Paul R. Lehman, The public apology of Levi Pettit shows serious challenges relative to understanding ethnic bigotryMarch 30, 2015 at 3:25 pm | Posted in African American, American history, Bigotry in America, blacks, discrimination, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, freedom of speech, justice, Oklahoma, Oklahoma education, race, Race in America, racism, segregation, whites | Leave a comment
Tags: African American, African Americans, america's race problem, American Education, American History, bigotry, black, Civil Rights, Confronting Myths, current-events, European Americans, Frat song, Levi Pettit, Prejudice, public apology, race, Race in America, racism, racist, Sen. Anastasia Pittman, The University of Oklahoma, white
The public apology by Levi Pettit in the company of some African American community representatives has created a number of questions that warrant discussion. A few of those questions include: Why did Pettit choose to apologize to this group of citizens? Why did Levi Pettit select Senator Anastasia Pittman to seek redress? Why did the group of African American citizens accept Pettit’s apology? What did the public apology accomplish? To many people, the public apology of Pettit with the African Americans was a photo opportunity that only served to created additional questions.
In answer to the question of why Pettit chose Sen. Pittman and the other African Americans that composed the group to offer his apology, he stated “I did not want to apologize to the press or to the whole country until I came here and apologized to the community most directly impacted.” This statement reflects a gross sense of ignorance and a lack of understanding of what his words and actions on the frat bus really meant. Pettit’s thinking that this group of African Americans were “most directly impacted” is misguided and underscores his lack of understanding regarding what he did.
The group that Pettit should have met with and offered a public apology was The University of Oklahoma community, the students, organization leaders and civic leaders because those are the entities he mostly represented. His comments and actions reflected the lack of education and knowledge of history relative to the African American experience in America from Plymouth Rock to Selma, and the blame must be shared by those groups as well as the rest of society. Unfortunately, Pettit must have thought that African Americans are a monolith and that by making an apology to this particular group of African Americans, he was apologizing to all African Americans. He was grossly mistaken.
The fact that Pettit selected Sen. Pittman to assist with his plans for his apology could rest with the fact that she represents a large number of African Americans in Oklahoma City by virtue of her political office. In essence, more African Americans could be reached through Pittman, than any other public African American figure. With her social influence, she was able to bring together a group of religious and community leaders to share in this public apology by Pettit. Some people believe that Pittman showed a lack of judgment by not involving and bringing into the group other non-African American representatives from the clergy and civic organizations. By not doing so suggest that she accepted the narrow understanding of Pettit’s bigotry in that it affected “mostly” African Americans.
One wonders why this group of African Americans would allow themselves to be placed in a situation of compromise by Pettit. Does he need a public showing of African Americans forgiving him for his words and action, so he could move forward with his life? The sincerity of his apology is not what is in question here, but the use of people who were not directly involved in his words and actions suggest the need for a shield against future criticism. Pettit’s statement “I never considered myself a racist, I never considered it a possibility,” should have been a warning to the African Americans that this young man was totally ignorant about being a racist as well as racism. Evidently, many of the African American group members were not aware of Pettit’s comments or were equally uninformed. In other words, what purpose did Pettit’s apology serve the group since they did not represent all African Americans? In addition, since Pettit stated that he did not consider himself a racist, for what was he apologizing? The only possible thing the African American group could accept an apology for would be Pettit’s ignorance of racism. However, the group knowing that a student attending a university must have completed high school and demonstrated a control of basic knowledge relative to the world and America, why would they believe that Pettit did not connect the “rope” in his frat song with lynching?
To many people, Pettit’s public apology was simply a media photo opportunity that allowed him to save face by pleading ignorance before a group of forgiving African Americans. Being sorry for an action or denigrating ethnic references does not mean a full comprehension of the problem. Stories, pictures, words relative to the African American experience in history might serve to inform Pettit’s understanding of the challenges faced in the past and present, but until he realizes that his real audience is his family and all European Americans, and that American bigotry is a fabric of his and our daily existence, his apology is just words, as Shakespeare said “full of sound and fury signifying nothing.”
Pettit is the only person who gains from the photo opportunity because he is able to show how he has been affected by his experience. Unfortunately, for Pittman, and the African American group, the suggestion as a result of the public apology is that anytime someone who is not an ethnic American says or acts in a disparaging way towards African Americans, all that needs to be done is to contact an important African American community leader and request a group meeting, open to the public for the media’s sake, and ask for forgiveness. Then, right there in front of the world, all will be forgiven, and life can go on.
The problem in forgiving someone for being a racist is that nothing is forgiven; the fact that the term racist is used underscores the ignorance of the problem. Racism is not an action or activity; it is a mindset that society engendered and perpetuates as normalcy in American society. The reason Pettit could never consider himself to be a racist is because he was always taught to look outside of himself for what he considered racist behavior, something quite different from the song he was singing on the frat bus. The problem with Pettit and the public apology is the suggestion that problems of American racism can be intelligently addressed; they cannot. They can only serve to perpetuate the myth of race.
Tags: African American, African Americans, America, American Education, amygdala, black, black and white race, Chris Mooney, Confronting Myths, current-events, David Amodio, ethnic identity, ethnic prejudice, ethnicity, European American, European Americans, Mother Jones, Prejudice, race, racial group identity, racism, racists, tribalism, white
In a current (January/February 2015) article by Chris Mooney in “Mother Jones,” “Are You Racist? Science is beginning to unmask the bigot inside your brain,” we are introduced to a number of tests, exercises, games and other activities that are focused on helping to identify and control our prejudice. Most of the tests and activities involve our association with things that seemingly feed into our prejudices. Unfortunately, the article failed to achieve its objective if that objective was to help us identify ourselves as racist and to try to address the problem in a rational way.
The first problem in the article was its failure to define racist. Had the term racist been defined, then we would have a basis from which to launch a rational discussion. Racist is a spin-off of the term race that is generally associated with science. The concept of race in America is based on an illusion, a creation, and a lie when it becomes plural, as in black race and white race. As far as science is concerned, the only race we need be socially concerned with is the human race, and it is not based or defined by skin color.
Rather than making clear or defining the terms African American and European American, Mooney uses the words black and white interchangeably with them respectively. These terms are not interchangeable—they have separate and unique meanings; that is, all blacks are not or consider themselves African Americans, and all whites are not nor do they consider themselves European Americans. The article does not make that distinction. Consider the following statement regarding the test referred to as Implicit Association Test: “The test asks you to rapidly categorize images of faces as either “African American” or “European American” while you also categorize words (like “evil,” “happy,” “awful,” and “peace”) as either “good” or “bad.” Faces and words flash on the screen, and you tap a key, as fast as you can, to indicate which category is appropriate.
Sometimes you’re asked to sort African American faces and “good” words to one side of the screen. Other times, black faces are to be sorted with “bad” words.”
We notice the shift from African American faces to black faces in the about quote and this is no exception regarding these terms; it happens throughout the article. According to Mooney these tests and activities were created to measure ethnic prejudice in society, but seemingly overlook the fact that we were born into an ethnically biased society. Our perspectives are based on our social conditioning. The assumption made in the article is unrealistic:
“You think of yourself as a person who strives to be unprejudiced, but you can’t control these split-second reactions. As the milliseconds are being tallied up, you know the tale they’ll tell: When negative words and black faces are paired together, you’re a better, faster categorizer. Which suggests that racially biased messages from the culture around you have shaped the very wring of your brain.”
For the most part, the article examines activities that tell us what we already know—ethnic prejudice is a part of our mental make-up and is based on our social/cultural conditioning. What we should be focusing our attention on are ways to overcome these biases. Unfortunately, the article never debunks the notion of race as unacceptable but instead moves to the concept of tribalism as rationale. We know the benefits associated with tribal membership: identity, security, comfort, value, unity to mention as few.
Mooney’s visit with the scientist, David Amodio, a member of New York University’s psychology department, acquaints him with research regarding the brain, tribalism and prejudice: “One simple, evolutionary explanation for our innate tendency toward tribalism is safety in numbers. You’re more likely to survive an attack from a marauding tribe if you join forces with your buddies. And primal fear of those not in the in-group also seems closely tied to racial bias.” The professor added that his “research suggests that one key area associated with prejudice is the amygdala, a small and evolutionarily ancient region in the middle of the brain that is responsible for triggering the notorious “fight or flight” response.” The article continued; “In interracial situations, Amodio explains, amygdala firing can translate into anything from “less direct eye gaze and more social distance” to literal fear and vigilance toward those of other races.”
What seems apparent in this article is the fact that some scientists seem to want to verify what we already know—that prejudice exists in us and our society. The challenge is to over-come the prejudice, and we do that by educating our brains to recognize a different tribal group—the human family. One would think that the first order of business in making this shift is to first debunk to idea and concept of multiple biological races—we did it with Santa and lived through it. We certainly can do it with the illusion of race, notwithstanding Amodio’s research. We can not begin to deal with the problem of ethnic bigotry and prejudice until we face the fact that we have been living with an illusion for a few hundred years and now the time has come to face the truth.
Mooney recognized the problem of ethnic prejudice and realized that: “To be sure, it will take more than thought exercises to erase the deep tracks of prejudice America has carved through the generations.” He concludes the article with the statement: “Biases have slipped into all of our brains. And that means we all have a responsibility to recognize those biases and work to change them.” Actually, biases did not slip into our brains; in America they were cultivated through our culture, laws and social systems. One of the first things we can do is recognize that we belong to the same group by not referring to each other as black or white. What the European American needs to know is that each time he or she refers to him/herself as white, the race card is being played. Of course, the same goes for the African American and black. Ethnic bigotry, prejudice and racism will not simply disappear, it must be eradicated.
Paul R. Lehman,The concept of a post-racial society conceals the misdeeds of America’s past and present.April 14, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Posted in Affirmative Action, African American, American Bigotry, American Racism, blacks, Civil War, college admission, desegregation, discrimination lawsuit, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, identity, integregation, justice, minority, Race in America, segregation, skin color, Slavery, The Thirteenth Amendment, The U.S. Constitution, U.S. Supreme Court, University of Texas, whites | 2 Comments
Tags: Affirmative Action, African Americans, america's race problem, American History, black, Civil Rights, current-events, discrimination, European Americans, history of racism, homer plessy, plessy v ferguson 1896, Plessy v. Ferguson, politics, Prejudice, race, racism, segregation, skin color, slavery, society, Supreme Court, U. S. Laws, university admissions, white
An article that appeared in the grio posed the questions:”has the nation lived down its history of racism and should the law become colorblind?” (4/1/13) These questions were asked in conjunction with the two cases before the Supreme Court, one case deals with affirmative action, the other focuses on voting rights. Although both questions involve some aspect of the same topic, race, they need to be addressed separately, and in a different context from the general public concept. Let us look first at the question about racial preference and racism.
The first thing we need to address is the fact that America and the government created race based on color. Two races were created, one black and the other white. These races were not created on anything other than the color for a person’s skin. Later many scientists, scholars, ministers, and a host of other players tried to justify race from a biological perspective, to no avail because any person who looked white could be white. So, while the definition protected people with fair complexions, it was no guarantee that the race of these people was correct or valid. So, society added ancestry to the definition of race via color, but only African Ancestry. In other words, if a person had any African ancestry, that person was considered black regardless of how they looked. The problem with race defined by color was finally addressed by U. S. law in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) but proved to be something of a joke– Homer Plessy’s complexion was so light, that his arrest for sitting in a seat reserved for white-only had to be staged. None the less, the law was kept in place.
America made these two races distinct in that they represented opposite values. The so-called white race was given power, privilege, and prestige. If one was upper-classed white, wealthy or educated, then he or she was considered normal. Otherwise, being white just placed one above all other non-whites. For the so-called black race or Negroes, as they were also called, they represented negative stereotypes that included ignorance, laziness, worthlessness, untrustworthiness, and repulsiveness along with a host of other despicable characteristics. All these elements were promoted by the so-called white race to be biological features of the so-called black race. Society created, promoted and enforced laws and practices that discriminated against and segregated people of the so-called black race.
Before and during the time of the Civil War many people, European Americans as well as African Americans worked towards eliminating slavery and discrimination of African Americans. Once the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments were passed by Congress with pressure from President Lincoln and others, African Americans were recognized as citizens of the United State of America. That meant that only whites and blacks were citizens since no other race was recognized.
For African Americans, being citizens of the United States did not end discrimination, hatred and bigotry. As a matter of fact, negative feelings against African Americans began to manifest in acts of violence by so-called white vigilante gangs that included acts of lynching. Although America has always been a diverse society, it acted like a monolith of European Americans. They still held on to the philosophy of Manifest Destiny—this country belongs to them because God gave it to them to take and possess. Although many diverse societies existed in America, the country projected two so-called races—black and white, under the rubric of one country, America. The so-called black race was never treated fairly nor equally by society until the laws of the country was challenged in courts, and especially, the Supreme Court. The 1954 Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Topeka began the change in the social structure of America. According to the law, African Americans could no longer be treated as unequals in public facilities. Unfortunately, the change in the law did not affect the minds of many American who saw the law as a form of discrimination against their rights. Therefore, they continued to maintain and enforce an atmosphere of segregation and discrimination against African Americans until the Civil Rights Acts of 1964, 1965, 1968.
During the time from the beginning of America creating to two races until the Civil Rights Acts, the race America called white enjoyed the liberties of freedom, life and the pursuit of happiness without reservation. Now that America has decided to live up to its promise of fair and just treatment for all its citizens, the so-called white race wants to cry discrimination because it cannot continue to discriminate on the basis of its so-called race. The court case involving university admissions at the University of Texas is said to be based on racial preference for African American students. Actually, if the University of Texas did not show some preference to African American students, it would still be discriminating against them based on past social history and practice. They were formerly denied admission based on their so-called race, so not to consider their so-called race for admission would be seen as unjust or unfair.
Another problem exists regarding this case, that is, how will race be defined since color is not a reliable indicator of race and DNA will show that all people have some African ancestry? The fact that America created two so-called races based on color has come back to haunt and trouble us since the European Americans no longer control the definition of race in America. Race should have been replaced by ethnic group and ethnicity since the 1940s, but to do that would have meant a loss of power, privilege and prestige for the European Americans. What society could not bring it to do; Mother Nature is doing for it. In a few more years, the ethnic minority in America will become the majority and the concept of a black race and white race will become so complex and confusing that it will have to become a thing of the past.
So, if the court wants to avoid the problem of having to deal with race, it should simply look at the people who have been denied social and economic justice in our society and do the fair and just thing by them without regard to a so-called race. The idea of a post-racial society is just a way of trying to avoid the realities of discrimination and bigotry that have been a part of America’s history. America created the problem; it can resolve it.
Tags: African Americans, black, Confronting Myths, current-events, ethnicity, European Americans, eye shapes, politics, race, racism, research, science, society, U.S.Census, white
A number of articles recently focused on the topic of racism and how it negatively affects the mind and body of its victims. Studies ranging from stress and depression to heart problems have been conducted showing the detrimental effects of racism. As interesting and informative as these studies and articles are in bringing this awareness to the public eye, nothing has been said about avenues of approach to try and eliminate the problem of racism. Most articles and studies treat racism as if it is an indestructible social phenomenon that is with society to stay. If that is the considered sentiment, then what use are the studies and articles complaining about it? We have some alternatives that can be considered if we are sincere about wanting to address the issue.
Yes, we know that race is a social construct, but that does mean we must accept it as a permanent feature of American society. Polio was a problem in society until penicillin was discovered. What we as a society must do in addressing racism are to understand its cause; we know its affects. One of the causes of racism is our acceptance, support, and promotion of it. Since we know that the concept of biological races is made-up, we also know that it’s divertive, racism is also made-up. So, why do we continue to accept them as though they are legitimate features of our society? Maybe we think that if we continue talking about them, they will go away. So far that approach has not and will not work. We need to start with our conception or view of race first, before we can address the problems associated with racism.
Because we readily accept the idea of multiple biological races as a certainty, we can easily convince ourselves that superficial physical differences such as skin color, eye shapes, hair texture and numerous other physical elements constitute a so-called racial difference. They do not. The fact that we know that race is a social construct does not come from someone’s idea or suggestion. Science has offered empirical data to support that fact through DNA. For a number of years now, especially since the O.J. Simpson trial, we know that the science of DNA has provided us with conclusive data that can be duplicated time and again to underscore its reliability. So, when the scientists tell us that all human beings belong to one race, why do we not accept, believe, and communicate that concept- changing information? The fact that race by color has never been accurate or trustworthy does not seem to be enough to cause us to change our so-called racial stereotypes. We need to communicate to our society and the world that we recognize and agree with our scientists that the concept of multiple biological races is formally debunked. Knowing the truth and accepting it, however, are two different and challenging things.
Once we accept the concept of a one race world, we will then be in a position to understand that the concept of racism is equally false. We certainly cannot and should not ignore cultural and other man-made differences, but we cannot identify those differences as racial or biological. Along with the acceptance of a one race world comes the change of our own self-concept and of others as being a part of a world family. DNA scientists tell us that if we selected two people from opposite geographical locations on the planet, we could go back only six generations before we discover a common ancestry between those two people. That fact alone should tell us how much alike we are to one another. Still, we prefer to hold on to our old, false concepts of race. If we no longer identified people according to their color, how would we identify them?
The answer to that question came in 1945 from a group of world-renowned scientists assembled by the United Nations under the rubric of UNESCO. They decided that the word race was not suitable for use as a social identity because it was not accurate and reliable. They offered instead, the words ethnic group and ethnicity to be used instead of race, not a replace for it. However, during that time, American society was very much involved with the concept of race because of the privileges and opportunities it provided for those who eugenics identified as being of the white race. Many American immigrants from Italy, Poland, Russia, and Greece, along with Jewish people, were not favorably or readily welcomed here. Most were not yet considered white or America n because at that time America recognized only two races—white and black (Negro). The fact that UNESCO suggested the use of ethnic group and ethnicity instead of the word race was bad new, however, had it been accepted, the change would have negatively affect those immigrants who desperately wanted the white identity in order to enjoy all the rights and privileges of that segment of society. So, today in spite of all the data to the contrary, the U.S. Census still include on its form two races black and white.
Today in America some people hold on to their so-called racial identity and beliefs more than their religion. They do so because it might be the only positive thing of social value they have even if it is only make-believe. To many of those people, they believe it is their right to be biased and discriminate against people who do not look like they look. Because of the many negative stereotypes created about non-European ethnic Americans over the years, many people grow up in America embracing that negative stereotypes. A recent statistic concerning the practice of “Stop and Frisk” showed that out of the total number of people stopped, 88% were innocent. In addition, out of that 88%, African Americans represented 87% (check the MHP Show 3-16-13). If we as a society refuse to communicate the facts and truth about the falsity and inaccuracy of race and racism, nothing will change.
The fact that articles appear on a fairly regular basis dealing with the injustices of race and racism is evidence enough that it still exists. Because of the fact that we do not seek aggressively to debunk these concepts, we cause measurable harm to the mind and body of innocent people who do not yet know that they do not belong to a white, black, brown, yellow or any other color race. They do not need to agonize over what race is theirs—it is human. They can pick and choose their ethnic identity based on their culture and ancestry, American Indian, African American, Asian American, and Hispanic (Specify) American, or some other, but under no circumstances should it be black or white because that is where the concept of race and racism in America began. More on this topic later.