It has been a long time since I’ve written a post on this blog. Long gone are the days of being single without children when I had the energy to get involved in many things big and small. Well, we’re certainly going through a movement now and a long overdue one. Today is Junteenth celebrating the liberation of slaves in America. My company has given us the afternoon off to research, reflect and learn about what this all means. So, I’m taking my time to finally write something about this.
Getting right to the point this is all long overdue. There was over 200 years of slavery followed by institutionalized racism right up to our present day. This is an uncomfortable fact for white people that with the death of George Floyd and the protests arising from it they are forced to face. My father once told me that the truth will always come out although sometimes it may take a very long while. Well, the ugly truth is that America still has a problem with race and like an infectious wound exacerbated by people of color dying in police custody finally is getting attention.
Let’s first look at a bit of history. The effects of over 200 years of slavery are not simply wiped away by liberation. The effects will linger and reverberate long after any pieces of paper are signed into law. After liberation there has been racism right up until the present making the odds of success more difficult for people of color. The men are denied jobs over whites causing stress in the family resulting in breakdown of the family unit. These kids are raised in difficult environments, many without fathers. This is repeated over the generations and the state of the African American family is not in a great place.
Unfortunately without a strong family backing many youth will look towards activities that break the law. Now this is not endemic to African Americans. I’ve seen the same thing in France where the Arabs are also discriminated against and their kids are out on the streets looking for action. In France the purse of one of my female friends was snatched from her and I was even punched in the face by blocking a few Arabs who were harassing us from getting on the train. If they had gotten on the train it would have caused a very dangerous situation as there would have been a fight. We had tried to walk away but they followed us so blocking them from the train seemed like the safest solution. Take a look at any society where a minority is oppressed and you’ll see the same thing.
But back to America and I have to be careful here. We’re in a situation where a disproportionate number of run-ins with the law are by African Americans and it is a known fact that a disproportionate number of African Americans are incarcerated. This causes the overwhelmingly white police to harden their hearts against the African American community in general. Make no mistake the source of these problems are not African Americans in general but the environment which has discriminated and treated them unjustly for hundreds of years.
If after the liberation whites had treated them as equals then we would not have the problems we have today. A good example is how the Crip gang was created. The founders were just young African American boys who wanted to join the Boy Scouts. Well, they were refused based on the color of their skin. So they started their own club which eventually evolved into the Crips. If they had been allowed to join the Boy Scouts then no Crips.
Now take that example and multiply it by millions of similar situations. Bottom line is that you cannot just erase the effects of slavery and injustice overnight. American society has ignored and exacerbated these ripples purposefully.
Human beings are tribal. Just as you cannot erase the effects of slavery and injustice overnight you cannot erase the tribal instinct with the invention of boats and now planes which bring different people together. People simply feel more comfortable with others who are like themselves. This is why neighborhoods and churches are predominately white or black churches. This is why you see gatherings such as cookouts, parties, schools and so on be primarily one race or another even to this day.
People have started to mix in the large cities to some extent but take a look at the countryside and you’ll see very little mixture. Blacks stick with blacks, Asians with Asians and Whites with Whites. People stick with others like themselves because it was not long ago humanity really was a bunch of homogeneous tribes and movement over long distances not possible. Old habits are hard to break.
This isn’t inherent to our biological makeup but is learned. Look at children who will happily play together regardless of race. Racism is learned and it is the adults who pass these ideas on to their children. So how does one break out of it? Well, for me it has been not only travel but actually living and wishing to integrate with peoples in foreign lands. I learn their language, their culture and the way they think. What happens is that I change and become someone different than I was before.
I can tell you it is wonderful being able to traverse through cultures with ease. You grow as a person and the world becomes much more interesting. Those people who are racist have ceased to grow and improve as human beings. They are stuck. They are stuck not only as a human being but in the case of the American countryside also stuck financially especially with the manufacturing jobs going overseas. They desire to feel superior and an easy way out is to just look down on someone else. All of those hate groups? Well, their hate is based upon a feeling of extreme insecurity. They look towards something to be proud of and lacking any financial clout or much education decide to base it on the color of their skin. They look towards a time such as Nazi Germany or the Confederacy to give backing to these feelings.
Well guess what. Nazi Germany and the Confederacy were both in the wrong and they both lost. Those Confederate statues? Participation trophies. The Confederacy only lasted 5 years and a popular meme is that the band Nirvana lasted longer. But what they did do was establish a large group of homogeneous people towards a deluded and atrocious idea that whites are superior. Guess what, I’d say people of color have a slightly better DNA because they don’t sunburn. We white people cannot even go outside to the beach without special protection or we will burn. It appears nature favors colored skin to be honest!
As for the future, movements like these can induce change. I’m glad to see statues of oppressors being taken down. Those against it say history is being erased. I am a history buff and love learning about history. But a statue is a celebration of that historical event and many of the statues being taken down are not things to be celebrated. History remains alive and well and cannot be changed by the erection or destruction of a statue.
History lives on although is often skewed and altered depending on the agenda of those writing it down. As a history buff, I’m always in search of the truth and I can tell you the truth can be very difficult to find. If you read a book about Native Americans for example you would do well to read the account of not only the settlers but the Natives themselves. Usually the truth will be somewhere in-between. Same for everything that has ever taken place lived, observed and written down by humans.
In fact, if I were to write an account of the lunch I just ate I’m sure it would only be 90% accurate as I am no expert in the ingredients sitting in my belly nor exactly how all the processes work in cooking it. I can tell you I ate two hot dogs but I don’t know how those hot dogs were made nor their nutritional value. The “facts” of history are often colored by the times and prejudices of those interpreting it.
But getting back on topic, it looks like this movement will change things slightly. Companies are giving employees the day off for Juneteenth, oppressor statues are coming down and white people are forced to look at the truth. This is all great but for the movement to continue structural changes are going to have to be made and for that to happen the movement needs leadership. Back in the 60’s there was Martin Luther King. Who is the leader today? The leadership of the sixties are now at deaths door and are not suited to take charge. We even just had a black President in Obama who did write wonderful speeches but they are inherently just words. The institutional racism remains in tact. Any meaningful change will need the support of white people and for people to change their hearts.
I think that this is a good wake-up call and I hope American society does become more just. However, it will need every individual to look deeply within themselves and erase those feelings of prejudice. I don’t see this happening for most people but I hope over time people will continue to mix and see the bigger picture that we are all human beings on this Earth for only a short time. How silly is it to treat others differently by the color of our skin? This is such an absurd thing I think of aliens passing us by treating Earth like a kind of zoo where we as a species are simply not evolved enough yet to bother dealing with. “Hey, over there in sector seven of the Milky Way, yes that blue, greenish planet. That is still full of primitive primates, best to just pass it on by.”
An enlightened species would look at another living thing as something to be cherished, a gift from the universe, here for only a blink of an eye and then will disappear again. Harming a living thing is for barbarians, for primitive species who do not know any better. What I’ve seen is that we humans have an endless depth for cruelty as well as endless depth for love. One path is that of a lesser being and the other of a greater being. Look deeply within yourself and realize the truth, it is right there and all one need do is realize it. You’ll the find your at peace with not only yourself but with the entire universe. Take the other path and like Yoda says will only find suffering and pain.
It is time for a movement like BLM, the injustice has been allowed to linger for too long. Treat each other with love and you’ll find problems will simply disappear.