Here’s the problem, as I see it.
Racism in America is a part of its heritage and legacy. It was built into the democratic system.
This racism, which I will define as a system which keeps one group in power over another group of people which has no rights, was written into the United States Constitution. The words “all men are created equal” were never intended to include African Americans or American Indians or, I guess, any other ethnic group, especially groups which were or are noticeably different.
To escape the systemic inequality embraced by the Constitution one had to find a way to fit into the dominant group, which happened to be white, Protestant men.
Those who could not or did not fit into the dominant group were and are openly discriminated against, with the blessing of the government. In our history as a nation, the dominant group has systemically controlled African Americans. The control has been on all levels, in all areas of life, but most especially on the economic level. The dominant group controlled African Americans and forced them to work for them, with little to no benefits.
To keep their workers under control, they objectified them, meaning, they looked upon them as objects and not as subjects, people. If one does not see another person as a person, it is easy, or easier, to treat them as objects, worthy of being misused and abused and killed.
Men who beat women objectify them, or parents who beat their children objectify them, though they say they love them. One cannot beat one whom one loves.
The person who is hated and objectified and denied rights begins to hate himself. The beaten woman begins to believe the rantings of her crazed, controlling mate, or the abused child begins to believe that he or she is “bad,” and rationalizes that that is the reason he or she is being beaten.
As the beaten woman or child will always try to “be good” so that their beatings will stop, so has been the history of African Americans, trying to “do good” in order to be accepted.
One of the saddest results of “this racism thing” has been the self-hatred African Americans developed in this country. As we were hated, so we hated ourselves. The dominant group might first have used the term “nigras” as a term of endearment, speaking of the people they owned as beloved possessions. A “nigra” was simply a black person, stupid, of course, and needing to be cared for, which the dominant group was willing to do.
As the debate over race grew, however, the term of endearment morphed into a term of anger, derision and contempt. The term “nigra” became “nigger.” The dominant group called the name; African Americans internalized the name and began calling themselves the same.
One could get no lower than a nigger. African Americans knew that. They/we felt our status in this land of the free. African Americans were not free and were not worthy of freedom. The dominant group taught that the Bible did not teach racial equality and they completely cleared up any misunderstanding about the words “all men are created equal” being applicable to African Americans or women.
Racism, then, became the inner lining of this democratic system. This democracy was from the outset, unequal, and meant to be. Racism was the government, and therefore the power to keep a group of people under control and keep the dominant group in control. It was and is an economic and political oppression based on race.
In the era when the dust storms nearly annihilated a part of this country, signs were put up that said “no niggers” need apply for work until all white men had jobs. That kind of thing is a part of the legacy of this democracy.
I wish the young African American rappers realized and understood, then, what legacy they are perpetuating when they use the word “nigger” in their lyrics. It is not cute, funny or good. It is yet more evidence of the self hatred which still exists among African Americans.
The racist lining of our democracy is sewn into every aspect of American life. Little white kids still think little black kids are bad, stupid and ugly, and too many little black kids still think the same about themselves.
When Dr. Laura said “nigger” over and over in her rant last week, she showed a lack of professionalism (she is a psychologist, for goodness’ sake!), insensitivity and a capacity, still, to objectify African Americans.
I have purposely said “nigger” in this piece to make those who read it look at it and think about what it means. I guess I am trying to begin ripping the lining of racism from the cloak wear called “democracy.” We cannot heal the sore until we look at the sore and see how infected it is, and how infectious it is.
I know I have to take this a little deeper, but this is enough for now.
It is a candid observation.
9 thoughts on “This Racism Thing”
Great “candid observation”! Racism is not woven into the fabric of America it IS the yarn- the basic foundation of the nation. My metaphor is about knitting. If you are a person that weaves or crochets or knits, you will really get this, but even if you don’t walk with me. Take a knitted hat, if you unravel the hat and the knitting comes undone you will have yarn, in a ball no doubt but yarn. No longer a hat just yarn. That is America’s racism- foundational. If you want the hat to be something that is NOT yarn then you have to use a different material. You will never get anything but a hat made of yarn if that is what you use. America needs new material to build foundations for institutions that are not racist. We could begin with the will of the people to live in a society that is truly rooted in justice for all. More needed here too, but just my two cents for now!
Judge A. Leon Higgenbotham explains in his book, “In The Matter of Color,” that prior to the Constitution of the United States (1787) 150 years of racist laws in the British Colonies (which became the United States) laid the legal foundation for the racism built into the U.S. Constitution. It is a sad state of affairs.
Hey Rev Sue:
Thanks for the sad historical reminder of how the lining of racism got stitched literally and actually into the fabric of this country. Dr. Laura’s “show” was taken off a radio station in Chicago for insensitive remarks several years ago. At least she warned us then by saying, “my never-to-be-humble opinion.” Her being a psychiatrist is really a moot point. When the lining is stitched as you have so ably described, the garment is worn everywhere.
It is unfortunate that this “yet to be” United States has created an almost perfect Petri dish for a hatred that is historically viral and seems to resist all forms of treatment, except the 2008 election. It is also sad that some of its victims have become so infected that they are numbed to the pain, while enjoying the profits at their own rapping expense–go figure!
Perhaps the fact that this lab experiment could no longer maintain control of its most precious Petri dish in Washington is the reason the scientists are angry. Indeed the scientists have become the very monster created and thrown themselves out of their own labs! I will remain hopeful and vocal in the corner where I live and speak. Thanks for your thoughtful commentary.
All I can say is what would Jesus think? As always your comments leave me thinking of all the racism I’ve seen in my life and how I hope and pray that my nieces and newphews will not be judged by the color of their skin.
“The dominant group might first have used the term “nigras” as a term of endearment, speaking of the people they owned as beloved possessions. A “nigra” was simply a black person, stupid, of course, and needing to be cared for, which the dominant group was willing to do.”
This part was extremely powerful. I can honestly say that I have never looked at it like that. Kudos, Momma Susan!
It kind of boggles the mind to think of how this term might have evolved into what it has become. Lord knows I could get kids to stop saying it!
Racist America and Americans do not surprise me nor should they surprise any minority peoples. We have contributed to the racisim of others by our on behaviors. Our desire to assimilate, our wanting and waiting for help, looking for and expectating handouts from others, Trying to have what they have before we ever laid hands on what we needed. We allowed ourselves to be comprimised and bought off in the sixties. We were bambozzeled into thinkng that it was better to spend our money in “their” businesses, We lied to ourselves that we were patronnizing their businesses as a positive step of the civil rights movement because they would not let us in before. We were self sufficient to a large extent prior to then. Yes, The movement was needed and necessary! But the so-called leaders were bought off with make work jobs and titles, a few were allowed to be “upwardly mobile” But these so called leaders took care of themselves and their friends and turned their backs on their people. Oh yes, they always managed to talk a good show—- but when it came to a point of put up or shut up they only appear in time for the tv sound bite. If we were truly working on solving black on black problems, then we would in a much stronger position to deal with retards such as Beck.
Thank you for your input. Sometimes, I think the best part about writing these things is that people get a chance to really talk about what they feel. That has a lot of value. Thanks again! Subscribe to the blog and tell others!