Race Relations

Today I was listening to the radio when an odd guest came on- the leader of the KKK.  Unfortunately I didn’t get to hear most of the interview because it was lunchtime, and thus I was distracted with the kids and getting food on the table and making the day continue to run smoothly.

Yet, as in all times when my body is involved in routine movements, my mind disengaged enough that I started down this line of thought.  I thought, first, of a few days ago when in a conversation with my father he mentioned that the welfare system has “destroyed black society”, a statement which seemed so empirical as to give me no reply.  I don’t like entering into a debate in which I feel crippled by my own lack of information, so at the time I said nothing.

But my irritation with the statement hasn’t faded over time.  For one, the statement seems incomplete.  He meant “black society in America” and it’s obvious given the context in which it was made, but even so…  I think that people too often assume that the whole of the “black experience” (another phrase I find irritating) hinges on the black experience in America. That and they too often say “black society” when they truly mean the inner city- two things that are wildly different.  Not all black people live in the inner city and not everyone in the inner city is black.  So let’s please keep those things separate.

That isn’t the whole of my irritation.  The implications as well as the overall lack of information they portray is what truly gets to me.  So lets, just for “fun” (by “fun” I mean sorrow inducing meditation, but whatever…) go over the history of the “black experience” in America.  First, black people are brought over on slave ships to be exposed to conditions worse than what we put cattle through.  They are worked to the bone, beaten and raped, subjugated, barred from learning basic skills, starved, and have I mentioned the beatings and raped?  Women would stand up to defend a stray dog being stoned in the street, but not a black man.

When the obvious injustice of this treatment was recognized and black people were given personhood- and note, by personhood I literally mean being identified as people– what were they given to correct this injustice?  These people, battered and beaten, barred from ever having so much as learned to write their names, were given a donkey, some papers and some land.  How were they expected to start to mete out a living?  And do you think their neighbors, the people who had been beating and raping them a year previous, would give them a pittance of help?  Do you imagine they were given years of free tutelage, invited over for dinners, loaned seed crop?  Perhaps some of them were, but for the most part I am not surprised by the fact that they banded together in shared misery and poverty, desperately trying to make the most of their meager circumstances.  At least they had their freedom.

But look at their situation honestly- these black communities are desperate and impoverished.  They have little more than the clothes on their backs.  They are surrounded by white people who have inherited wealth and circumstance.  Even the poor bakers and blacksmiths have inherited their trade- they have something to build wealth on.  Black people have a mule and the derision of the white people who still, at that point, felt that something had been stolen from them.

That divide has yet to be closed.  I refuse to believe it.  One can say that the white people in America built what they had from nothing- but those people came into the states with their health, their determination, their personhoood, their education- whereas the blacks were starting at less than zero.  It is incredible that they were given as much as they were, considering the bitterness on the part of the south, but even so…

Can anyone say that it was enough- not enough to assuage our own guilt, but enough to birth equity?  I don’t think so.

Do you?

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11 thoughts on “Race Relations

  1. Shush, for once you and I will disagree. Maybe it is because I have seen the world with my own eyes, and I see a larger picture, I don’t know.

    All of what you say regarding the black struggle is true in its way here in the US. But, if you are going to make this statement, you had better take the example of the Jews as well and use them as your marker.

    One of the problems that has happened in the US is that people have come to have a sense of entitlement. Like something is owed to them. Its not just Black people, or people of color, whites are just as guilty. In fact, our youth of today is the worst for that.

    It has been many years since the abolition of slavery. To my count 200 years. Yes, the reparations were seemingly small, but it was something. The Native Indian people that were here took far longer to receive anything at all. They faced many of the same exact things.

    I know that my view isn’t going to be popular, but these slaves were given skills. They worked in houses, they worked on farms as labor. They learned to work the land, work with horses and many other necessary job skills one would need to survive. Was it perfect… hell no!

    Im going to start from the 1960’s when equal rights here became true. Did the black people really take advantage of the rights that they now had access to? Did they make education their priority? Did the majority strive to make a difference for the next generations? Or did they simply stay in the victim mentality and feel as though that they were being oppressed when the only oppression was of their own making.

    I can tell you that in California, that black students were given PREFERENTIAL treatment and entrance to colleges even though they did not do as well in school. Scholarships are very hard for a average “white” person to obtain. A situation of reverse descrimination has happened because we have gone so far to try and lift them out of this mentality that we strip them down at the same time by not holding them to the same standards.

    My best friend in the world happens to be black. My god child is a mix of black and chinese. There is not a prejudiced bone in my body. What Im trying to say is.. that there have been many people who have been victimized throughout history. Even made slaves. But that didn’t stop them from succeeding as a people.

    Plenty of Jews have businesses and are succesful. You cannot argue that their persecution has been FAR worse and for FAR longer. So exactly why is it that they are able to manage? Are they smarter than black people? No. Are they better? No. The difference is, that they value education and they make it a priority. They insure that their children have more education than they had or at least at the same level.

    If you ask my best friend Candace what it is she sees as a woman of color, she will tell you the same. People get so caught up in the why me, and poor me, that they don’t take the opportunity to get out of that victim place and learn for themselves how to make a better life.

    Being someone who is sick and handicapped, I face prejudice. I face mistreatment. I face horrible unfairness in the world. I don’t in turn though, and blame this on anyone else, or expect that I am owed something. I do everything possible to educate myself. But most importantly I do the best I can with the tools that God has given me.

    The Chinese were also brought over as slaves, were worked on the railroad, raped, tortured etc. Yet do you see the same issues? They didn’t get a donkey, nor did they get any land either.

    And guess who it was who “caught” and sold these poor black people as slaves to the white man? Other black people of more powerful tribes.

    Slavery has happened since the beginning of time. It is not right. It is horrible. Hopefully we have learned better as a species. However, its only this time in history where a people have continued to have this mentality…. and that is their choice.

    You always have that choice. Black, white, yellow, red.

  2. Amber: You and I don’t fully disagree- because I do agree that personal choice does have to come in to play at some time. The black people of that time were given little recourse, as I said in my post, because they weren’t going to suddenly be treated as equals by the vast majority of white people. Things HAVE changed and that can’t possibly be stated enough. And the truth is that some black people (say, Barack Obama?) have made a great deal out of their lives, and the opportunities are out there. I just get sick to my stomach when I hear people blaming welfare for the problems, because the problems have been inherited from generation to generation long before welfare was introduced. Did it, perhaps, exacerbate a problem? That’s a different discussion entirely. Is is not doing what it was meant to? It was meant to be a tool, and for some people (both black and white) it’s used instead as a crutch. Again, it’s another discussion.

    And you’re right about the Chinese. And there’s also the Irish that were brought into the manufacturing industry as indentured servants.

  3. When we get into indentured servitude, then you talk about the Mexicans and many South Americans even asian countries- It still happens to this day! LA’s sweatshops are full of them! But guess what? They slap the made in the USA lable on them. Makes me sick.

    I agree… Many people have taken up their own mantle to achieve more. My best friend Candace is one of those. My God Child is on a full ride scholarship at The University of North Carolina. It never ever occured to her that the color of her skin would hold her down or that she would not be successful.

    Until the poor sector of the US gets with understanding that their way out is via education they will stay in that same rut. But many alas are too busy putting gold teeth in and driving a fancy car that they can’t even begin to afford rather than taking care or responsibility for their children… let alone providing for an education for them. This is not a race issue in this case. This is a case of the feeling of entitlement in our society and the ME mentality.

    Sorry Im ranting now.

  4. Shush,
    I agree with you assessment concerning the relationship between the Blacks and the people in control. Our Church book club has just finished a book by Howard Thurman, “Jesus and the Disinherited”; published by Beacon Press of Boston. “The book in an important and influential book whose message helped shape the civil rights movement and changed our nation’s history forever.” Mr Thurman’s account of who we reconcile those on the fringe of society with the message of Jesus.
    His thoughts are ageless and universal when applied to those ‘who stand with their back against the wall’.

  5. amberfireinus

    You talk of education as a way out. Have you ever been to an inner city public school? They’re ridiculously understaffed and too busy attempting to keep the school safe to really teach anything. I do agree that there are some people that don’t take advantage of opportunity but many do not know of the opportunities they could have. They live in a world where around them all there is, is drug dealing, gang activity and families just trying to make it to the next day.

    My grandmother worked in an inner city school for years and she always tells this one story. There was a boy, let’s call him John, who was incredibly bright and on the last day of school my grandmother asked him what he thought of college and if he was excited about high school. He looked her in the eye and said “You know I’m not going to make it to 18”. And the sad thing is, statistically he was right. There are many black men who are killed before they are 18 and some of them are just as bright as that young boy but they are stuck in the places they live.

    Personally, I think it’s MORE than a race issue. It’s a class issue, it’s an ablist issure, it’s basically an everyone issue. We as a society have to realize that there still exists HAVEs and HAVE-NOTs and until we can reach those poorer people and help them to believe they can be and do more, we’ll always have this problem.

  6. Kay,

    I have been to inter-city schools. But schools are only as good as parents. How many parents volunteer? How many parents work with their children? If they were to do the lessons with their children from the beginning, they would learn too??? If they stayed involved in their childrens schooling then teachers could focus on more basics of learning rather than stuff that non trained staff could handle.

    Making education a priority in your life doesn’t mean having access to the best schools. Many immigrant children face the same issues. White children too in inter-city schools.

    The only way to break the cycle of poverty is through education. Sex education to start with, so that girls don’t have unplanned pregnancies.

    It is a fact that we need all of the layers of class and society to make it work. We need workers, and we need managers. We need thinkers, and we need dreamers. All play a vital role in our survival. There will always be the haves and the have nots. That is the natural order of things in the animal kingdom.

    The real success will be when we educate ourselves to be at the best level that we can achieve – maybe that will be as a worker. But a worker who can work smart and not hard. Maybe they wont be wealthy, but they will be able to support themselves and their families.

    Coming from the UK and living in a CLASS driven society… I see the reality of the situation.

  7. In my Multicultural Psych class we watched a video that mentioned that black people were enslaved for longer than they’ve been out of slavery.

    I thought that was a pretty mind-boggling thing to think about.

  8. Just RE: the comment: “Plenty of Jews have businesses and are succesful. You cannot argue that their persecution has been FAR worse and for FAR longer. So exactly why is it that they are able to manage?”

    ???

    The history of those groups is TOTALLY different. Jews were not enslaved, or subject to the same type of treatment (physically, legally) as blacks under Jim Crow. Many Jews came to this country with merchant skills or education; blacks were systematically denied a good education and good jobs for much (most?) of the 20th century. (We are talking about the black/Jewish experience in America, not other countries.)

    I would go further to say… statements like that SCARE me… a lot! The idea that people – perhaps a lot of people – believe that the histories and life chances of blacks and Jews are somehow comparable… that’s just a fundamental lack of knowledge about these things.

    I’m trying not to be incendiary on this, I’m not trying to make a personal attack, but but… wow… all I can say is, our teaching of history is a total failure.

  9. lunchcountersitin – Im absolutely appalled. Are you kidding me?? Do you have any clue as to how long Jews were ENSLAVED? Read your bible for some time. I think you will find their lot was far worse. Umm who do you think BUILT by hand sweat and labor the pyramids?????? No machines… brute force. Have you ever been to Egypt? In the summer? 118 desert… no adequate water. Whippings, rape, the whole 9 yards.

    Teaching of history goes back further than the past 300 years. How about over 2,000! Jews have been enslaved, persecuted, murdered, raped, held down, tortured for far more years than ANY other group in HISTORY!

    Guess what… christians were too! They were fed to Lions, by the conquering empires. They were enslaved. Problem with that was that they were not an ethnic group to point to.

    Think about it… get back to me!

  10. Amberfireinus,

    The thing is, you’re making an apples to oranges comparison.

    How many Jews were enslaved in the United States? How many Jews were lynched in the United States?

    In the US Constitution, it says in Article 1, Section 2 that “Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned… by adding to the whole number of free persons… three fifths of all other Persons.” Those “other persons” were imported Africans, not Jews.

    Now, if we were to compare the experience of German and Polish Jews under the Nazi regime, no question… those jews had it much rougher than African Americans. But I’m talking strictly about the United States.

    In the US, there’s no question, Jews have faced discrimination, but that discrimination is nothing like slavery or Jim Crow. It’s not even close.

  11. But that wasn’t what the article was about was it? It was about race relations. Its about the entire history the whys people feel as they do, and what we can all do NOW to make things better.

    I believe that things need to change… for everyone.

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