I apologize for assuming all readers of this blog are white, but what I want to say primarily applies to whites.
This is NOT becoming a political blog again. Racism–both in the Black Lives Matter and at the southern border–is at a more encompassing, soul-spirit-heart-humane-brotherly love-compassion-yes, love-of-humankind level. Does nothing cut through to the quick of chaos? Is a guilty conscience behind the attack on teaching honest history? Shame?
Prior to writing this brief blog I read more closely into the history of American slavery, and don’t want that to be the topic today. However, I learned that in 1789 a law was passed in the southern province to keep enslaved Africans in “submission and obedience,” by prohibiting them from writing or growing their own food.
“Literacy among enslaved Africans was not always antithetical to slavery in the colonies. It was once permissible for the enslaved to read Bibles, but when colonists realized the skill could be a gateway to liberation, literacy was outlawed.” North Carolina passed a law in 1829 that made it illegal to teach slaves to read and write, saying it “has a tendency to excite dissatisfaction in their minds and to produce insurrection and rebellion to the manifest injury of the citizens of this state.” (Mother Jones, Sep-Oct, p. 9.)
Did the law mean “other” citizens, or were the enslaved not citizens either? They are now, for what it’s worth. –I take that back. I know citizenship for people of color is valued. but…I’ll be quiet now.
Sorry, I referred a friend to this spot for a reblog of Jerry Coyne’s post about Amanda Gorman’s poetic work but there wasn’t a reblog button, only a confusing warning about copyright, so you’ll have to find it yourself. It seems there’s some prejudice against non-black translators of her work.
The following is one paragraph from a g-mail addressed to “Nicola,” evidently a mass mailing error from a worthy cause.
“Some Indigenous Peoples refer to ‘Thanksgiving’ as the ‘National Day of Mourning.’ It is a day founded in a myth about this country’s origin–one that reframes a long history of attempted genocide as a friendly feast. This year many people are mourning loved ones lost to Covid, as well as state and vigilante violence. For some of us, this will be a different ‘Thanksgiving’ – one with limited contact due to Covid precautions. This is a time to mourn, reckon, fortify.”
The following is not an excuse, just some of my thoughts about the occurrence of prejudice in the world, throughout history. People say, “No one is born prejudiced,” and that is true to some extent. Since I have a blind side like almost everyone, I have probably been racist in my thinking and behavior at some point, but not very much so. On the farm I played with a little black boy down the road until my visits were not facilitated. A black woman who ironed for us was the person who told me there was a word for “the day before today” and a different one for “the day after today.” I remember playing at the home of some black folks who I now think must have been our sharecroppers. I remember once visiting a black church with my father, and I had a black family sleepover at my house in Atlanta when the Mule Train passed through on its way to Washington in the late sixties. In college I was a member of ADA and we traveled to hear Martin Luther King speak. (We had to wait a little because there was a bomb scare). But I have learned through reading that we all have something genetic that makes us culturally prefer those who carry our own genes. It’s called kinship selection. The “us-them” dichotomy can be seen everywhere. Social experiments with school children have been done in which the children were divided into those with blue eyes versus those with brown-eyes and pitted against each other. The hostility that crept up was shocking. You may have noticed that Trump has been riding that regrettable fact. That would have been a “Us vs. Them” tendency, which is atop or under the kinship preference process, which seems to be atop an even more basic primitive, archaic tendency which involves the ancient widespread valuing of our own genes. This tendency resurfaces when folks are asked who of several people they would save if they could save only one of their family versus five, say, unrelated. I’ll be quiet now. I was on a rant. Blame it on self-quarantine. But it does point to the fact that we as humans have a problem we need to work on if we hope to have a more just and lasting world. (I know, preachy and it’s not even Sunday).
The latest thing to send me into a fit of temper is Trump’s order to Russell Vought, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, to cease the government’s racial sensitivity training. Trump calls such training “un-American propaganda”. That’s right, folks … it is un-American to try to teach people not to discriminate, to try to remove the systemic racism that exists within our government and law enforcement community. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. 🤬
Is my value as a human merely based
on the colour of my carcass?
Is there no intrinsic value
in what lies beneath my pelt?
Is my hide all that matters?
Will you say that a coat of black
is worse or better than a coat
of white or brown or red?
Peak beneath my skin
and see who I really am
Let me see you for more
than your colour
or let me be flayed
for if I am no more than the
tone of my flesh,
I am merely an animal
to be hunted and
turned into leather.
Over a year into Donald Trump’s presidency, commentators are still trying to understand the election and the explosion of intolerance following it. One common view is that Trump’s victory was a consequence of pervasive racism in American society.
Studies make clear, however, that racism has been decreasing over time, among Republicans and Democrats. (Views of immigration have also grown more favorable.) Moreover, since racism is deep-seated and longstanding, reference to it alone makes it difficult to understand the election of Barack Obama and Trump, the differences between Trump and the two previous Republican nominees on race and immigration, and the dramatic breakdown of social norms and civility following the elections. (Social scientists call this the “constant can’t explain a variable” problem.)
This does not mean racism is irrelevant; it matters, but social science suggests it does in more complicated ways than much commentary suggests.
Perhaps because straightforward bigotry has declined precipitously while more subtle, complex resentments remain, understanding how intolerance shapes politics requires examining not just beliefs, but also the relationship between beliefs and the environments people find themselves in. This distinction has important implications for how we interpret and address contemporary social and political problems.