The Gospel of Race in America

Just so I can be safe in addressing Obama’s speech on race in America that he gave this morning, I’ve posted the video for those that haven’t heard it yet. Since he gave the speech I’ve been checking out the reactions in various places and while some folks are still saying “Rev. Wright hates white peepul! He wants to kill whitey” or they’re saying “Slavery is over, why are black people still talking about racism?!” for the most part people seem willing to at least look at the elephant in the room. Racism didn’t end with the Civil Rights Movement. Black people are angry and white people resent their anger because America likes to pretend that history doesn’t matter at all.  Were all white people complicit in slavery? No. But they did benefit from the free labor and not just in the short term. Are black people angry about racism? Yes. But then slavery wasn’t their last brush with overt racism. 

There’s this idea that it’s not okay for black people to react to racism except in ways that make white people comfortable. It’s an idea that makes no sense to anyone that grasps that the black community is comprised of people with their own individual agendas and agency. But then the idea of the black community as a monolith is one America has never been able to shake, instead there is an effort to lump us all in under one umbrella and pretend the totality of our experience can be summed up in a few stereotypes. White America is perceived to be made up of individuals with different goals, backgrounds and upbringing all of which can impact their decisions. But when you start talking about black culture there seems to only be two options available, and that’s black people who are “past” race (i.e. don’t discuss it or pretend racism doesn’t affect them) or black people that won’t “let go” of the past by continuing to recognize the reality of modern day racism.  

Racism isn’t a contest with specific rules that say that you’re only racist if your ancestors held slaves, or if you come right out and say you hate black people. White America tends to want to shy away from the impact not only of institutional racism, but also that of individual racism. This creates this weird thought process where discussing race and racism in any straightforward fashion is forbidden despite the fact that it’s a huge part of American society. Few white people wants to address the anger or the pain that it causes, and so they ignore it, or get upset when someone starts talking honestly about the issues in a way that’s not comfortable for them to hear.

Meanwhile for black people (and other POC) race is ever present because it impacts every facet of our daily life. From access to appropriate hair care products (or lack thereof) to the way we’re treated by police officers, to the way in which our grooming is judged and discussed at work, school, or even in the media (don’t get me started on being a black woman with natural hair that I wear the way it grows out of my head) as though our bodies are still available to be evaluated for sale. Race is never off the table for us. This is a fact of our life in America. At some point in order for America to really move past it’s history it’s going to need to examine the past, and the roots of so many societal ills that tie into institutionalized racism.

That means talking about redlining, gentrification, discriminatory lending, discriminatory sentencing, racial profiling, and even about what has happened to successful black communities in the past. It means looking at why school district lines are drawn the way they are, and examining why some neighborhoods have more liquor stores than grocery stores. It’ll mean talking about the Welfare Queen myth and looking at who is actually receiving aid, and talking honestly about affirmative action and the primary beneficiaries of the program.  

Thus far the accepted American approach seems to involve emulating an ostrich rather than facing the problem head on on a daily basis. This idea that pretending unity can be achieved by ignoring reality has always struck as me as completely ridiculous. We are a society composed of so many individual backgrounds and experiences, and we need to recognize the value of that patchwork even as we address the gaps those differences can cause between the people of America. It’s not enough to talk about being colorblind or tolerant (and let me just say that this idea that POC need to be colorless or tolerated to be accepted as equals is just racism in a different context) we need to address the wrongs and make steps to prevent them from remaining (or becoming) an endemic part of our culture.

It’s time to pull those heads out of the sand, and start participating in the most important conversation America has had in a long time. It cannot just be about this one speech or this one candidate. It needs to be a part of our daily lives for all the years to come, or our kids will inherit a mess that’s comprised of the same garbage that we’re wading through right now.

Karnythia is a writer, a historian, and occasionally a loud mouth. In between raising hell and raising kids she usually manages to find time to contemplate the meaning of life as a black woman in America.” Her posts on any topic can be found at her Livejournal.

36 Responses

  1. You seem so angry!

  2. I only heard a clip of Obama’s speech on NPR today, but I really liked that he acknowledged that Blacks are individuals, and that acknowledging the anger of people who lived through pre-Civil Rights Movement and Civil Rights Movement racism doesn’t mean perpetuating anything.

    I can understand Rev. Wright’s anger, given that he certainly had way more experience showing that white people hated him than the average white bigot has for his prejudices. (Certainly I’ve heard enough white jerks justify disliking blacks on the grounds that their brother’s girlfriend’s sister was mugged by a Black guy, nevermind the huge number of Blacks they’ve interacted with who haven’t mugged anyone…)

    I can sympathize with Rev. Wright’s anger, given that I get to watch how I and the women and girls around me are still told to shut up and keep our legs crossed because the boys matter more.

    Racism in school district boundaries is one reason why I don’t live in the town I grew up in. In 1985 (19-&#%$%ing-85), the local realtors and the school district were found guilty of conspiring to prevent Black kids from going to the high school across the street from where they lived, bussing them to another high school within the district instead. The number of my neighbors who thought there was nothing wrong with the practice infuriated me.

  3. Looks like these white guys are angry too (and I guess I don’t blame them) —>

    He is not a metrosexual, a homosexual or a victim. Nobody like him drowned in Hurricane Katrina — he got his people together and got the hell out, then went back in to rescue those too helpless and stupid to help themselves, often as a police officer, a National Guard soldier or a volunteer firefighter.

  4. BTW, Media Matters is quoting large portions of Obama’s speech as the conservobots ignore reality and context to try to smear Obama. Obama’s speech makes good reading.

    Skipping the conservobots’ rantings is advised for those wishing to maintain low blood pressure.

    (Have you noticed the tendency to use someone’s first name alone when trying to decrease someone’s stature? I’ve noticed it with Sen. Clinton, and other women, but it really struck me reading the Faux News contingent’s words. Where those who respect Obama use his last name, or title and last name, or first and last names, these clowns use his first name alone. Unless they’re trying to link him to terrorists, of course. Then they use his full name, because only a terrorist would have a name that’s at least as common as, say, Alexander…)

  5. I noticed that as well, saying “Barack Hussein Obama” is simply trying to make him out to be a Muslim even this has been debunked so many times. I don’t believe they’re trying to link him to terrorist, but with the negativity surrounding Muslims in this country, being one isn’t a positive thing.

    On the issue of Obama’s pastor, I noticed a lot of conservatives making him out to be racist. Because he made some comments concerning white America. Especially the comments he made about 9-11. (Can’t remember everything he said exactly) But I don’t understand these accusations of him being racist.

  6. Great post. Thank you.

  7. I relate–I’m gay. And I’m angry.

  8. It’s time to pull those heads out of the sand, and start participating in the most important conversation America has had in a long time.

    Especially in light of this:

    After considering the United States’ testimony, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) said it had found “stark racial disparities” in the U.S. criminal justice system and other spheres of public life.

  9. It’s time to pull those heads out of the sand, and start participating in the most important conversation America has had in a long time.

    Especially in light of this:

    After considering the United States’ testimony, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) said it had found “stark racial disparities” in the U.S. criminal justice system and other spheres of public life.

  10. sorry about the double post.

  11. When I heard Rev White speech all I could think was that what he said was right and I’m white. Obama’s speech yesterday is what I’ve been feeing about America for a long time. Race, sexism, anti-gay talk is used to divide us and it helps Wall Street and the richest 1% Americans screw all of us with prisons, bad schools, bad loans, high gas and outsource our jobs. I support Obama because he told us that we can continue to be allowed to be divided and screwed or we can take responsibility and demand a better government that serves the people not just the elite. Obama gave the message yesterday that now is the time to unite because this country is in serious trouble.
    Oh yeah there still is slavery except the American elite moved it to China and the third world.
    Obama 2008

  12. It was a better speech than I thought it would be. It was brilliant in its rhetoric, if not always in its political perspective or moral stance. He said some honest things, all of which were sort of racism 101, but none of which does one hear mainstream presidential candidates say out loud. He spoke eloquently, deftly juggling audience demographics. And he didn’t *totally* sell out Rev. Wright, which I was pleasantly surprised by.

    But he did take for granted, as has all reporting on the matter, the canard that Rev. Wright’s comments were reprehensible. And that’s where we get into trouble. Because Wright’s speech was probably truer than Obama’s, if less…calm.

    After all, what exactly did Wright say that was incorrect? That the US dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, cities full of civilians? That the US has been a loud advocate and partner with Aparteid South Africa and Aparteid Israel? That it has a history of brutalizing Black people and then demanding their alleigance? That ‘patriotic’ anti-terrorist rhetoric in the face of all this is maddeingly hypocritical?

    All of this is really pretty hard to argue with. Wright’s speech got to the root of the matter because he spoke about an international context. Obama got (kind of) deep on Black-white relations in the US, but did so by subtly asserting the same ol’ smae ol’ imperialist idea of America’s place in the world. Why, for instance, was the only mention of Islam or the Muslim world or Arabs or the Middle East his Israeli-colonialism-appeasing blame of the entire Middle East conflict on the “perverse” Muslims? The body count from the Middle East that can be directly or indirectly traced to activities supporting the fat US lifestyle is astronomical. Other than talking abuot Iraq war veterans, where was the complex answer to the substantial charges Wright makes about America’s place in the world? Wright understands that trying to talk about ‘the race problem’ in a strictly national context is worse than useless. Too bad his former parishoner doesn’t — or acts like he doesn’t. How can we talk about ‘coming together’ when we aren’t talking about what we are coming together to do?

    Maybe, as Obama said, Black Americans’ and white Americans’ dreams don’t have to come at each others’ expense. But Obama’s platform (like th rest of the Dem and Repub platforms) is worryingly corporate (despite his anti-corporate rhetoric yesterday) and imperilist. That’s not sustainable and Americans are crazy if we think the rest of the world is going to go along with such a vision of the world quietly, whether a Black man or a white man is pushing it.

  13. Well put, Saladin.

    I was completely angry at the frustratingly common write-off of the US’ and Israel’s involvement in conflicts in the Middle East. Ditto the nod to “radical Islam.” Why are we at war with Islam, and why is someone whose major selling point is unification advocating the use of Islam as a weapon to denigrate a people?

    Obama’s speech was well written, though folks will take from it what they want. It is, as you mentioned, racism 101, but this content being delivered by a US politician is a pretty bold step. While, I hope that his words would open a long-needed dialogue on race and racism, I am not optimisitic. But still, at least it’s out there now.

  14. I agree with everything Saladin said. I think Obama probably does, too – at least in private. But, Obama is running for President. If he expects to win, he can’t come out and admit that he thinks these things are true. Be real, now! Mainstream America would crucify him. I think he delivered an honest , eloquent, and truly moving speech. He took the boldest stance he could take and still remain viable as a candidate. I think he deserves a lot of respect for that. He already has my vote in the primary. Should he win the primary, he will have my vote in the general election. Obama ’08!

  15. Ditto CroMagnon, except for the vote part (I don’t get a vote in that race, being British).

    I’ve seen people over here criticising Obama for not denouncing his pastor, and I’ve got some faint idea of how vicious the media are in the States. Yes, the biggest terrorist-recruiting agency in the Middle East right now is the Bush Jr. imperial regime; also, what Saladin said about other stuff … if Obama said all that right now he’d be declaring that he’s given up on being elected and just wants to grandstand. He’s being a politician, which is what he needs to be this year.

    Getting Racism 101 onto the mainstream media in America is a pretty big accomplishment in itself, I gather. We don’t get speeches of that quality in Britain.

  16. The Race Of America

    _______________________________________________

    We’re a nation of weeds. Face it.

    Beautiful, strong, glorious, weeds.

    America is not a “white weed” nation anymore. If that scares you, whatever kind of stock you are, I’m sorry.

    I don’t think you can really do anything about it anyway.

    Listen to who’s yelling the loudest: Pat Buchanan, a decendent of Irish riffraff.

    And Joe Sourbourh? Limey bastard.

    His family was probably fleeing debtor’s prison, or, in his case, some kind of Anglican Church sex crime. Disbarred priest and shady accountant’s mostly. I’ll bet you.

    Rush Limbaugh? Creepy Germans. God knows what they’re up too. Involves child sacrifice and world domination most likely. That or meticulous gardening. Psycho fucking Germans.

    There was a time when the European Upper Class viewed Americans as a disreputible, shady, breed. They came from a melting pot of the lower classes.

    “American White”, the “Anglo”, an English dominated, european mixed stock. And that’s mixed with the brown, the “African-American”. They’ve been mixing for a long time, if you hadn’t noticed. Like it or not. Hell, most of the people who are called “Black” in this country are cousins, sometimes close cousins, to the “American-Whites”. Their children will become a strong trademark of this nation.

    God bless them, too.

    It’s a tough, beautiful strain. Made out of the children of survivors. Children of harshly treated African slaves. And the conquering English Empire’s lower class and the insane with optimism or greed upper class. And fleeing Irish, wild and impossible to kill, prolific breeders with anyone. This is a good place for people like them. People who desperately need a “start-over” and have the special gifts required for survival here. This is good ground for the discarded, and abused. The weeds. If they can survive, they will be able to prosper here.

    We are their children. And its fathers and mothers.

    We are the survivors. Children of the toughest, smartest long odders anywhere.

    So get a grip, Pat. Nothing worse than “high-class” Irish. Nazi-Jesuits did this to you, Pat.

    http://flyingator.blogspo.com/

  17. Does rehashing Slavery history perpetuated anger in black people?

  18. *thoughtful* You know anitah, I don’t think it does- at least as much as people give it credit for.

    Honestly I can only speak for myself, but the fact slavery happened had little to do the racial fixation I’ve found myself in in later years. A lot of the reasons for quest for true acceptance came from the way I was treated in my majority white schools, where I had to hear so many off-colored jokes, where I was ignored so many times, of the way it hurt not so much that one spiteful guy said that black women were undateble, but when everybody else stayed silent as a response.

    Of my awkward, self-esteem issued pre-teen years were in no way helped by how society seemed so much more comfortable in rather not having to deal with me, or at least that how it looked in the media, and how I started to dislike my African features. Of the small annoyances of people consistently asking me about all of black mankind and why they did such and such funny/weird/wrong. And the few times that I had to sit there and deal with a confrontational white guy that dared me to try to say differently when he was saying black people were this and that and were taking his this and that.

    As a child Slavery was a part of History and it was hard to hold my interest, much less rile my anger. My frustrations lie solely in the here and now.

  19. I just want to point one little thing…Barrack’s shying away from discussing his full name is equally as passive aggressively racist as white folks shying away from commenting on anything involving race. Stating, as someone did above, that being linked with Muslims is a bad thing, is racist.
    Insert black instead of Muslim into that sentence and everyone who read it would have jumped all over it.

    So here’s my question, as a white 25 year old woman in the US— how do we have a “conversation” about an issue like race, when anything we could possibly say will be misconstrued one way or another to fit the preconceived opinions of the people we’re talking with? I will never know how it feels to live life as anyone other than myself, in my own situation. I can have a conversation with someone and relate to them in one way or another as a human being, but try to discuss racism as history and you will be quickly corrected.
    Here is my problem with that: How can children who’ve grown being taught to be color blind, to judge all folks on the content of their character and not the color of their skin (or which church they attend, or how much money their family makes, or what gender their parent(s) are…) EVER really do so when we are expected to be apologetic for things we never did, to stand down whenever a discussion about race between someone white and someone of any other color becomes a “me vs. you” conversation.

    I may not have been as clear in my point here as I’d hoped, but I am genuine. I don’t judge other people’s lives and when they come into my life, I decide how I feel about someone by the vibe I get from them, by how they treat me and my family, by the things they do in their life, by who they are. And that’s it.

    What I cannot understand is how on Earth someone could tell me that’s not good enough.

    [As a sidenote: I am Irish. My grandparents came here from Ireland. Anyone who has a good knowledge of our history in this country understands that, although we were not slaves, and although we came here of our own accord, that my people never encountered racism, oppression, and were even “below” blacks on the job totem pole in the north well before things like Equal Opportunity were even on the political plate.
    The history of my people is not something I use to judge individuals I meet right here, right now…but it is something that has been largely ignored and that I carry with me in my life every day. “White America” is full of individuals, just as is ALL America…no matter what shade our skin is.]

    I don’t see how dividing everyone by lines of race will ever erase those lines – even if it is well intentioned division. Why can we not discuss these issues as human beings and not like chips on a paint palette?

  20. ^^^ A bit tl;dr. I definitely want to post something better when I feeling a bit more coherent. But, I just wanna say this:

    D.,
    My great-great grandmother was Irish. Do you think people would see that in me? Or care?

  21. Obama is the best hope for America today but I fear that the GOP will use the Rev. Wright videos to torpedo his chances with blue collar white voters.

    O, let my land be a land where Liberty
    Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
    But opportunity is real, and life is free,
    Equality is in the air we breathe.
    Langston Hughes – Let America Be America Again

  22. To Angel:
    I look very forward to reading more when you feel better. In your link:
    ““Black” America is forced to live a psychic duality, but in a way, “white” America is, too. We are supposed to – apparently – somehow split our brains, into never even noticing that there are racial differences between us, unless we’re working in praise of those differences. So, there are no differences between us…but we celebrate the differences…but their are none, and if you think there are, you’re a racist. Now celebrate!”

    That is exactly what I was referring to. My point about myself and the way I was raised is this: I would not think about someone’s race before inviting them to my wedding. It just isn’t something that even comes into play. It doesn’t for my family and the people I love. But to me, it feels like I am being told that it’s supposed to matter, only on some level i don’t even understand.

    And I have to ask: Do you care that your great great grandmother was Irish? Do you read blogs about the struggles of Irish folks or only about struggles of black folks? I am not being sarcastic or insincere by asking those questions. I genuinely want to know whether to YOU the color of your skin outweighs knowing and sharing all of tapestry that makes you, you.

    Light skinned races who immigrated to the US are now being lumped into one category…as being one giant pile of historical jerks. That means I am being judged by the actions of others and the color of my skin.

    It just seems to me that this way of thinking, that seems to be the most common in our country, is only serving to delay embracing everyone’s differences as people and working as a whole to stop subscribing to pre-conceived notions, stereotypes, and judgment.

  23. D, what you are suggesting is the cliched “colorblindness” trope. It is an idea that was promoted by right wing think tanks after the Civil Rights Movement to derail discussions of racial inequality. The thing is, unequal power dynamics need to be recognized before they can be fixed.

    Yes, plenty of white European ethnic groups were discriminated against – and even while being mistreated by dominant US society, however, they were still let in before other immigrant groups, who faced things like the Chinese Exclusion Act. The “lumping together” of various European groups into the political identity of “whiteness” was not created by poc. I think you should interrogate yourself and ask yourself why you are quick to downplay racism and how it continues to operate on a personal and systemic level to create white privilege. Pretending that it’s all okay and that we need to ignore current events and have historical amnesia is NOT going to move society forward.

  24. D, wrapped in your feel-good plea is this idea that we must ignore police brutality, unequal incarceration rates, the glass ceiling, the fact that schools are just as segregated as they were during the Civil Rights movement, redlining, Katrina, higher poverty rates among various communities of color, and exploitation of the Third World. I find that a little creepy, honestly. This idea of poc keeping struggling (class-wise or in other ways) whites down plays perfectly into the ruling class’s hands and keeps people divided. The real division is created by people who want to live a life of sunshine, rainbows and lies.

  25. My point was not to ignore the things you mentioned, but to judge people as individuals. I mean this on a personal level, not a political one. If we are to end racism in day to day life, shouldn’t we separate the two? I recognized there are many horrible problems in the world – ones involving race and ones not involving race – but they are bigger than one person. Is it possible that treating each other as individuals (all of us) would change all the bigger, political, societal problems…or at least lead us closer to a solution?

  26. I would not think about someone’s race before inviting them to my wedding. It just isn’t something that even comes into play.

    Good for you. Unfortunately, some of us do come in contact with that – “I won’t go if that nigger/spic/faggot is there” – and we have to deal with it accordingly.

    But to me, it feels like I am being told that it’s supposed to matter, only on some level i don’t even understand.

    The hell?

    And I have to ask: Do you care that your great great grandmother was Irish? Do you read blogs about the struggles of Irish folks or only about struggles of black folks? I am not being sarcastic or insincere by asking those questions. I genuinely want to know whether to YOU the color of your skin outweighs knowing and sharing all of tapestry that makes you, you.

    First of all, in addition to being Irish, I am also English, Apache, Blackfoot, and African with God-know-what-else thrown in. That’s what happens when your ancestors are Black slaves; families are auctioned off to seperate homes, toss in a little rape, and few whippings, mutilations, and beatings, for even attempting to reclaim your culture, and well, you get me.

    Light skinned races who immigrated to the US are now being lumped into one category…as being one giant pile of historical jerks. That means I am being judged by the actions of others and the color of my skin.

    OmiGAWD, y’all! It sucks to be a white chick! Look: If you woke up black tomorrow, you’d put a bullet in your head by the time the 6 o’clock news came on.

    It just seems to me that this way of thinking, that seems to be the most common in our country, is only serving to delay embracing everyone’s differences as people…

    That’s exactly what you’re NOT doing. Despite your good intentions to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, that’s not the reality of the world we live in. It would kick total ass if it was, but unfortunately, it’s not. And, in seeking your colorblind utopia, you’re not ackowledging what we go through every day because of our race.

    It just seems to me that this way of thinking, that seems to be the most common in our country, is only serving to delay embracing everyone’s differences as people and working as a whole to stop subscribing to pre-conceived notions, stereotypes, and judgment.

    Riiiiiiight…Now ask yourself this question:

    Why did you chose THIS blog, with THIS title to address these issues? This isn’t the only place that is discussing Sen. Obama’s speech. You ventured onto a blog entitled The Angry Black Woman and asked a question about race.

    Now, who’s the one “subscribing to pre-conceived notions, stereotypes, and judgment”???

  27. “Here is my problem with that: How can children who’ve grown being taught to be color blind, to judge all folks on the content of their character and not the color of their skin …”

    Now, keep this in mind…

    “..EVER really do so when we are expected to be apologetic for things we never did, to stand down whenever a discussion about race between someone white and someone of any other color becomes a “me vs. you” conversation.”

    Therein lies your problem. For Christsake, quit the colorblindness act. When you have a racial debate, I’m sure you are keeping in mind that person’s race.

    Colorblindness is nothing more than a copout. Angel hit it perfectly. It’s basically a refusal to listen to anything that people of color have to say negative about the system, and when they say something, you and similar people strike a tone of “How dare they!”

    Don’t quote Dr. King when you are only doing it selectively. You fail to understand that you would likely disagree with Dr. King if you knew his total context and read Letter from a Birmingham Jail rather than going off of his “I Have a Dream” speech.

  28. To Angel-
    I read the entirety of the post and comments at AverageBro.com. I found the discussion that @Spool started to be similar to what I was trying to discuss here. Though he is far more eloquent than I am. His posts seemed to show what my parents’ thoughts would be.

    Also, I started reading this blog when I saw it on tv. My memory isn’t very good, but I think perhaps an author was on The Daily Show or something like that. Whatever interview I saw made an impression on me and I added the rss and read it regularly. So yeah, your assumptions about why I chose this blog are wrong.

    To A. – Quoting the entirety of someone’s work is hardly useful. Assuming you know what I have or have not read is equally futile.

    I wanted to start a dialogue here because I thought this might be a safe place to show that yes, I grew up being taught to ‘not be racist’ in a town full of hicks and rednecks who are and very few people of any race other than white. And while I have a college education and I am well-read, I am far from worldly. I do however deeply care about who our next president will be and while I can relate in some ways to both Hillary and Obama, his recent speech made me feel as though there are things about racism in this country that I truly do not comprehend.

    So after reading this particular post, I decided to comment.

    Thank you to everyone who responded to me nicely or not so much.

  29. Whatever interview I saw made an impression on me and I added the rss and read it regularly.

    If you do read it regularly, then why did you bring up a topic that has been discussed here – and other anti-racism sites – ad nauseum?

    I wanted to start a dialogue here because I thought this might be a safe place to show that yes, I grew up being taught to ‘not be racist’ in a town full of hicks and rednecks who are and very few people of any race other than white.

    Exactly! You were taught “not think about someone’s race”, but you learned this lesson in a racially homogenous environment. Now that you’re out in the real world, you’re (hopefully) learning that not all of us have the freedom to think the way you do, because there are too many people out there who judge us for what we are instead of who we are.

    You’ve learned that differences are nothing, but it seems as though you’re still refusing to acknowledge that differences are everything, also.

    Thank you to everyone who responded to me nicely or not so much.

    Yeeeaaaah. About that….

  30. Apparently even though it’s been discussed “ad nauseum,” it’s still an issue that begs discussion.

    I’ve learned from my family that differences are parts of us that make us who we are. The choices we make, the people we love, the things we do and why are also parts that make us who we are.

    Not that differences are nothing, but that they are what make us all individuals. No two people of the same shade are exactly the same human being because of differences other than their race.

    You’re right, I have not learned in my experiences yet that “difference is everything.” I think common ground is equally as important as differences.

    On the whole “teach me” topic, yes I have heard those sentiments many times before and I have heard folks respond in many ways to it. I recognize that a random stranger on the street is not going to “teach me,” which is why I decided to post here. I figured that if everyone thought I was just an idiot, then they wouldn’t respond or they’d tell me to go away.

    At any rate, I won’t post here again since I obviously am just bringing up the same old, same old. Sorry about that.

  31. On the whole “teach me” topic, yes I have heard those sentiments many times before and I have heard folks respond in many ways to it. I recognize that a random stranger on the street is not going to “teach me,” which is why I decided to post here.

    To random strangers on the web.

  32. I enjoyed reading your feelings about Obama’s speech, but I must take issue with your opener. As controversial as it may sound, I believe everyone living in the United States today has relativistically “benefitted” from the “free labor” that you cite offered by the slavery and indenture systems of 400 to 150 years ago, not just white people in the short term. Everyone has profited in some way from these unwilling sacrifices. It is a part of how this nation was built, just as by other exploited workers and peoples, e.g. by hundreds of thousands of Chinese immigrant laborers in the second half of the 1800’s. Before discrediting the value of infrastructure, remember: we all drive on the same roads, rich or poor.

    I will completely agree, however, that the forceful isolation of blacks in the US through a continued denial of civil rights has had lasting effects, and this, more than slavery, is worth preaching about. It has prevented full assimilation. Historically, assimilation had been, for many years, key to any [immigrant] group’s success over the long term.

    A new chapter is being written now, stressing multiculturalism over assimilation. It will be interesting to see how this plays out and to see if this actually helps realize the dream that we have been waiting for: somehow magically achieving equality without sacrificing identity.

  33. Except that black people have not profitted from it. So, for example, the city of Providence was erected with the proceeds of the slave trade, but it’s not as though Brown was open to black students in the same numbers and proportions it was open to white people. Black Americans’ labor was stolen from them and used to create wealth which they were barred from enjoying. Slave labor enriched white slaveowners, who passed that wealth onto their children and used it to construct structures and programs that benefitted whites. Further, this theft of labor meant that black people were prevented from accumulating wealth and passing it down to their descendants, a large factor in the disproportionate impoverishment of black people in this country.

  34. @ Matt & Veronica

    I think the truth is somewhere in between what the two of you say. Yes, in some manner the descendents of slaves, the descendents of slave owners, and of white/brown/black/yellow immigrants have all benefitted from the slave labor (and native genocide) that served as the ‘front money’ of the American infrastructure. But it’s very important to note that this benefit-reaping has been so massively unequal (in favor of white people) that it almost doesn’t make sense to compare.

    @ Matt

    Your assertion, though, that “we all drive on the same roads, rich or poor.” is not true. Go drive around southwest Detroit for a few hours and see what those potholes do to your shocks, man! No rich people driving on those roads. Then go to the latest exburb subdivision an hour outside Detroit and feel the smooth pavement caress your tires lovingly. There’s a world of difference. Then there’s the question of which roads get salted/plowed properly…

    All infrastucture is equal, but some parts of it are sure as hell more equal than other parts…

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