MY THOUGHTS ON RACISM IN AMERICA – response to Michelle Obama’s Senior Thesis:
I believe three things to be true regarding racism in America.
The first: minorities in this nation are still, and often, disenfranchised with our Judeo/ Christian society and our white (wealthy) male dominated government.
The second is: blacks, as whole, seem to be the one minority most affected by this disenfranchisement.
The third is: based upon my personal experience, black people are by far the most racist culturally of all the people groups. Each of these three truths are examined below.
Minorities in this nation are still, and often, disenfranchised with our Judeo/Christian society and our white (wealthy) male dominated government.
There is a pervasive belief that our country is run by a few very wealthy white people – however, this is a viewpoint shared by people of all colors, ethnicity, religious background, and creeds in this nation. L.L Cool J (a black rapper now actor) was interviewed in the early 90’s on the Arsenio Hall Show and he made this statement, “It’s not about black and white in this country. It’s about green, and if you have enough green you have a voice.” It’s a statement I remembered because I agree. This is not a uniquely black viewpoint.
The Puritans came here to escape religious persecution and then proceeded to oppress every community they gained a foot-hold in because of their zealous desire to create a “Christian utopia in the new world.” (Do some research on the Ana-Baptists.) In the early foundations of this country we allowed the proliferation of slavery and justified it from our pulpits. We oppressed, killed, and finally quarantined the American Indian. The Jews, Italians, and Irish all came to America and experienced abject discrimination. There was, and continues to be, from many pulpits, in our government, and in our economy, very well recorded discriminatory practices against Catholics. Attend any small southern baptist church in the south and you will still hear it. We locked Japanese Americans up in “Internment Camps” during WWII that were not much better than concentration camps or POW camps. The Hispanics today. As Richard said within a few months of moving to Chatsworth, Georgia, “Face it, Rhoda, Hispanics are just the new nigger on the block here.”
The two things that have brought some measure of equality and justice to all of these people groups through our history have been education and money – and not necessarily in that order.
Finally, we hear espoused from our pulpits and from our politicians that we are a Christian nation. I assert that we aren’t and never really were. Our founding fathers were not Christian in the true sense of the word. Most of them were Masons, humanists, and deists. They did not believe in a personal God or that Jesus was THE Son of God. In fact, Benjamin Franklin was a self-proclaimed agnostic, as was Thomas Jefferson. Read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. It’s not hard to see.
Despite the fact that we invoke the name of God all over the place, there is no concrete clarification of who that God might be. In doing some recent research on the Electoral College I learned that our founding fathers felt that the public needed to be protected by their government and guided by any means necessary towards the best common goal. Hence, the Electoral College. Overall, our early leaders viewed the vast majority of it’s constituents as the great uneducated, unwashed, little better than easily misguided children. It was commonly felt that appealing to their most common belief of God was a necessary evil to reach the desired end of the more lofty goals of liberty, peace, etc. There are some good books on this subject.
Blacks, as whole, seem to be the one minority most affected by this disenfranchisement.
I believe this disenfranchisement of the black community is for these reasons.
A weakened nuclear family in the black community.
A pervasive poverty within the black community.
A weakening of the church within the black community – historically the Christian Faith and the consistency of Black churches have given stability and balance to the black community at large.
The above three factors lead to an increase of crime, addiction, abuse and dysfunctionalism within the black community.
Black people are physically more unique than other minorities.
European Jews look European and most of the Jews in this country are of European descent. Italians, though traditionally darker than most white Europeans, are still white. Hispanics though usually dark of skin come in all colors and once the accent is gone and the language sublimated they are, usually within a generation, fully amalgamated. The Irish, once they lose the accent, are indiscernible. Asian’s, though visually different, are more palatable to us because their skin is lighter. In short, blacks experience more discrimination because they look so different and because of the long, intertwined, and bitter history between the black and white communities. Remember the 60’s?
In my personal experience, black people are by far the most racist culturally of all the people groups.
When I was 6 going on 7 and in the first grade in Sioux City Iowa I was initially enrolled in a, predominately, black inner city school. I had no friends and was called horrible names by the little black children I was in school with. This was a major factor in my parents enrolling me in private school, and the fact that the education at that school was inferior to other schools in the predominately white suburbs of the same community.
When I was 7 going on 8 we moved from Jamaica to Waycross Georgia. I had just been in an environment where I was surrounded by black people and I never felt afraid. I loved them and they loved me. But, in Waycross, I had little black girls following me home, calling me names and throwing rocks at me
When I joined the Navy these experiences from my childhood which I never understood, came flooding back. Black and whites rarely mingle socially in the Navy, unless it’s a command function. I would walk up to a group of black people having a conversation and the conversation would stop and everyone would stare at me. Often, If I asked what they were talking about I was told in no uncertain terms that I wasn’t a part of that conversation. There were people I worked wtih, joked with, and talked to every day one on one, but in a group of their “peers” I wasn’t welcome.
It wasn’t until I married Richard that I started developing more black friends. The only black friend I had before he came into my life was my friend Adrian and he’s Jamaican. Blacks, whites, and Hispanics that we knew all marveled at the fact that our home was the only one they knew where all people groups co-mingled. We could have a black Muslin (Robbie), sitting next to a white Wiccan (Nettie) at the same table with a gay Catholic (Kevin), and a Hispanic Pentecostal (Richard, all freely and openly exchanging ideas and beliefs peacefully. I didn’t realize at the time that it was so unique but everyone I’ve kept in contact with from those days has commented on how special it was and how they always felt love and acceptance in our home.
So, what do I think of Michelle Obama’s thesis? I think, first of all, she’s not that far off the mark in her observations and viewpoints. I also know that she wrote that thesis 20 years ago and I know that in the last 20 years I’ve changed a lot. I think it might be fair to give her the benefit of the doubt and think that maybe she has changed too. I also know that she, like all of us, is a product of her environment.
The one thing my friend Kevin had to say about Chicago after living there was that it was the most racially divided city he’s ever been to, outside of Paris. It is divided by color, religion, ethnicity, language, cultural background – everything. The Polish in Chicago feel just as isolated and oppressed as the blacks, Jews, Catholics, and Hispanics. She was a black kid who grew up in a lower middle-class black neighborhood in Chicago going to a white, affluent university. I think I might have had the same bias. And, hasn’t the American public confirmed her bias? Her husband is white and black, and he was raised by white American’s. Yet, we see him and describe him as black. Halle Berry is white and black but her white mother who raised her told her, “Halle, everyone will always see you as black so you might as well own it.”
Ok, here are my two final thoughts. Newsweek ran an article a few years back, their cover article, which you can still access on-line, about “The Most Racially Divided Hour in America.” The article was about that hour from 11 am until Noon on Sunday when most people go to church. The reason why the Al Sharpton’s and the Jerry Falwell’s are allowed to flourish is because we still don’t worship together the same God we espouse. It is rare to find a truly racially diverse church. I found one in Norfolk, one in New Orleans, on in Jacksonville, and one in miami, but never found one in Seattle, Rockford, Alaska, or chatsworth. If we can’t worship together how do we really expect to find a common bond? And, how do racially mixed couple’s choose a church?
Which leads to my final point. About 8 years ago Warren Beatty did a movie entitled “Bullworth.” In the final moments of that movie Beatty’s character, Bullworth, states, “We should all just hook-up until we’re all the same color and we can’t blame our problems on that any more.” (Paraphrase) I went to high school with children whose parents were children of the 60’s. We had Asian and white, Asian and black, Hawaiian and black, Hawaiian and white, white and black, Native American and white – or black. And, you know what, they all pretty much looked the same. Everyone blended and no-one was left out. My yearbook is full of beautiful pictures of these beautiful young people arm in arm with their white friends and their black friends, laughing and hanging out together. It was never an issue. So maybe Bullworth is right.