Topic #4. Things have got to change
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40. Cornell 92-Uhope
Thu, Sep 23, 1999 - 10:38 PM/EST
I was really happy to get your replies Cornell 92 and Uhope. I understand what both of you are saying. I am beginning to find that many of us here really do agree with each other on many points. Its just that we sometimes have different priorities. Uhope my argument is not that the past is a justification for bad behavior, but that the past has not been dealt with, therefore it remains an issue. Just like dirt, when you sweep a problem under the rug it remains there. Therefore, it is not likely that people will just "let it go and move on." You don't just let trauma to your psyche go. It has to be worked out systematically. And, as I have said in previous comments, this simply has not happened on a grand scale. Cornell 92, you may be capable of purging yourself of the poison of the situation, and I may be able to purge myself as well, but what about the rest of the country? Without the necessary dialogue / therapy, the wounds will simply not heal which is why I see this effort as a step in the right direction. As far as under-achievement is concerned, that is a whole other can of worms entirely. There are many different factors to take into consideraton. This is not to say that these factors are not connected to uncorrected problems of the past. In fact, the problem of under-achievement represents yet another way that these problems are manifesting themselves in the present. So, Cornell 92, my response to your comment would be that it is not just a problem that blacks alone have to fix. This is definitely a joint venture.
Thu, Sep 23, 1999 - 11:23 PM/EST
Welcome Carie! I can't stay on long this evening. But, I will offer you a response the next time I log on. Take Care.
Fri, Sep 24, 1999 - 9:08 AM/EST
I totally agree with you about the need to not sweep things under the rug. In one of my earlier, posts, I noted that communication and education was, to me, one of the primary weapons against racism. I also feel that communication is the key to working through issues (I don't suppose it has anything to do with the fact that I was a communications major, and am in the communications industry!) I don't think there's nearly enough forums for people to discuss the issues they have with what has happened in the past. Not being black, I'm sure I can't completely understand what AfAms have to deal with in this respect, but I try to look at things from more than one perspective. It would be so easy to dismiss blacks' feelings about how their ancestors were treated, whether it be 200 or 40 years ago, with the thought that it wasn't THEM that suffered, but their ancestors. However, I know that in reality, the experiences of our ancestors can deeply affect our own outlooks and attitudes.
I don't know if you are familiare with the book "Slaves in the Family" by Edward Ball, but I would highly recommend it. It documents the author's search for descendents of slaves that his ancestors not only owned, but actually brought over from Africa as early as the 1700's. This man's family were early settlers of the Charleston area, and major slave traders for years. It is interesting to read how he, his various family members, as well as the descendents of the slaves, feel about the past. There is guilt, anger, acceptance, denial, the whole gamut of reactions. It also provides some fascinating history of the slave trade of which I was previously unaware. For example, I had no idea that the Revolutionary War was greatly influenced by England's attempt to abolish slavery (which the colonies disagreed with, as slaves kept virtually the entire agrarian ecoomy afloat). Amazing what was left out of the history books...
43. Change - Whose Responsibility?
Fri, Sep 24, 1999 - 11:27 AM/EST
Quoting Shanita (in part): "the past has not been dealt with, therefore it remains an issue. . . Therefore, it is not likely that people will just "let it go and move on." You don't just let trauma to your psyche go. It has to be worked out systematically. And, as I have said in previous comments, this simply has not happened on a grand scale."
My questions to this are: What would dealing with the past require? Who has to do the dealing? Who or what would indicate that it has been dealt with? It seems to me that the one suffering the most has the most to gain by dealing with it. I think dealing with ANY situation begins on an individual level. Not much happens anywhere on a grand scale except war. How much responsibility for one's own situation in life is one willing to take? How many people's psyches are traumatized more by what someone has told them to expect than what they've actually experienced? The boys Carie described earlier - Nothing about their life so far sounds very traumatic. It's quite possible that if they are not constantly told that black kids tend towards underachievement, violence and jail, they will avoid those outcomes. It's not too hard to not be a stereotype.
I'm not trying to show a lack of compassion. But I feel strongly that you give away a lot of power when you blame outside factors for your bad situation and just stay in it. Being a race other than white is not a curse and shouldn't be viewed as a handicap. But people will often treat you in the way you allow yourself to be treated. Nothing and no one holds me back but my own attitudes and limitations.
44. Dealing With The Past
Fri, Sep 24, 1999 - 11:55 AM/EST
Shanita, Uhope, Laura CA and Cornell 92--good discussion! Uhope, I hear what you are saying about individual attitudes being so critical in this complex situation. We all have to work on seeing ourselves as competent and valuable, and seize the opportunities when they come our way. AND I do think it is also about a systemic problem in our country. Your question about how we deal with the past on a national level is good one and a tough one. I think South Africa has given us a good example of one way it can be done. We have been making amends to Japanese Americans and other groups--could that somehow be done in relationship to slavery and discrimination. What about national dialogues--a serious effort with trained facilitators--similar to the discussions here. I know it has been a controversial issue but I thought that a SINCERE apology for what has happened to blacks and people of color in this country could not hurt and maybe might be a step in the right direction. There is no easy answer but I think it is about individuals, groups and our country as a whole.
45. Dealing With the Past
Fri, Sep 24, 1999 - 1:35 PM/EST
BB - You raise some good points. But the "how" of making things happen and the "when" of the results is still subject to interpretation. I am not well up on the situation in S. Africa, but I wasn't aware that human relations there were that much better even with apartheid demolished. You can't legislate love and tolerance into people's hearts and that's the essential part.
Will an apology REALLY make any difference? Many may have the attitude of "too little, too late" and won't consider it sufficient. Reparations a lá the Japanese interrment? I believe those were offered to those actually imprisoned at the time - not even their families. There are no former slaves living today. The time has passed for the "40 acres & a mule". And of course, we then get into who is really "black" enough to claim reparations. It's well known that a large percentage of "white" identified people have black ancestors. Who would set the standard? And who would pay for it, seeing as how many white people in this country don't have slave-owning ancestors?
Bottom line depends on how much a person feels victimized and what that individual thinks it would take to make him not a "victim". I think it would be impossible to please everyone, which is why although dialogues like these are helpful and anti-discrimination laws are essential, it comes down to how one carries oneself and what one expects of HIMSELF - not of others.
46. Dealing with the past
Sat, Sep 25, 1999 - 1:39 AM/EST
BB I agree! It is surely unwise to underestimate the power that two little words can have on the nervous system ... especially when they are heart felt. If that be the case when the words are uttered, I don't doubt that quite a few so called "angry" black people will finally be able to exhale. I don't think that people realize just how disconcerting, confusing and depressing life becomes when although you perceive that injustices are being enacted against you, you are constantly being told that those injustices just don't exist. In other words you are just plain paranoid, and delusional. Can you imagine such an existence? And, can you imagine the sigh of relief that would come when the offending party finally revealed to you that you were right all along, that you were not delusional or crazy, and that the offenses were reprehensible and infinitely regrettable? While this is cetainly not THE solution to the problem, it is an important component in the process. Blacks who have convinced themselves that whites have nothing but ill will towards them would be more willing to hear what is being proposed. In other words, an apology is definitley a viable start.
Laura Ca, I definitely have the book that you wrote about and I am so glad that you have read it too. It is very enlightening. Yes, standard history books routinely omit quite a few important facts. Yet, I want to maintain, that modern day blacks do not have an entirely separate experience from their ancestors because many of the racist beliefs and attitudes that existed all those many years ago are alive and well today. Also, perhaps my ancestors were the ones who were enslaved, raped and lynched on a whim, but their experiences affected how they raised their children and how their children raised their children etc. etc. In a sense, I am directly affected by slavery because of this. So, my opinion would differ from yours in that I feel that this point is actually quite an important one indeed.
47. Change and Responsibility
Sat, Sep 25, 1999 - 3:34 AM/EST
Uhope, you offered some very thought-provoking questions; questions I certainly can't answer entirely on my own. But, I would like to contribute my perspective. Dealing with the past requires openness and honesty on the part of both blacks and whites, because I believe that the crux of the race relations problem is due primarily to denial, desperation, anger and ignorance. Obviously, we will know that the problem is being dealt with when fewer people shy away from dialogues about race relations. There are hurt feelings, misgivings, and racist beliefs on both sides. Society on the whole would benefit greatly from the catharsis that "therapy" would provide. I feel that it is very important not to confuse personal/individual pursuits for self-actualization with the collective pursuit of the black community to be freed from the glass ceiling of second class citizenship in this country. This "victim" mentality that you spoke of is often exaggerated to be the black community's "big problem." It is actually a frequently observed phenomenon of the human condition. In other words, the victim mentality is color blind. Yet, this argument is often used by white supremacists to distract people from the real issues. It is often used to convince black people as well as white people that racial discrimination is just a figment of the black community's imagination. If you look back in time, there were many great black people who were quite self-actualized. Paul Robeson immediately springs to mind. We know him as a great entertainer and orator, but how many people know that his specialty areas were both law and engineering and that he graduated with honors? Yet, try as he might, he couldn't get himself hired to perform either job because of the racist beliefs of "the powers that be." I am sure that you can agree that Paul Robeson never played the victim, and yet he was victimized nonetheless. Although not as frequently, things like this still occur today.
48. We Are Not One Group
Sat, Sep 25, 1999 - 10:15 AM/EST
"A lot of the Latino children that I have taught refer to themselves as white if their skin coloring is very light. They are unaware of their African ancestry and do not realize that they are people of color."
First, Latinos are not ONE group of people. I am Mexican. Mexican is not the same as Puerto Rican, which is not the same as Chilian, which is not the same as Columbian, wich is not the same as Guatamalan - get it? We don't eat the same food, we don't listen to the same music, we don't look the same, we don't have the same history and we don't even speak the same spanish language. This really annoys and frankly offends me. I know that this is an easy trap to fall into and I sometimes find myself doing the same thing. But, please take the time to be specific when you refer to someone who can broadly be categorized as Latino. And please do not call us "Hispanics."
Second, most people that can be categorized as Latino do not have African heritage. Maybe Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Panamanians, and Brazilians (although many would argue that Brazilians are not even Latino) have some African heritage, but the vast majority of Latin countries do not. I am Mexican/Latino and I do not have any African heritage to deny, but by using the term "Latino" (see above) you make it sound that you believe that I do.
Point #1 above also refers to "Asian." I won't go through the whole litany again; I hope that you have gotten the point by now.
49. Change & Responsibility
Sat, Sep 25, 1999 - 2:35 PM/EST
I see your points, Shanita. There is a lot of healing and understanding that needs to be done among ALL American people; not just black and white people. Perhaps I can be more clear when I use "victim mentality" by mentioning that I always endeavor to refer to individuals, not groups when offering solutions. I believe it's unrealistic to expect a large scale conversion to peace and light of people who've been been bitter for whatever reasons (on all sides). I'm never asking if "your people have a victim mentality". I'm asking if YOU individually have that mentality (but please know I'm not meaning "you", Shanita :-) Until we instill pride and positive values in ourselves and our own children, I don't think it will make a whole lot of difference what someone says to us.
Paul Robeson is a great example. Certainly he was held back by the racism of the day. But he didn't hold HIMSELF back from being successful and respected even to this day. He didn't have the attitude of, "since The Man is not giving me all my props, I'm gonna sit here and do nothing". He did what he could and became a wonderful role model. Sure he was victimized, but he didn't have a vicim mentality. Racism is definitely not a figment of one's imagination, but sometimes the extent of power it has can be. What is the discriminated one going to do about it? Achieve or complain? Develop his own self-esteem or allow an outside source to tell him how he should feel about himself and talents? There are ways to get around many obstacles. The success and resultant responsibility is often the scary part to many individuals. Be brave.
50. Public/Government Accountability??
Sat, Sep 25, 1999 - 7:07 PM/EST
Greetings to the mostly female members of this thread,
I've been impressed with the way people are struggling everyday with the interpersonal relationships, based on these posts. I wonder, though, where and when people are pushing for better public/gov't accountability for the deep racism that still exists in our society. Examples: our family has lived in different places and encountered:
*refusal to rent vacant housing (midwest),
*police harassment, esp. what's been called DWB (Driving While Black) (all over.....)
*student racism in an elementary school (southwest), although the teacher intervened
to dialog with the racist student (and his not-so-surprising!) racist parent.
At the national level, the only candidate I hear making anti-racism part of his agenda is Bill Bradley. Gov. Bush's occasional Spanish speaking is good, but hardly goes far enough. So my question is: what can we do to generate public constituencies for change, to hold public officials accountable (as some schools are beginning to do) for reducing and eliminating racism?
Sat, Sep 25, 1999 - 11:32 PM/EST
I respect your right to define yourself the way that you choose to and I regret that you took offense at anything that I wrote in my comment. But, after I read your response, I could see that you are unaware of a few key historical facts. And, I am sure that if you are interested you will do the research yourself.
52. change - responsibility
Sun, Sep 26, 1999 - /EST
Welcome Kann! Uhope I see that we actually do agree on many points. And, I find that it is quite easy for people like you and myself to advise people to jump up, brush themselves off and get over it. We did it, why can't they? The reality of the situation is that at some point in life, everyone needs a helping hand, some more than others. Alot of people need more than just a little help. A little help may be fine for you and I and some others, but not for everyone. In my opinion it doesn't make sense to waste any time judging that fact. I can't get angry at people who need more assistance and guidance than I did. For surely, there are people out there who have done bigger and better things than I have with far less. The average black person does not tend to have connections with people in power, or better yet the favor of people in power. When people like you they help you which is why it is often "who" you know rather than "what" you know. So, if you don't know anyone, you are simply out of luck. Many black people are simply out of luck. This is why we must be diligent about giving back to the community. Everyone who has "made it" has something to give. There is no excuse. This is a lesson we should have learned already from the Jews.
Sun, Sep 26, 1999 - 1:35 AM/EST
I do not disagree with you at all that blacks today can be directly affected by what happened to their ancestors. That was sort of what I was trying to convey - that it is very understandable, although everyone deals with it in a different way. The book was very enlightening in this respect, as I read about how each of the slaves' descendents contacted by the author had different reactions, yet the stories had often been handed down from generation to generation so that the family history of slavery was not forgotten. I think it is very important to remember one's family's history. This puts black people in a tough situation; to forget one's history is to deny it, yet to remember it can bring pain. To find a balance somewhere in the middle is a challenge.
54. do we live in a democracy?
Sun, Sep 26, 1999 - 10:17 AM/EST
shanita and others,
we live in a flawed democracy--a democracy that does not work equally well for people in different groups. 'who you know' is NOT a democracy. public programs are SUPPOSED to respond to people's needs and i support that.
my question, though, is this: why can't we work together for better government response, more democracy, and public/gov't efforts that reduce racism?? there IS power in numbers. we should talk with others, form movements or groups, pressure officials and laws (or reform and get new ones), and stay 'on their cases' until things change. i'm a product of the late 1960s, so perhaps my sense of hope comes from that. i DO believe this country became a better place AFTER civil rights laws, equal pay acts, and penalties and firings were dished out to harassing police/employers and apartment/home owners that routinely or even occasionally discriminate. i believe that public schools are, on the whole, better nowadays for a broad cross-section of kids than they were in the 'bad ole days'when teachers and administrators engaged in routine racism and sexism and people had no tools (laws, language) or strong organizations to fight those injustices.
things HAVE improved since the 1950s, and groups of progressive people helped make those changes.
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