Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Race Baiting

So the first black person I really knew was Tony. He was a total cliche. He was quite a bit taller than any of our classmates, and taller still with his large Afro. He was untouchable at basketball, and most sports for that matter. I didn't think much about his race, except that he was a rarity as the only black person in our school. We didn't call them African American's yet. I think we were just switching over from "Colored," to "Black" We still heard a few "nigger" jokes, but these were already mostly out of vogue and mostly spoken only in hushed tones. I was unaware of any great racial divide and I don't know if Tony had any special animus against whites.

Over the years I met many more blacks as they slowly filtered into our region, and as I moved around to other regions. I never experienced much racial tension. Though the news told us continually that racial tensions were high all around us. I never noticed that much difference  in them in regard to the old stereotypes and prejudices. They did not seem any less intelligent or honest or anything "less than" the whites around me. Over the years I began however to notice a quite inescapable trend. The blacks seemed to have an increasing self imposed segregation from the whites. It's not that they resided apart; there were actually no ghetto’s, slums, or racially segregated zones where I lived.   It's just that they just seemed to associate mostly just among themselves, at school, and around town. They seemed more and more to glance at us from "over there" in their huddled cliques. When they glanced outwardly toward "us" they seemed increasingly angry and accusing. In time the animosity became more direct and outspoken. We began to be informed that "we" were racists, and that we were "keeping them down." As Stevie and Paul harmonized their ode to piano's and race relations, crooning how well their black and white piano keys got along, while lamenting "Why can't we," I continually wondered “ I thought we already were. [?]”

So let’s get something out of the way up front. The word: “Nigger.” I will not use the politically correct euphemism of “The N Word.” I refuse. I will never call or associate any person with the word, but if we are constrained to cripple our speech so much as to not use a word simply because it is rhetorically charged or because someone might decide that they should be personally offended just by the utterance of the word then we might as well not even bothering to speak at all.  - [Yes, I am aware that that is a rampant run-on sentence].

So, to the meat of my rant – [finally].

1.     If you are alive today [as evidenced by the fact that you are reading this] you know nothing more than I do about slavery than I that you didn’t read in a book, regardless of the color of your skin.

2.      If you are in your mid 40’s or younger you never experienced any of the Jim Crow laws directly. You never drank from a different fountain, used another restroom, rode in the “back of the bus,” or any other “separate but equal” or even separate but unequal treatment. Regardless of what your parents may have told you of their personal experiences there is far more information available to anyone of any race in the thousands of books, videos, and photographs on the subject

3.     If you are black man in America the only one more protected and favored by law than you is a black woman or perhaps a black gay woman.

4.     You are not an African-American unless you hold dual citizenship to both of those countries.

5.     If you are a “black” American you are probably nowhere near black, and most likely a pleasant shade of brown. Your hair may credibly be called black. This ink is black. You are most likely not.

6.     I am not white. The inside of your refrigerator is white. This page is white. I am somewhat lighter shade of brown than most ‘Black” men.

7.     Being Black in America does not mean you are automatically a descendant of slaves.

8.     Many Blacks in America today, or their ancestors came here willingly from Africa.

9.     Being a White American does not mean I am a descendant of slave owners.

10.  The first leg of the slave trade was Africans selling Africans. Your ancestors could have been slave traders as well as slaves, or perhaps even both.

11.  My ancestors could have been with the Underground Railroad or myriad other abolitionist groups risking their lives and all that they had to free slaves.

12.  Thousands upon thousands of White Americans died in the civil war freeing the slaves.

13.  Many that look “Black” and self-designate as black are actually quite often Black & White, often with several other races mixed in.

And Finally:

14.  If you are the descendant of Slaves in America you have probably been done a huge favor. When your eyes stop bleeding and you stop screaming at your monitor take a breath and think this through dispassionately and logically. Yes your ancestors were definitely screwed. I am certain that it was as inhuman and horrifying for them as has ever been described to us, but; Africa is a hellhole. Millions upon millions have died there in the past several hundred years from epidemics, plagues, war, ethnic machete massacres, and any other groovy way to die that you can imagine. Slavery is still rampant there. Ethnic massacres are rampant. Aids has wiped out vast numbers of the population and ravaged the continent. There seems to be only two classes: The corrupt and the destitute, the strong and their prey. The odds are enormous that had your ancestors not been dragged here, and brutalized that you would be there in Africa today experiencing horrors that can hardly be imagined, or that your lineage would have been destroyed long before you existed.

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