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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Revisiting Race: America's never-ending odyssey

It is easy to think of the USA as a post-racial society, a place where ethnic background, skin color and religious label are not factors that lead to official and non-official marginalization. After all, twice now American voters have elected a man with roots in a Kenyan Muslim family, with the middle name "Hussein" on top of it, to the highest office in the land.

African-Americans are also represented in leading positions in various areas of society, law enforcement, politics and media.


Yet despite all these truthful assertions, African-Americans as a whole feel under siege. This is due to a number of socioeconomic factors, but as of late, highlighted in the continuing incidents leading to death during rather mundane encounters with law enforcement. Samuel Dubose in Cincinnati, Ohio. Or that of Sandra Bland, 28, in Prairie View, Texas, which authorities there have declared a suicide. In addition to these, social media are filled daily with videos of confrontations with Police officials. In addition to dealings with the law, we now have seen Dylan Roof, a young white man who joined a Bible study in a historically black Church, Emmanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston, South Carolina then opened fire, killing nine, including the senior pastor, Clementa Pickney, himself a South Carolina Senator. It's actually amazing that none have declared this an act of terrorism, even when a politician was killed in Church. I guess the Terrorist label is only applicable when the perpetrators are Brown-skinned and Muslim!

Why do we see a surge in these events? This writer has spent a great deal of time exploring this and related issues, speaking with people from various races and walks of life, and the theories out there are interesting- albeit frightening. There are those, both black and white, who feel these incidents are deliberate attempts to ignite a race war. Others blame media for fanning the flames, while others have placed blame on everything from the stresses of working in Law enforcement to the killings found in video games such as Grand Theft Auto!


Attitudes of mistrust will take generations to sort out

Tensions between ethnic groups [and more often, between social classes] have always been present within human society. That is simply a fact. Perhaps because we live in a fast-paced world we end up becoming conditioned to think these issues can be just as easily solved as going into a fast-food restaurant for lunch.

In an American context, we must remember that slavery officially lasted for 246 years. This figure does not include the various European adventures into Africa for slaves, which began in the late 1400's. The official period of slavery [ending with the Emancipation proclamation of 1863, but obviously not enforced until the end of the American Civil War in 1865] was followed by official and non official discrimination, violence, Jim Crow Laws, the rise of vigilante racist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan [KKK], lynchings, etc..

Yet, this writer asserts that  the next two generations,God-willing, will see racial biases- at least the sort that manifest themselves in the way they have, disappear. This statement may sound naive to some readers, but do consider the following facts.

[1] The increase of the ethnic groups that  are neither black nor white, such as Latinos and Asians. They are increasing in numbers, but also economic and political power. See http://news.yahoo.com/rise-latino-population-blurs-us-racial-lines-114944593.html;_ylt=A0LEVv5VkcJVeHEAyx8nnIlQ;_ylu=X3oDMTByOHZyb21tBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzcg--

[2] The rising acceptance of social relations between the races, including interracial marriage.

These two factors alome, along with others unmentioned here, are enough to generate hope that the coming generation will be able to discard the attitudes and actions that have been going on for so long!


Overall illnesses must also be addressed

While the future does appear to be bright, we must nonetheless acknowledge that there are deep social problems, or illnesses, that need to be addressed. Knowing that there are illnesses is obviously the first step to finding the cure. This writer does not claim to know all the answers, nor to even be able to see all the symptons, nonetheless we highlight a few, and hope these observations generate thought, especially for our political, religious and social leaders, for those in media and the entertainment industry.

[1] Narcissistic culture: Under nice-sounding labels such as "independence" and "freedom", this culture of simply the pursuit of whims ends up creating countless social problems, leaving in its wake destroyed families and neighborhoods.

[2] Media Violence: The increasingly violent images we see daily in our movies, music and games leaves us desensitized. So, violence is "fun" and "Manly". In addition, sexual dedregation is also connected to this.

[3] Racial stereotyping: Countless books and articles have been published on this point, and African-Americans are admittedly its greatest victims, although Muslims [particularly Arab or South Asian] are increasingly shown as villians, up to no good, untrustworthy, etc..

[4] Abandonment of moral/spiritual values: This manifests itself in the narcisisstic culture mentioned above, as well as in other ways. More and more, we are being conditioned to discard the values given in religion, that such values are antiquated and useless. Indeed, this is shown even through dress. Women wear short, tight clothes even in Church [and other venues ] and a popular style is for men to wear pants "sagging", showing their underwear.


Reasons to be hopeful

Ta-nehisi Coates, [an atheist] does not see any hope for Race relations in America, despite his personal successes. His new book  Between the world and me [2015, Spiegel &Graw, New York] is simply a collection of thoughts as to why he sees no reasons to hope.

It is precisely the opposite for this writer, because this writer believes in God! God is the one who created, but also cares for- all of his creation. God is the one who is the source of all races and ethnic backrounds. Human differences are not an accident. They are intentional actions on the part of the Divine Hand.

There is hope when one sees children, particularly very young children. They show love and do not consider issues of skin color as reasons to dislike or to hate others. There is hope because there are still on this Earth human beings with healthy hearts. There is hope because God created humans to have the capacity to grow, to think and progress beyond the limits placed on them by outside forces.



Even Malcolm X, known as Al-Hajj Malik Shabazz, a man who had, at one point in his life, dismissed whites as literal devils, grew. In commenting on race in America, he says:

..that discussion with the ambassador gave me a new insight-one which I like: that the white man is not inherently evil, but America's racist society influences him to act evilly. ..

[The autobiography of Malcolm X, 1999 edition, Ballantine Books, New York]

In these words we find hope. Hope to grow out of pettiness, hope to be humans, exhibiting the humanity placed in us by God.

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