It's all about perspective

Posts tagged ‘nationalism’

An open letter to Kris Broughton

I stumbled across your writings by accident, and first allow me to say how great it is to finally find a voice speaking about the questions I’ve had as a white sociologist studying race, privilege, and cultural creation. Your questioning of the current media machine’s ethnic influences is one which needs to continue to be questioned before any real action can be started. (e.g. Fox’s white network of unfair and imbalanced news; CNN and other major news outlets’ portrayals of black men and women during the Katrina disaster)

Your frame of “our national tribe” in Who Controls America’s Racial Narrative is one I find to be long overdue. It seems more and more we are becoming splintered. The states which make our union are increasingly becoming exclusionary. People from Missouri find little with which to relate to our cousins in New York or California.

I also find the questions you begin to ask in “Recarving Our Cultural Totem: An Excerpt” to be both long overdue and fascinating as I have been asking similar questions about my own ethnicity. My own research into white culture has uncovered some disturbing revelations on the nature of white privilege.

However, I would like to ask a few questions myself on your excerpt. One: does the book take into account the “trinity” of cultural interactions; e.g. race, class, and gender? Two: in answering your questions, (as I attempt to answer my own) how does one account for their own pre-conceived notions? Three: your frame of “Black America 5.0” assumes that Black America 4.0 – Integration, has already occurred. How do you take into account the stark contradictions to that integration which you refer to in your other posts?

In this paragraph you discuss what I can only perceive as an attempt to connect with your “paler brethren:”

This is a stubborn subset of the black community that wants to have their cornbread and eat it too. But if they are honest with themselves, they have to admit that all white skinned people do not enjoy all the attendant privileges of whiteness. Southern rednecks, Appalachian hillbillies, Midwestern hicks — they face a level of ostracism that is almost equal to what some of us encounter because we have our hair braided, or because we wear hip hop clothing, or sport rows of gold capped teeth.

However, your claim that certain subcultures of whiteness do not enjoy the same level of privileges others do is not only incorrect, but lacks respect of social environment and the basis for intra-ethnic racism. Southern rednecks, Appalachian hillbillies, and Midwestern hicks may feel out of place in a larger urban area, but in their home regions they enjoy the exact same (if not increased) level of privileges which every other white person receives. This is not always the case in ethnic communities. Intra-ethnic racism is based not on stereotypes one ethnic group creates about itself, but on ones which are borrowed from the parent culture. Furthermore, anyone may choose to “dress the part” of a stereotype and then subsequently remove the costume, but I will never be able to walk into a room full of Native Americans and say “it’s okay guys, I’m not white any more, I’m Cherokee now.”

I applaud the attempt to relate, as I agree it needs to happen for real change to occur, but that is one of the fundamental issues in collaboration between ethnic groups in the United States: white’s inability to relate to the struggle of minorities under institutional racism. A poor white does not equate to a poor Souix or poor black; they may be similar in appearance, but are in no respects equal in circumstance to each other.

So in your opinion, how do whites collaborate and relate to minorities when they have no real understanding of what its like? I have been poor, homeless, and starving. I know what its like to go to bed so hungry you just want to die so the pain goes away. Is that the thread which people, regardless of race or creed need to grasp at when attempting to bridge racial lines? Focus not on our differences but in how we are similar? In theory I would agree with that, but then do we just forget everything that came before? I believe that is more of a slap to the face than anything else. Doing so not only lessens the influence of those events on current ones, but allows whites to continue to act without consequence. I believe whites must take responsibility for their cultural history before this outreach along shared experiences can occur and be meaningful.

I think this is one of the linchpins of color-blind racism. Your question “how do we get others, whether they are white, Latino, or Asian, to [rearrange their mythological constructs] when they encounter us?” Those mythological constructs are based in white culture. For them to really change one (or both) of two things must occur; white culture must change, or white culture must become the minority. I think that if we can get white people to start taking responsibility for their culpability in the situation real, lasting change can begin.

I look forward to reading your book.

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In the beginning…

So I want to talk about race. I’ve done this before, but in my previous post I only talked about science and splitting hairs between the definitions. This time, I want to talk about what this little monster called race has done, what it’s been doing, and what it’s likely going to do to us if we don’t do something. I’ll likely not get to all of that in this post, but I have to save something for next time.

Unfortunately, there is no real progression of racism so a simple linear look at race in the United States is somewhat worthless. Now we can track it and study it and find it throughout history, but race is a subtle thing with not-so-subtle trappings. Its like finding out that all your apples taste sour not because of that new fertilizer you’re using, but because of what your great-grandfather used; it was fine for him at the time, but now its wreaking havoc on you. Now this shit our forefathers threw all over the place is coming back to poison us.

Seeing as how race is a social construct it changes with each new leap or change in culture. This used to take several generations, but with the advent of the modern age and the swiftness with which information can be distributed these changes occur at a much more rapid pace. So now we find ourselves trying to figure out where to go from the forgotten and broken promises made in the 60’s, the 70’s, and all the way back to the Bill of Rights. This was supposed to be the future and the future wasn’t supposed to be racist or have anything to do with skin color. And for anyone, ANYONE, who says that race and racism is over because we managed to get a black man in the White House; shut up and sit down because you haven’t been paying attention for pretty much your whole damn life.

The United States of America, the country I love and, contrary to how I write about it, am so proud of, needs to face the truth about itself. This country was born from the womb of racism. Our forefathers committed heinous atrocities all in the name of economic progress. We hunted down and killed Native peoples by the millions. We bought and sold human beings. We treated human beings like little more than trinkets to be done with as we wished. I say we need to own this. We need to take responsibility for what our predecessors did because no one else is. We were shamed into action in the 60’s and 70’s, but shame, like anger, is an emotional energy that only lasts so long and does not extend into the next generation. Now we sit here almost two generations down the road and there is no real change that can be counted. One person, one family making good does not a revolution make, nor fulfill a promise.

Every time we pledge allegiance to the flag, every time we sing the Star Spangled Banner, every time we cheer the Braves or the Chief’s and we’re talking about a sports team instead of political leaders, every time we tell an off-color joke, every time we laugh at an off-color joke, every time we cross the street to avoid someone who looks different than us, we say to our children, our friends, and our society that “all of that stuff was okay. All of it was necessary and perfectly fine. You don’t have to take responsibility for it either.” This absolutely must stop.

So let me start at the beginning.
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Where are we?

I was traipsing around flickr the other day and I came across this: “The spirit is dead and forgotten”.

(I would just post the picture but for some reason the photo will not post)

The picture poster said, “Has the American spirit really grown that fat and lazy?”

Has it? Has America’s spirit become so blinded by the glittering lights and deafened by the blaring sounds of the media that it can no longer see or hear the tragedies that occur around it? Or is it that our spirit has become so inundated with the tragic that our reaction is merely passé? Are there worse things happening now than 20 years ago, or is it that we are just paying attention more and the tragic has taken a new face?

I know between: terrorist organizations, epidemics of sickness and famine in the over-exploited nations (what are more often referred to as underdeveloped), the rising concern about human and worker rights on a global scale, and the globalization of trade and labor, there is a lot out there and it can be overwhelming. I just hope as a nation we can begin to focus on things that are much more important than which star has divorced which and whether the ultra-rich children of America can act like civilized human beings for longer than ten seconds.

We are at the junction of quite a few crossroads where we will have to make choices based on doing what is right and doing what is easy. Hopefully we will do what is right even though it won’t be easy.

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