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Fri Jun 19, 2015, 09:18 AM

On Racism and Reconciliation in the Wake of Attacks on Our Community

Last edited Sat Jun 20, 2015, 08:21 AM - Edit history (1)


ONE of the things which disturbs me when tragic violence occurs which is clearly motivated by or associated with racial animus of a white individual toward black individuals is how some observers make calls for reconciliation or togetherness as a solution. While good relationships between racial and ethnic groups are important and essential to the preservation of the fabric of our democracy and society, what's often involved isn't a case of some mutual animosity, prejudice, or discrimination. What's far too often involved is an attitude of bigotry and hatred directed solely from one side of the racial fence toward the other.

As we can see this morning from news reports of the barbaric execution of black men and women in an S.C. church, the issue isn't about whether the black community, represented by members who welcomed the white killer into their prayer circle without reserve before he gunned them down, the issue is with his simmering hatred and fear of our nation's black minority which he reportedly felt was 'taking over' the country.

One of the questions which needs to be answered is where this young white man absorbed the notion that our black community was enough of a threat to him and his way of life that he felt a need to act out with violence against some of us. There's been a resurgence in the past few decades of old racial divisiveness - it's coming to the surface again in America. It is a product of the same fear many in the white majority experienced at the birth of our Union of the potential of black Americans to assume positions of power over them - fear that blacks would act out the same prejudices which had been so arrogantly and wantonly perpetrated against them.

I've expressed a few thoughts on this here, in the past...

There has been a fear of black advancement throughout our American history - fear that blacks would rise up and dish out the same injustice & violence many in the white-dominated had perpetrated against the race of people since slavery and through the years of segregation and state-sanctioned discrimination. Yet, despite our tragic history, blacks have shown great forbearance and benignity in the face of it all.

In the immediate wake of Reconstruction and the election of a handful of black lawyers, ministers, teachers, college presidents to the national legislature, there was a concerted campaign of character assassination by their white counterparts and other detractors in a successful effort to challenge their seats and to construct discriminatory barriers to the election of other blacks which persisted for generations and generations. The 'birther' movement is no stranger to those who recall that 'Jim Crow' past.

American politics has reached a historic milestone which most of my family and peers had been impatiently anticipating all of our lives, yet, would not have predicted it to happen so soon in our lifetimes. It's fair to say that many in the black community (and without) have been inspired to believe that a black man can be elected president, in this day and age, by the audacity and urgency of Barack Obama's bid for the highest office in the land. It's also fair to say that much of that inspiration and belief has come from the mere fact of Obama's success in convincing so many non-blacks to support and elevate his presidency.

However, the ultimate effect of the persistent racism directed against President Obama and his family by public officials and others visible public figures in the media and elsewhere has been a reversion by demagogues to that initial rallying and defensive mode that pushes critical judgements about his actual performance aside in favor of an atmosphere of hatred that envelopes much more than just the target in its wake.

In effect, the racist attacks by some on President Obama and his family reflect on the black community's own aspirations for achievement and advancement. On one hand, there is satisfaction in the realization that the barrier to the highest office in the land has been broken by Americans willing to elect this African-American president. On the other, there's a reflexive need by some in opposition to stand-up against this president with attempts to define him outside of the American mainstream based on the color of his skin. Yet, to allow this president to be diminished on the basis of race diminishes us all. The persistent racism directed against President Obama has not allowed folks to feel secure in this one advancement.

Racism certainly isn't chic anymore; not like it was in the days where slurs, slights, and outright discrimination were allowed to flourish under the umbrella of segregation and Jim Crow. But, it has still been used by some, over the years since the dismantling of that institutionalized racism, to manipulate and control the level of access and acceptability of blacks in a white-dominated political system.

Open racism hasn't been in fashion for decades, but the fear and insecurities which underlie discrimination and prejudice still compel some to draw lines of distinction between black and white aspirations and potential for success. What is often unspoken is the reluctance some Americans have in envisioning blacks in a position to make decisions for a white majority, resulting in attempt to set boundaries and define the roles blacks must assume to achieve success and approval.

The federal advancement of group rights was an important element in securing individual rights for blacks, before and after the abolition of slavery. Government's role has been expanded, mostly in response to needs which had gone unfulfilled by the states; either by lack of will or limited resources. After the passage of the 14th and 15th amendments, the federal government had to assert itself to defend these rights -- albeit with much reluctance and not without much prodding and instigation -- by passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That effort, and others by the federal government were a direct acknowledgment of the burdens and obstacles facing an emerging class of blacks.

Indeed, the efforts in the '60's to bolster and nurture black Americans into the social, economic, and political mainstream of America has meshed perfectly with the needs of our expanding economy and the growing markets which have eagerly absorbed millions of black Americans who were advantaged by the educational opportunities and initiatives which were focused on lifting their communities out of the squalor of indifference and disrespect of the past.

It's a dwindling majority in the workplace, and a dwindling dominance in other institutions which is, ironically, producing a familiar insecurity in some. Overall, black Americans' reaction to a dominating majority has been remarkably gracious, patient, and forgiving over the decades. Some of these dominionists could learn from that as they reconsider their role in a more inclusive society.

In fact, the gains blacks have made in our political institutions have not kept pace with even the incremental gains which have occurred in the workplace. We may well have an abundance of black CEOs, military officers, business owners, doctors, lawyers and other professionals. However, Americans have yet to support and establish blacks in our political institutions with a regularity we could celebrate as 'colorblindness.' And, to be fair, not even many blacks would likely agree that we've moved past a point where race should be highlighted (if not overtly emphasized), in our political deliberations and considerations.

I'm fortunate to have a long line of outstanding family members and friends of the family to recall with great pride in the recounting of their lives and the review of their accomplishments; many in the face of intense and personal racial adversity. In many ways, their stories are as heroic and inspiring as the ones we've heard of their more notable counterparts. Their life struggles and triumphs provide valuable insights into how a people so oppressed and under siege from institutionalized and personalized racism and bigotry were, nonetheless, able to persevere and excel. Upon close examination of their lives we find a class of Americans who strove and struggled to stake a meaningful claim to their citizenship; not to merely prosper, but to make a determined and selfless contribution to the welfare and progress of their neighbors.

That's the beauty and the tragedy of the entire fight for equal rights, equal access, and for the acceptance among us which can't be legislated into being. It can make you cry to realize that the heart of what most black folks really wanted for themselves in the midst of the oppression they were subject to was to be an integral part of America; to stand, work, worship, fight, bleed, heal, build, repair, grow right alongside their non-black counterparts.

It can also floor you to see just how confident, capable, and determined many black folks were in that dark period in our history as they kept their heads well above the water; making leaps and bounds in their personal and professional lives, then, turning right around and giving it all back to their communities in the gift of their expertise and labor.

Catherine Meeks, Ph.D., wrote in HuffPo that, "The entire discussion is almost beyond comprehension for those of us who are not being blinded by bigotry and hatred."

"Magic Mulatto, Mrs. YoMama, Touching A Tar Baby, Your Boy, Orbameo, Watermelons on the White House Lawn, cartoons with the President Obama's head and a chimpanzee's body, references to monkeys who escaped the zoo being related to the First Lady, and the list goes on with the racial slurs that have been hurled at this President and his family," recalls Meeks. "Along with these is the recent attack of racial slurs against 11-year-old Malia, his youngest daughter."

"Whatever policy issues that anyone finds themselves at odds with him about should be spoken about, debated and fought over in whatever civilized manner that discourse can occur," she wrote. "But I am talking about this low level of racist discourse that has been going on since day one. A discourse that has exhibited no respect for the office of President in the first place as well as no respect for this man, his wife and children. But even larger than this is the lack of respect that is being shown toward every African American in this country," she said.


The attacks in this generation are not to be taken lightly, even though we may assume that the nation is past all of that. The attacks need to be openly and loudly defended against by Democrats and Republicans alike. They can't just be brushed aside as some sort of acceptable standard of discourse. For the most part, they've been responded to with dispatch and sincerity. For the other, there's a glaring silence -- and even a rhetorical encouragement by some in the political arena who are leveraging age-old stereotypes to serve their cynical campaigns for office.

That's the backdrop for this resurgence of racial animosity toward black Americans; something which, for the most part, blacks have little control over. It remains for the white community to lead the way in setting the standard for discourse and relations in this nation. It's that backdrop of acquiescence to the which appears to me to have fueled this recent tragedy in S.C.. There's a cottage industry, driven in great part by petty legislative politics, of divisiveness and racial hatred which has spilled out into the public consciousness and legitimized/encouraged the pitting of groups of Americans against others.

The republican political class, in particular, benefits directly from racial and ethnic hatred and resentment that they fuel with their rhetoric at every opportunity. It's an old game, adopted from our tragic beginnings as a nation, practiced by people who should know better but don't give a damn about our humanity, as long as it provides red meat to throw to their rabid constituency.

It's going to take determination and resolve to fight all of that; resolve from folks like the good people in our internet community here who care about making a difference and changing our politics to include everyone in our progress and advancement. Let's pledge ourselves to reconcile around that determination to effect a change in our discourse and to put all of our deliberate and politically calculated, racist and bigoted divisiveness in the past.

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Arrow 19 replies Author Time Post
Reply On Racism and Reconciliation in the Wake of Attacks on Our Community (Original post)
bigtree Jun 2015 OP
Andy823 Jun 2015 #1
bigtree Jun 2015 #3
el_bryanto Jun 2015 #2
bigtree Jun 2015 #5
brer cat Jun 2015 #4
riderinthestorm Jun 2015 #6
bigtree Jun 2015 #8
brer cat Jun 2015 #13
Glitterati Jun 2015 #10
brer cat Jun 2015 #14
Quayblue Jun 2015 #17
riderinthestorm Jun 2015 #7
bigtree Jun 2015 #9
malaise Jun 2015 #11
bigtree Jun 2015 #12
lovemydog Jun 2015 #15
bigtree Jun 2015 #16
Quayblue Jun 2015 #18
bigtree Jun 2015 #19

Response to bigtree (Original post)

Fri Jun 19, 2015, 09:25 AM

1. K&R

Excellent post.

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Response to Andy823 (Reply #1)

Fri Jun 19, 2015, 10:14 AM

3. thank you, Andy

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Fri Jun 19, 2015, 09:30 AM

2. Well said. nt

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Response to el_bryanto (Reply #2)

Fri Jun 19, 2015, 10:37 AM

5. thanks, el_bryanto

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Fri Jun 19, 2015, 10:25 AM

4. Excellent and thoughtful post, bigtree.

I think the recession combined with the Obamas in the White House have been a major factor in creating this resurgence of racial hatred. From what I understand, Roof is a drop-out, an unemployed and probably unemployable loser. While you and most of us would look at the accomplishments of your family and friends and see the well-earned rewards of a hard struggle, Roof and millions like him would probably see poc who "took" the jobs and success that they were entitled to simply by virtue of being born white. A tight job market only aggravates that situation, and seeing a successful black man sitting in the ultimate seat of power has to be absolutely galling. For someone who was probably fed racism and bigotry along with his Pablum, there would be a strong need to put these "uppity" poc in their "place" and reassert the power of whites to control their very lives. He was probably very sincere in wanting to "take back his country"...take it back to when a lazy loser could succeed because he would inherit daddy's plantation and the slaves to work it.

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Response to brer cat (Reply #4)

Fri Jun 19, 2015, 10:41 AM

6. I completely agree that Obama's election and the 2008 economic crash

 

have exacerbated tensions.

Good points

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Response to brer cat (Reply #4)

Fri Jun 19, 2015, 10:59 AM

8. very good observations, brer cat

...there's such delusion in those apparent sentiments of Roof's that we have to wonder where he got such notions? Of course, racial and ethnic scapegoating in times of economic distress has been common throughout the nation's history.

What's different these days is how those views are legitimized and encouraged by pundits in print and other media and by politicians and others to further their political careers, or elevate their exposure and approval from a narrow group of supporters. There are enough of us who know disagree and oppose the propaganda, though, to make a firm stand against these expressions of bigotry and hatred.

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Response to bigtree (Reply #8)

Fri Jun 19, 2015, 02:06 PM

13. I totally agree

that media and politicians and even internet social groups are legitimizing these extreme views. Some days I feel like I am back in the 50's and Jim Crow is "law" of the land. The greater tragedy is that in the case of most media and politicians, they KNOW better. It is deliberate and calculated to spread fear and divisiveness.

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Response to brer cat (Reply #4)

Fri Jun 19, 2015, 11:40 AM

10. Herein lies part of the problem, though.....

 

According to this man's uncle, the kid wasn't "fed racism and bigotry along with his Pablum" as you assume.

In fact, the uncle says he'll pull the switch on the kid's execution if they will let him.

So, if he wasn't RAISED in a racist home, his racism comes from the outside world. And THAT, is a bigger problem than some neo-nazi family naming their kids after Hitler and teaching them racism.

Because, that means the politicians, the leaders who USE racism to win elections are the reason for the deaths of those 9 in South Carolina.

And, THAT is a much bigger problem which has nowhere to go but get bigger.

If you send your voters to the polls based on your racist propaganda, you are signing the death warrant of "others."

You, Mr. Politician, are ENCOURAGING the Dylann Roots.

YOU, Mr. Politician, are making that the inevitable conclusion.

Nikki Haley, Mr. Appalachian Trail, Mr. SC Black Senator spouting the same BS these people are...wave your racist flag over the state capitol. Refuse to lower that racist flag! Nothing could be MORE fitting.

Nothing represents your success more clearly than that flag.


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Response to Glitterati (Reply #10)

Fri Jun 19, 2015, 02:28 PM

14. Politicians and the media are definately

a big factor in spreading fear, hatred and bigotry. It will be hard to hold them accountable while their dog whistles are so successful. Whatever has worked in the past will be used again by the scum whether it is to gain politically or grab a few more ratings points. But it can be done, and it is up to us saner members of society to do all we can to achieve it. Rush Limbaugh seems to be on his way into oblivion, and I think public pressure brought that on. We should be publicly shaming every politician who panders to the far right nuts. Eventually they will be brought down.

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Response to Glitterati (Reply #10)

Fri Jun 19, 2015, 09:00 PM

17. we have this new thing...what do they call it?

Oh yeah... the internet, and it has has massive amounts of loud and wrong information.

It's no longer the asses in the surrounding community spreading this type of shit. One can sit securely in a decorated and furnished room and absorb the vilest of information.

+1 to your post

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Fri Jun 19, 2015, 10:46 AM

7. This OP is an excellent survey and call for action

 

you doing okay today bigtree?

Was thinking of you this morning. This OP is so thoughtful, I'm guessing you've been ruminating on this all night....hope you got some sleep.




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Response to riderinthestorm (Reply #7)

Fri Jun 19, 2015, 11:09 AM

9. thanks, riderinthestorm

...thanks for thinking of me. I'm actually doing fine. I have great support here at home and this forum is a fantastic outlet for channeling all of the anguish and frustration in positive ways.

In fact, most of these issues that I write about, many of the thoughts I've expressed here were the primary motivation for starting to write in complete paragraphs a couple of decades ago. It's actually been cathartic for me to flesh all of these issues and events out into written words. Hopefully they can spark enough of a discussion or thought which will translate into individual action.

Thanks again for your very kind concern for my well-being.

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Fri Jun 19, 2015, 11:44 AM

11. Good post

Rec

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Response to malaise (Reply #11)

Fri Jun 19, 2015, 12:32 PM

12. thanks, malaise

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Fri Jun 19, 2015, 02:31 PM

15. Excellent post.

k & r

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Response to lovemydog (Reply #15)

Fri Jun 19, 2015, 08:48 PM

16. thanks, lovemydog

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Fri Jun 19, 2015, 09:00 PM

18. kick and thanks

Glad you're back...

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Response to Quayblue (Reply #18)

Sat Jun 20, 2015, 08:18 AM

19. very kind of you to say, Quayblue

...I'm grateful to be back and in such good company.

Thanks for kicking!

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