use of these phrases the system of European American (white) supremacy and African American (black) inferiority is maintained, supported and promoted. When people of note use those phrases, their usage gives the impression that the phrases are acceptable in our general speech.

We need to understand and acknowledge a fact of life:  races of black people and white people do not exist on the planet. According to noted scientist Bill Nye, “Any differences we traditionally associate with race are a product of our need for vitamin D and our relationship to the Sun. Just a few clusters of genes control skin color; …and they are tiny compared to the total human genome.”He continued by noting that “We all descended from the same African ancestors, with little genetic separation from each other. The different colors or tones of skin are the result of an evolutionary response to ultraviolet light in local environments.”(Undeniable, p. 254-55)

Americans have been conditioned to view themselves and others as different through the spectrum of color when information to the contrary has always been present. Scientist, Neil de Grasse Tyson, was once asked the question “what are human beings”? He answered that we are all made of stardust. Before we take that response as a joke, remember what the Bible and other sacred books said of human creation: mankind was created from the dirt and clay. This information agrees with Neil de Grasse Tyson in principle but is emphatic in the Book of Common Prayer in the statement:”Ashes to ashes dust to dust” usually associated with the burial of humans. In any event, the skin color of a human being does not give favor or preferences to any shade or tone because as Nye stated: “Everybody has brown skin tinted by the pigment melanin. Some people have light brown skin. Some people have dark brown skin. But we all are brown, brown, brown. (Nye, p.255)

Because the system of ethnic bigotry is based on skin color, each reference to skin color reinforces the concept of European American (white) supremacy. However, the reference to black people and white people as racial identities have created problems for many years and can no longer be controlled. In an interview with two scientists discussing the issue of race in their works, Sarah Tishkoff noted that “We know people don’t group according to so-called races based purely on genetic data. Whenever the topic comes up, we have to address, how are we going to define race? I have never ever seen anybody come to a consensus at any of these human genetic meetings.”

A response was given by Dorothy Roberts: “That’s because race is based on cultural, legal, social and political determinations, and those groupings have changed over time. As a social scientist, looking at biologists treating these groupings as if they were determined by innate genetic distinctions, I’m dumbfounded. There’s so much evidence that they’re invented categories. How you can say this is a biological race is just absurd. It’s absurd. It violates the scientific evidence about human beings.” (https://africana.sas.upenn.edu)

So, confusion continues with the constant use of identities based on skin color in medical research as well as all other social areas.

Since we know that biological races are a false social concept, our continued usage of terms that underscore it’s existence only serve to maintain and promote ethnic separation and bigotry. The fact that the term “racism” continues to be used indicates a number of concerns; one, some people using the term are innocent or ignorant of its direct relationship to maintaining the system of ethnic bigotry; two, some people using the term are stupid and are simply following the conventions of a bigoted society; three, some people using the term are simply bigots and are well aware of its support of the system of ethnic supremacy and want to promote it; some people using the term know its social significance relative to the system, but are seemingly not fully informed or are not concerned with its impact on society.

While the phrases “black people” and “white people” are the primary focus of this text, other phrases serve nearly the same function of maintaining and promoting the system of bigotry. For example, people who identify themselves as bi-racial or mixed race actually lend support to the system of ethnic bigotry because by using those phrases they are underscoring their acceptance of the false concept of racial superiority of so-called white people. Much of the problem comes from the language used by the inventors of the system with American society not being aware of the system, just its effects. A system of bigotry cannot be replaced if knowledge of its presence is not known. Through the language, the effects of the system of bigotry could be very apparent while the system itself can go undetected, which is largely the case in America today.

The need for awareness of language was the focus and objective of House Resolution 4238, which amended two federal acts dealing with insensitive and/or outdated language. For decades the term “minorities” used in federal language referred to people of color: Negro, Puerto Rican, American Indian, Eskimo, Oriental, etc.”President Obama signed the new bill that changed the language to “Asian American, Native Hawaiian, a Pacific Islander, African American, Hispanic, Puerto, Native American, or an Alaska Native.”(Obama signs bill eliminating ‘Negro,’ ‘Oriental’ from federal laws, PBS NEWSHOUR, 5/22/2016) Rather than being lumped into a group called “minorities” each ethnic group now has the opportunity to use it own ancestral or cultural identity which reflects personal self-worth and social value.

When phrases like “black people” and “white people” are used, they lack specificity because no one group of people on the planet represents either a black or white race. Their use only adds to the support of the system of bigotry. Confusion exists when those phrases are used because the reference is unclear relative to a skin color or a vague concept of a culture. So, if we are serious about replacing the system of bigotry, we can begin by using the appropriate language. Truth to the word!

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