Thursday, August 8, 2013

Some thoughts on race in America

Who gets to divide us

Lately I've heard a lot of white people say they wish we (Americans) didn't divide ourselves by race.

I don't get it.

It's okay for white people to divide themselves by European heritage; in my tiny little Wisconsin county Irish Fest and Oktoberfest are huge economic boons. People ask me the origin of my last name all the time. But it's not okay for black people to group themselves by heritage (unless of course white people want to talk about black crime, then group away, right?)

It is human to want to connect to your heritage. It is human to categorize ourselves. Catholic, Jewish; redneck, YUPY; Packers fan, 49ers; etc etc. White people tend to divide themselves by almost any standard, but once black people want to talk about being black in America we get all up in arms because their divisiveness is the devil's tool. Phrases like "I wish black people would stop using race to divide us" are code for "I don't want to hear about their problems, can't they shut-up about them already?"

I suppose I understand why many white people don't want to keep hearing about it. Since white people are the ones that created it.

Sometimes I wonder how many Americans can actually put a date on it. How many white Americans realize it hasn't even been 140 years since white men could legally steal the babes of black women and sell them for a profit. For many African-Americans still alive today, those babes were their grandparents.

Some might flip those words around and say "it happened nearly 140 years ago ... get over it." I am stunned when my fellow mormons carry this attitude. Mormon Pioneers were persecuted and expelled from the United States in the 1840s. It is impossible to be a Mormon today and not hear the horrific stories of the 1840s abuse delivered by the hand of the US government.  Slavery continued for 25 years after that. Do people not see the hypocrisy, no the uncharitable hypocrisy, in statements like "that was long ago, get over it."

Independence day was long ago too, get over it America. Stop dwelling on your freedom from British rule. Sheesh!

The family

Bill O'Reily was right when he said the disintegration of the black family is the #1 problem facing "them" today (another perfect example of appropriate grouping, right?) Actually, he'd be right if he said the #1 problem facing ANY PEPOLE is the disintegration of the family.

But here's a thought in regards to the "black family." For more than 250 years our laws refused to recognize a black persons God given right to create a family. Our very laws denied their right to be a family. How pathetic is that?

It makes me ill.

Instead of using racial statistics to wag a nanner-nanner finger at our black brothers and sisters, we need to ask ourselves what we have done in the past 138 years to help strengthen black families. Families we tore apart with our selfish, brutal hearts. What kind of laws did America make when slavery came to an end that would strengthen black families? Segregation laws? Drug war laws? Voter laws? Which ones helped?

I'm not suggesting black people need white people (or lawmakers) to help them strengthen families, but at the very least we can offer a listening ear and a sympathetic heart when current events force us to have an open dialogue about race.

All this "I don't want to hear about it" only perpetuates the problem. The old "they did it to themselves" deflection lacks the charity we should all have.

Let people own their feelings

As a white person I will never know what it is like to be black in America. No matter how many times I read Black Boy or I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings or the first chapter of Invisible Man (tears fill my eyes with such force I can never get passed that first chapter), I will never know what it feels like to be anything but white.

I wish we'd stop telling other people how they should feel. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You need to send in your essay to the Tribune's editorial page. You could try the "Newsless" (that other Utah paper), but I don't think you'd stand much of a chance of being published!

Your words are spot on. All this recent chatter has made me feel the same way. Blacks are not treated as the white's equal, neither are Hispanics or any other non-white race. I think we may be making progress overall, but we are far from reaching "brotherly love" as taught in the scriptures.

In just a few years, whites will be outnumbered by non-whites in our nation. When the Hispanics are the ones caring for us in the rest home, I hope they will remember how we treated them and treat us with more compassion than we have treated them.

Just my ramblings. I admire your spunk sister -- you're a chip off the old block...

Love, Pa

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