August 05, 2010

Emancipating The White Man Part 2- Where Do We Go From Here?

How Whites Were Harmed By Slavery And Racism

Yes, you are reading the headline correctly.

I have already gone into much detail about how slavery and racism has impacted black people. However, if we are to be fair and demonstrate true spiritual enlightenment then we cannot claim that slavery and racism is so poisonous to the human spirit its ill effects can manifest through generations, then not also admit that it has negatively impacted white people as well. Of course it has

A poem about a white supremicist. It takes a strong, forgiving and empathetic soul to delve into the mind of a racist and see the real human insecurity and suffering inside the harsh exterior as this brave female poet did here.

This essay is especially for the poor white man . You see, the Rich White Man has a lot invested in securing the poor white man's undivided support of the systems that keep the Rich White Man on top. The poor white man has been convinced that he will somehow get a preferred seat at America’s table ahead of anyone else just because his is Christian and white. The poor black and brown man is being used by politicians as well with the same "We'll take care of you," speil because you are separate and a “special case” from the poor whites. The truth is, both poor, working and middle class blacks and whites are in the same basket. They all need help affording education and health services. They all need to have gainful employment and despite not being wealthy are no less deserving of clean air, water, healthy food and a life affirming existence.

Preventing the lower classes of various cultures from uniting and stirring up revolution has been fundamental aspect of Western civilization after several “ruling classes” fell to revolution and communism. One of the easiest ways to “manage the poor” is divide and conquer. In Trindiad and Tobago it is Poor Rural Indian against Poor Urban/Housing Development Black. In the USA there is also one political party for the poor white man and one for the poor black man to prevent them from coming together and comparing notes. It worked for a while too but finally, the poor white man and the poor black man are comparing notes. They are realizing they have been merely voting for politicians who feign similar values just to keep those mercenary bottom lines healthy for a hierarchy that has no intention of ever letting the table get too crowded, even by those they claim are ‘their people’.

So which do you prefer? The vampire who makes an effort to seduce and lull with pleasure before sucking or one who just brutally and boldly sinks his teeth in? Or do you prefer to be free and independent of vampires altogether?

The meaning of the words of the late Martin Luther King, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” cannot be lost on anyone. Any system that seeks to deny anybody social justice, equal rights and equal opportunity cannot be trusted with your rights, even if it seems to favor “your kind of people” today, the fact remains, the system itself is innately corrupt. The time will come when you too will become “those people” on the outside. For many Americans, that time is now. They have suddenly found themselves outside the “Keeping up with the Jonses, upper middle class-happily heterosexually married, Christian” circle and they do not know what to do!

Some of course, have reverted to the same old blame game and are falling right into the hands of politicians. Don't people realize by now that the only difference between the Democrats and Republicans, Liberals and Conservatives is in their preferred methods of pacification while they engage in vampirism and faithful service to the same boss for the same bottom line?. The Democrats play on the “underdog” mentality and actually try to make its victims feel tangibly “taken care of,” and able to get a sense of self-validation while being sucked dry by the same expansionist hierarchy. The Republicans play into the Way of The Bully, a more upfront approach. We’ll destroy all too weak to fight us off, join us and maybe we won’t pick on you right now.

The Effects Of Walking The Way Of The Bully For Centuries

The Way Of The Bully The ability to feel self-esteem only by robbing a weaker person of theirs has become a deeply ingrained trait in American culture. There is very little “honour” in the approach of many to American Dream, just personal profit and self preservation by whatever means.

Can we agree that it is unhealthy to be raised with even the slightest inkling that you can more or less expect to be treated as superior and have any injustice you commit excused either by blaming a weaker person unable to defend themselves or taking advantage of someone powerless to fight back? Not all people are honorable enough to resist that tempting and comfortable stance. Can we agree that over time, it can become a powerful source of false entitlement? Can we agree that once generationally ingrained it can be just as difficult to root out as the feelings of disempowerment and despondency that plagues many poor black communities who continue to be bullied?

In the days of Jim Crow, many whites who had nothing else going for them could always fall back on merely being white as their only source of self-esteem. A fat, harangued white woman who lost all her good looks and was stuck in a bad marriage could still get a little boost when more attractive beautiful Nubian princess was walking down the street. The unattractive, doughy white woman could still take pleasure in forcing the black beauty to humbly get out of her way and walk in the drain…or else. The poor white man who was too unattractive to get a lovely, white woman and saw a strapping, good looking black man being admired by scores of black women could call him "Boy" and put him in his place.

No matter what ailed the fragile ego; jealousy, family strife, economic hardship, sickness or gross misdeeds it could be alleviated by infringing on someone else instead of learning more enlightened coping skills through intellectual, emotional and spiritual development. This is what many Americas learned from infancy- your well-being hinges on another’s deprivation. You cannot truly enjoy “having” unless you know someone else is being excluded and is a “have-not” and you can laud over them. Only then “having” becomes extra special. This is not a phenomenon only among white Americans, the post-colonial African Diaspora have also learned this as well and it results in the “crab in barrel” counter-productive attitudes we display to one another. It makes black communities implode with sabotage, it's not like they can take it out on anyone else. However for many centuries we have proven that white people can take it out on whomever they want. They just have to be rich or connected enough and have enough self-serving sycophants to justify and perpetuate the bullying whether against Native Americans, third world countries or the working class American auto-maker.

Imagine the shock to the system when this bullying source of self-esteem was first challenged. Imagine how racists feel when it continues to be challenged and suddenly they are being demonized (rightfully so) by what appears to be the entire nation, even Conservatives are denying any association to them. To make matters worse, they have never learned how to sustain their ego by any other means and nobody is interested in rehabilitating or showing them how. They cannot even turn to their religion for guidance.

The neglected message of love, forgiveness, compassion and the Golden Rule is one of the ways politics stemmed from racist objectives has hurt many white Christians in America who have so much anger and discontentment rotting their insides, it seems not even Jesus can heal it.

Remember, true Christianity- the rejection of hatred, materialism, status , judgment and grasping for political power in favor of love, non-vengeance, forgiveness, heavenly reward, brotherhood and charity taught by Jesus has never been something embraced by the Rich White Man’s circle ever! Greed is and always has been their main motivating factor. They were instrumental in getting white Christian people to harden their hearts and agree to slave labor, exploitative labor, Jim Crow and racial discrimination while hypocritically trying to represent Christian values. So it should come as no surprise when today many white people and some self-hating or stupid black and brown people too, do not even know the difference between the teachings of Christ and the highly politicized Capitalist Dominionism that passes for Christianity in America today.

The Conservative Rich White Man needs the Poor White Man to engage in a paradoxical spiritual self-delusion and willingly accept that Government support of unbridled capitalism is more Christian than any form of social caring, inner contentment and environmental conservation..

America is now full of people who are still unable to cope with the reality that their life is not supposed to be better simply because they are white and “Christian”. No time does this hurt them more than during an economic crisis when competition is fierce for even the most menial jobs. Klan and anti-immigrant activity spiked during the Great Depression and we should not be surprised by the increase in racial hostilities at this time, especially the irrational distrust expressed by certain fractions of white America towards the bi-racial President to fix the economic mess he inherited from a President who they more or less allowed to run amok. Their racism does not manifest as lynching and burning crosses.

Those who have always felt, they were losing their rightful place in America since Harry Belafonte’s televised duet with Petula Clarke and Brown vs. The Board of Education have long changed stratagem. They replaced “white” with “Christian” and “patriot” and now hide behind the cloak of “Religious Right” and Conservative.

Apathy, Numbness, Blindness To Injustice

Still think slavery and racism has not adversely affected white people? There is a deeply ingrained legacy of avoidance of anything potentially unpleasant known as WASPish behaviour and it is extremely unhealthy. Indeed many White Anglo Saxon Protestant people descended from the more affluent colonials were raised to turn a blind eye; don’t get involved even when they have the opportunity to do the right thing. This coping mechanism and fear of being bullied by ones’ own became necessary in order to ignore the tug of their conscience while people are being enslaved, sold, lynched, raped and sent to prison for crimes they did not commit. I call it the “monkey see no evil, Marie Antoinette ” phenomenon.

For years whites who grew up with Jim Crow or Apartheid cultivated and passed down to their children, a filter of fear; fear to speak up or cause a confrontational row, most of all, fear of being cast out of the privileged circle. They developed and passed along the ability to not only ignore atrocities and injustice but excuse them, often in ridiculous ways as Barbara Bush demonstrated when she said that Katrina (predominantly poor, black) victims should be happy to be in a football stadium rather than their slums.
This fearful paralysis often leads to total apathetic blindness which is exposed in social experiments like ABC’s What Would You Do. One episode revealed how long it took people to notice and confront racism happening right before their eyes. A scenario was set up where a “nice” white, female, mature, real estate agent was denying non-whites access at an open house in a predominantly white suburb. The most immediate and most vocal confrontations of the racist came from you guessed it, another minority as well as women. In the end, the report revealed that only a paltry one third who saw the incident actually spoke up. Most were too afraid to do anything or were perhaps complicit with the racist sentiments being expressed. Many are content to say,” I know I am not be racist but that does not mean I am going to get personally involved in those people’s problems!”

Bill O’Reilly said on an internationally available network in prime time that he was shocked black people actually used knives and forks when he visited a black-owned restaurant in Harlem. He is representative of many who continue to assert they not personally stained by racism while saying things that are blatantly racist all the time.

The ingrained after-effects of “monkey see no evil Marie Antoinette” method often gets warped into a form of angry defensiveness, like Saint Peter angrily denying Christ out of fear of being associated with him and victimized as well. This is combined with a desperation to belong to the privileged club often makes many seem soulless, callous and lacking any kind of moral fortitude. Some white people, especially from the younger generations, become so embrarrassed and disgusted by their own people, they reject their European heritage completely and adopt the culture of those they consider the noble victims. It is similar to how some black people become racist against other blacks because of disenchantment and embarrassment with the behavioural ills rampant in their communities.

You Cannot Forget What Is Yet To Be Forgiven And Fixed

Since the 1950s, it has become necessary for the Rich White Man not to totally alienate minority voters. In this aspect the Democrats who represent their set of Rich White Men, have been first out the gate in winning minority hearts and minds. Now the Conservatives are realizing they cannot protect their Rich White Men without also reaching out to minorities. There is just one problem, their bullying legacy, Jim Crow, the Sothern Baptists enforcing segregation.

Their solution?

Use scary homosexual nupitals to get homophobic minorities to find common ground with them. Trot out the few minority spokespeople they have who found more personal validation in The Way of The Bully than the lonlier and less financially viable Way of the Warrior. Most of all, remove all potential unpleasant historical reminders of the inhumanity and injustice their Right Wing fractions supported back in the day and way before that.

Texas Board of Education have revised their school curriculum and text books to change the name of the Slave Trade to the Atlantic Triangular Trade and emphasize the positive side of expansionism over the negative. FOX News had the gumption to call it a more "patriotic" syllabus.

Economic-driven politics and religion are interfering with America’s healing process from slavery and racism. We see the result in black Americans who cannot speak frankly about of racism without the FOX News and radio bigots feeling overly affronted. They wish to erase all memory of slavery and any mention of current racism faster than an unfaithful spouse afraid of alimony wants his reconciled wife to forget his indiscretions. They just want the betrayed black and brown American wife to unconditionally trust them and willingly reopen her legs without requiring them to undergo any counseling, STD tests or even use a condom. However the effects of hundred years of violent, systematic disempowerment followed by another hundred plus years of terrorism, segregation, injustice and discrimination, some of which still continues even now cannot be so easily forgotten and those who wish to trivialize it end up coming across as even more racist as a result.

It is almost hilarious when whites representing Conservative issues suddenly choose to become forgetfully noble, incredibly naïve and irrelevantly idealistic about race just when it suits their objectives. Case in point is Affirmative Action.

Conservatives love to go:
“Why do we need Affirmative Action? If you are truly exceptional at what you do of course you will succeed black, white, red or green! By giving minorities an extra consideration aren't we now discriminating against white people? Two wrongs do not a right make!”

At first this sounds so noble!

On deeper examination, you realize it is bullshit.

The fact is that America is a nation of C-Average students. In fact, in any country, the truly exceptional- the geniuses and super athletes usually comprise a small top percentile and require a fair amount of privilege or luck to be identified early and subsequently nurtured and rightfully rewarded for their genius.

The vast majority of us however are B & C-Averages. Now, here is the catch! No black person with a C average from an inner-city school could EVER dare dream of being the CEO of a blue chip company.

How underperformance of poor inner city schools has been handled in America before standardiztion, reflects the "monkey see no evil" on both political fronts. The Liberals lowered the standards so black children could get an A when they should really be getting a C. The Conservatives kept the standards the same and cut back spending on social programmes in inner city neighbourhoods. They then use the resulting underperformance of the predominantly black students as a way to tout how inferior black student is, completely free from any context. Both methods are inherently racist and insulting. Neither approach addresses the systematic racist approaches by the establishment to black neighbourhoods resulting in disenfranchised, dysfunctional, dangerous, disempowering households and communities that produce students who are unable to learn at school.

As a black female friend of mine, working for a media company in New York put it,
“Unlike my white work colleagues, I cannot get away with being AVERAGE. I have to be exceptional. It's called the "black tax" or "black insurance". When they take sick days, I am at work. I cannot relax for a second. I know I am fighting an uphill battle doubled for being a woman and re-doubled for being black. I need that little extra MBA or CEO recommendation. I need to constantly put my white boss at ease that I am not going to use his million-dollar company budget to buy Kentucky Fried Chicken and crack!”.

Now I do not believe that an unqualified or even under-qualified person, black or white, male or female should be given a “pass” simply because of a quota and take the place of a more qualified candidate. I also totally disagree with solving the underperformance of schools in poor districts by lowering standards instead of improving the level of teaching and innovative solutions to the unique social challenges that stem from growing up in poverty. However, it is highly “monkey see no evil" behavior to think that without being mandated, the educational, private and public institutions will allow C-Average minorities an equal chance to even get their foot in the door and prove their ability as university students and employees.

We continue to reward “what name and money can buy” instead of what true character can accomplish. Anyone with average intelligence and minimum self-discipline who is coddled the right way by the best learning tools, best supervision and best extracurricular activities money can buy can get an A Grade. But not everyone can turn out a C-Average while dealing with community and domestic issues stemmed from poverty that would even make most people resort to violence, drugs or suicide. So until the same, exceptional opportunities are afforded to all, then “exceptional” in the mouth of a Conservative against Affirmative Action is just a code-word for “exceptionally privileged” which in most cases in America, still means white.

It is "Marie Antoinette, let them eat cake” mentality to somehow not see that a C-Average by anybody (Black, white, Asian, Mexican) who obtained it under exceptional circumstances like poverty, warding off gangs, working to help the family, dodging stray bullets in shootouts, living on a malnourishing inner city diet, with a single parent, few role models and constant reminders of failure and hopelessness all around is a far more exceptional measure of brilliance compared to an A-Average coaxed out of a privileged student (black, white, Asian or Mexican) through private tutoring, supportive home environment, safe neighborhood, world travel, personal computers and home libraries and a choice of self-esteem, brain power boosting extracurricular activities at a pristine, well-funded school with teachers who can afford to pay individual attention to students.

I would erase ethnicity ENTIRELY from Affirmative Action and make it about favoring those of the lower economic class only. A poor person, black or white who has clearly demonstrated a willingness and effort to succeed despite amazing odds should be encouraged through preferred rewards. Now that is the real fulfillment of the “American Dream”.

Anyone with average intelligence who is coddled the right way by the best learning tools and supervision money can buy can get an A. But not everyone can turn out a C-Average while dealing with issues that would even make the adults in this forum resort to suicide. So until the same opportunities are afforded to all to be exceptional, then “exceptional” in the mouth of a Conservative against Affirmative Action is just a code-word for “exceptionally privileged” which in most cases, still means white. So who are we kidding by trying to pretend the playing field has somehow become miraculously leveled? When did that happen? Who or what made this historic event in America happen? As far as I know, money (and all it can buy), legacy and family name still hold the most sway.

The only change I would make to Affirmative Action is include poor whites as well. If you got your C-Average living in a trailer park with an alcoholic father, meth addiction and violence all around you and you had to work a night job just to feed yourself while doing it, well you DESERVE a chance to show me what you can do with a full scholarship and a healthy, nurturing environment full of mentors and opportunities. If I was poor, white and American that is what I would be protesting about. I would take affront to the fact that a person who grew up with every privilege and opportunity to succeed but still turned in a lackluster C-Average and sucked as the CEO of a company could still dream of being the Leader of the Free World and actually become it.

America does not reward "character" enough and then wonders why it has increasing numbers of spoiled brats in power and too many university graduates who are actually dumb once they hit the real workplace and spoiled slackers who cannot decide what they want to do with their life because for the first time they have to motivate themselves without the coddling of mom, dad and a roster of well paid for educational and extracirricular activities. Many privileged students cannot prove themselves efficient at real-life decisions, they just know the most effective cramming methods for tests. Meanwhile truly talented diamonds in the rough with street smarts, creativity, moral fortitude to endure hardship and the ability to self-motivate and dream from ghettos and trailer parks are becoming too despondent to even try anymore.

Seeing what has happened to Shirley Sherrod this July, we have a long way to go yet. There is far too much milking and applause when a white man coddled by the system, admits his racism and repents. He gets standing ovations and Oscar worthy story-lines. When a black woman who was the victim of racism does the same, she gets raked over the coals by the media. This is just too reminiscent of that scene from the movie A Color Purple set in the 1920s. Sophie (played by Oprah Winfrey) makes the mistake of rebuffing a “nice” white woman who wants to take her kids home as if they were puppies or something. The white woman expects Sophie to be humbly grateful like a good little negro “girl” and be instantly amenable to her request. Sophie isn’t and rudely refuses. A passing white man slaps her for her impertinence. Sophie does the unthinkable and she slaps the white man right back and is promptly surrounded by an entire group of white men, beaten up and sent to prison. In 1920, incidents like these were probably commonplace though unlike Rodney King, there were no video cameras to record the misplaced outrage, defensiveness and overreaction that continues to plague many white people up till now.

How Do We Move On Together?

Freedom from the legacy of slavery and racism for both black and white is within reach. It lies in forgiveness which starts with acknowledging what happened, what is still happening and perhaps most of all, who was truly responsible and its traumatic effects on everyone and what must be done to make it an even playing field again, without infringing on anyone's human rights.

There is no need for white people to overburden themselves with unnecessary guilt and do-goodness or walk around with fearful paranoia of doing or saying the wrong thing around minorities, which often results in a kind of disingenuous political correctness that is actually worse. Honesty is always much better and leads to more meaningful, solid relationships. Trust me, as someone with many productive interracial, cross cultural, cross religious, cross-economic class relationships. You have to have the “unpleasant conversations” in order for your interracial relationships to be valid. Most black people appreciate honesty over the sugar-coated bullshit. Come out and say what you are really feeling. It is a vital part of the healing process.

So get your black friend, colleague, family member and say:

“I was raised to be afraid of black people and I admit it still affects me even though I know better.”

“It is hard to both love and respect my parents and family members and yet acknowledge they were and sometimes still are in many ways, shamefully racist.”

“It is hard being excluded or whispered about by all the people I was raised to think are my friends, fellow Christians, community members and it makes me second-guess standing up for what is right when it comes to race relations. Sometimes I just want to fit in and be accepted.”

“When I watch or listen to historical accounts of slavery or read or see examples of racism today it makes me feel ashamed and guilty even though I did not enslave anyone and I know I am not racist. It makes me feel helpless that I cannot do anything about it and scared minorities might still be angry and take it out on me.”

“Sometimes it makes me angry that certain black people might look at me and just assume I am part of the problem not part of the solution and make judgements about me just because I am white but I feel powerless and frustrated to express how I feel because they always have the biggest victim card to play instead of really listening to my side of the story.”

Hopefully that black friend, colleague, family member close to you has moved beyond anger and is more interested in resolution than playing, “Let me count all the ways I suffer should wallow in my mistrust more than you!” Hopefully the two of you can hash out these things together.

Southern Heritage- A brave and poignant poem about confronting both the beauty and ugliness of one’s heritage.

For me and my partner and white friends it was a fundamental part of us bonding. It is a great release for them to be able to speak frankly about their experiences without judgement. It is a great gift to be able to openly acknowledge racism we experience today, call it what it is and then move past it together hand in hand. For my partner and I it was discussing how even in 2010, when we go out to dinner in our touristy island home and the bill comes, the local, black waiter or waitress almost always assumes that the white person will be paying and does not even look in my direction. We take great pleasure in shocking when I whip out the VISA card. We can laugh, pity the fool and most of all live free from personal hurt, guilt, embarrassment and anger.

My partner of 13 years, a Trini of Portugese/Spanish/Irish/Scottish descent once admitted to me how insidiously racism was practiced in the family in the form of the unspoken understanding that the black, Indian, mixed children in Trinidad were okay to play and go to school with but not to date or marry. Over the years, many replaced outright racism (actually calling people “Nigger” or “Coolie” and engaging in discrimination or violence) in favor of subtler forms of social ostracism with euphemistic justifications. They would even vehemently deny being racist and point to all their charity work and casual acquaintances. Fortunately, many in my partner’s generation and younger have been challenging this hypocrisy more directly.

The thorny racial relations that currently plague the United States is evidence that the nation has tried to forget before it truly goes through the real forgiveness process thoroughly and genuinely by an overwhelming majority.

Thank you Teabaggers for bringing the pimple of racism closer to the surface of the skin where it can be squeezed and medicated properly through brutally honest discourse and exposure.

This is why I am strangely thankful to the Teabaggers. The blatant racism of many of their members is showing the Conservative Movement’s true underbelly. They are making the harmful after-effects of hundreds of years of slavery and racism on white people, harder to ignore. Not even the talking heads on FOX News and politicians can hide behind the “monkey see no evil Marie Antoinette” smiles. The puss filled pimple of racism is ripening and moving closer to the surface of the American skin and there exists, perhaps for the first time, a prime opportunity to squeeze it and apply medication instead of just applying concealer.


Sonya said...

Powerful. Thank you.

Jessica said...

You are most welcome.

islandgal246 said...

I had spent my early years in Trinidad in Diego Martin in the early 60's. Boy it was racist society. I had friends from many races, I was exposed to racism from the ones who felt they were white. They were mixed but felt they were white.

My background is of African, Indian and European ancestry yet I consider myself Black. Many west Indians do not like to admit that they are Black.

My great grandfather came to visit with us from Grenada, many asked who was that old white man. I told them that was my great grandfather, they told me that was not true.

I have heard about the unspoken rule from a white Trini I was in business with in Barbados. She also told me that her father would have rolled over in his grave if he was alive to see her in business with a black woman. The business relationship did not last too long, and I don't think it was because of racism.