Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Race Relations: Telling a Sliver of the Story

I had originally planned for my latest entry to be a philosophical analysis on the concept of karma and my theories regarding how it plays out in real life. However, in the wake of the earth-shattering exoneration of George Zimmerman who, regardless of events, deliberately placed himself in a dangerous situation and therefore should have at least been guilty of manslaughter, pundits have been crawling out of the woodwork to spew half-baked statistics about the plight of African-Americans. Case in point.

Stories like this really irritate me because they ignore so many of the socioeconomic causes and roots of the problems stretching back centuries. When the Portuguese first landed on Africa they were given human beings as currency, thus was the concept of institutionalized slavery introduced to Europe. It was only through chance that Europe managed to stabilize and develop technology more quickly, thus dominating Africa and the slave trade that was once the jewel of such nations as Mali. The lucrative nature of the slave trade for ruling African tribes was so great that they began engaging in new wars just to get more slaves to trade for valuable resources.

In essence, Africa institutionalized dehumanization while Europe was able to reinforce it due to the differences in skin color: this was a fundamental asset in separating blacks and whites into a "them and us" mentality which allowed whites to continue dehumanizing blacks.

While other races, and even white nationalities, were never enslaved wholesale they were often looked down on as even lower than slaves. Numerous slave narratives include comments of pity for the Chinese and the Irish, who were treated just as poorly and didn't even have the "luxury" of housing. So-called "Poor Whites" could be seen on the side of the road eating dirt because their bodies so desperately craved minerals like iron and calcium that they were reduced to chewing clay in the fleeting hope that they could stay alive for another day.

The Chinese were the subject of rampant racism in the late 1700s and early 1800s yet remained as a result of their willingness to work for almost nothing. Despite it not being law, most Chinese workers in the Western United States were essentially slaves to the wealthy, kept often against their will after their initial arrival and some months of work because their labor was cheap. When even slaves, non-persons, looked down on a group of people, one can only imagine how bad those conditions must have been.

If anyone believes that whites maintained their grasp on the vote out of racism, that person is an idiot. In fact, upon this nation's founding the vote was only open to wealthy landowners of any race, though the only people wealthy enough to own large estates were the British (white) colonists. When tensions ran high and the vote had to be opened up for equality's sake, the wealthy managed to bargain their way into only allowing whites the vote, thereby entrenching their own privilege and allowing them to reinforce the "us and them" mentality which kept the poor divided and unable to overthrow the will of the wealthy.

The problem with modern equality, as it extends, can be traced back to the years after the Civil Rights Movement. In a bizarre act of counterculture, the black community further insulated itself from the society to which it had just been allowed full access, going so far as to shame anyone who reported black-on-black crime because to expose criminals was somehow against racial solidarity.

It is from the divisive words of Elijah Mohammad, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X (in his early days) and others that the racial divide was allowed to fester. Now the racism cuts both ways, and in many cases actually cuts deeper on the opposite side, with many black communities far more distrustful of whites and other races than the reverse.

From Frederick Douglass to Martin Luther King, Jr. to Daymond John to Barack Obama and countless others, individual black Americans have proven that they can rise to prominence no matter what level of privilege or adversity faces them. It is time for the black community as a whole to stop demonizing education, self-respect and pacifism as "acting white" and acknowledge that young men and women committing crimes and acting as the antithesis of what they see as white America is only making their own situation - and their children's situations - even worse.

In order for all races to truly integrate and find equality, those races must be open to integration. One does not have to sacrifice heritage and pride, but it should be acknowledged that society is shaped by its participants and the only way to change the world for the better is to be an active part of it and work toward greater goals. An optimistic and hopeful mentality may never once see success and may not be a panacea to all of the world's ills, but a bitter and defeatist attitude will only ever make things worse.

Goodnight, and stay safe.

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