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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Race Relations in America*

I have always been an amateur student of history, and I'm always surprised how easy those in the present discard its influence--especially when it comes to race in America. We usually define history as "past" as if it were self-contained and had no relevance to the present.  I don't know what you'd call that, but it's not history. If we were truly unconditioned free agents as we like to believe, we wouldn't need history at all.

There's a way race history plays out in America; White America, mostly: slavery, Civil War, Segregation, Martin Luther King, equality achieved--the end.  This is really a gross generalization, but this is how most of us want to view the African American struggle for freedom: finished, with sporadic and isolated incidents of racism.  Mostly, blacks are stuck in the past, unable to overcome past gripes that today are nonexistent.  Quiet a few Whites look at the president and many other African American successes and wonder why the rest of Black America cannot seem to get it together. Disregard facts such as Black people facing higher unemployment rates and also the fact that a white man with no degree has an equal chance of being hired as an African American college student (Forbes Magazine, June 27, 2014).

Police in most cases (both black and white) even approach African Americans with "threat" and "danger" on their mind, and with that, more guns pulled and used on more young black men and even women than whites in similar situations.**

Yes, white people are also unemployed, get killed by cops--i.e., just about everything that has happened in post-Jim Crow to black people has happened to whites.  Injustice is not completely the domain of one demographic over another.  Yes, injustice happens to white people too, however, such injustices happen at a disproportionate rate to African Africans.

Why? It has to do with a kind of racism that exists within all of us (including myself).  This racism has nothing to with the hate you'd find in the Ku Klux Klan. It really has nothing to do with the individual.  It's an historical inertia that has come from generations of a caste-like structure coupled with stereotyped attributions that connote inferiority.

Since what has come before (not just events, but long-held ideas and ideologies) conditions our "now" in some way or another, the racism of the past affects our very mindset: the acts of the past have conditioned the present.  Once established they become inert or likely remain at a default setting. It's foolish to believe we completely eradicated the past injustices when what lies in our upbringing (not even parental but cultural) still remains.

That part of it cannot really be our faults, naturally.

Only as it continues unnoticed or unaltered in ourselves does we become at fault. Certainly, most whites do not want to be racist and despise such a label--which no doubt is an improvement. important to dissociate the person from the unconscious behavior: we can call a person's behavior "racist" without calling the person a racist.  And it's true: most of the times the people who err need only have the error be pointed out to them. Nothing personal and it shouldn't be. Also, in no way would it be an easy accomplishment.  Soul-searching rarely is, but if we can challenge ourselves and our outdated way of thinking, we could progress towards having that elusive post-racial society we all dream about.

*OK, a very narrow look at race relations between blacks and whites at the unjust exclusion of  other groups within America. I apologize, but this is intended to be a short blog post.
**Think of Tamir Rice when watching this

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