It has been troubling and fascinating to watch people deny that they are racist and that this president is racist.
It is as though the “r” word is as offensive to some as is the “n” word.
While people – media included – are fighting the trending verbiage which states unequivocally that the president is racist, they are also denying that they are racist.
What is up with that?
America was born in white supremacist ideology; the Puritans were convinced that they had been anointed by God to make a new nation which would be morally superior to all other nations. They also believed that this new land was to be a place for white people.
Americans were obsessed with creating a master race during its eugenics movement. Edwin Black writes in War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race that “during the first six decades of the twentieth century, hundreds of thousands of Americans and until numbers of others were not permitted to continue their families by reproducing.” Those sterilized were chosen because of “their ancestry, national origin, race, and religion.” The practices were supported by the elite of American society: professors, ivy league universities and wealthy industrialists.
America’s race laws were so sophisticated that the Germans referred to and used them in the development of their quest for creating a master race as well – what they called a “superior Nordic race” and a “master Ayran race.” Black w4ites that “it was only after the truth about Nazi extermination became known did the American eugenics movement fade. American eugenic institutions rushed to change their names from eugenics to genetics.
Racism is a part of America’s story.
They therefore, their religion notwithstanding, felt no internal or spiritual angst when they systematically, methodically, and intentionally killed and/or forced the relocations of Native Americans. They believed it was God’s will.
White supremacist ideology was already a known entity by the time the Puritans arrived here in the 1600s. Racist ideas and beliefs were known and practiced by Europeans for nearly two centuries by the time the Puritans landed at Massachusetts Bay. (https://www.publicbooks.org/rewriting-history-racist-ideas/) Those ideas were used to “codify New England Slavery,” notes Kendi.
The idea that black people were inferior in all ways, made that way by God, was “baked into the founding documents.” The Founding Fathers wrestled with the contradiction of making a new, independent nation while forcing others into total dependence on white people. It was through and by the labor of black people that the economy was built, but as the nation grew older, whites decided that there was no place for black people in what had become their country.
They wanted to get rid of black people; they had outlived their usefulness, but wrestled with how to do it. A major push was made to colonize people of African descent; ship them back to Africa, the proponents said, where they can teach the “savages” the principles of Christianity – the same Christianity which was used to justify their being slaves – and thus make the world a better place. Major historical figures supported the colonization of black people. The American Colonization Society has a prominent voice in American history.
Even the white president who has been deified because of the Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln, fully supported the colonization of people of African descent. He did not believe that black people were on an equal plane with whites or that they would ever be. He issued the Emancipation Proclamation for a number of reasons, none of which was his belief in the full humanity of black people.
We all know that many of the Founding Fathers owned slaves. We know that even though black people fought in every American war that once the wars were over, whites made sure they understood that, their military service notwithstanding, they were still “niggers,” still unqualified to have full rights of American citizenship, and were still inferior to white people.
The belief in black inferiority – which is the key component of white supremacist thought – is a part of America’s ethos. It has accounted for the substandard housing, education and economic opportunities for black people; it accounts for the lack of attention and care given to the conditions which have since the beginning of this nation’s birth been the bane of this country’s existence. Because of the widespread belief in the inferiority of black people, and the subsequent dehumanization of black people perhaps subliminally carried in the very souls of white people, there is little care or attention given to the substandard treatment of black people, allowing too many people to turn a blind eye to situations such as tainted water in Flint, Michigan, or run-down schools with lead paint which black children in so many cities still attend.
In this political season, the statement keeps coming up, “We are better than this.” But in truth, we are not. America is doing as America has always done.
So, denying the charge of being racist is fascinating to watch, and it begs the question of how white Americans define racism. Just because one does not use the “n” word and has a couple of friends does not make one a non-racist. At the end of the day, it is the acceptance of racist policies and practices which defines racism, and a willingness to be silent as black people are subjected to these policies and practices on a daily basis.
The racism is not just directed at black people, either. As brown people have grown in number in this country, the racism has extended to them as well. Incorporated in the white supremacist standard of white supremacy is xenophobia and Islamophobia – and sexism as well. White supremacy is not only racist but is sexist as well.
And it is who we are.
If white people would just own their racism, this nation might be able to move forward, but they refuse to. If one says the “r” word, too many whites get immediately defensive, more worried about protecting and defending their honor than addressing and owning the problem that is killing America.
White supremacy is an illness, like drug and/or alcohol addiction. In order to not be a racist, a person has to say, “I am a racist,” and then the process of healing can begin. Without the admission of the malady, there can be no healing and no reconciliation.
And unfortunately, too many whites seem to be all right with that reality.
A candid observation …