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Ok, I keep hearing over and over that the country is more divided than ever, usually in the context of blaming former President Obama for recognizing that he was black or Trump for attacking minorities.  But, let’s be honest here, the country has always been divided.  At no time in its relatively short history has it ever been a united nation where equality ruled.  Its very foundation is built on human suffering and taking advantage of others.  The truth is, Black, Negro, African-American peoples have been fighting for Human Rights in the United States since stepping off slave ships in the 1600s.

Amazingly, in 2017, Black, Negro, African-American peoples are still dealing with racial barriers in a country they have built and occupied since their enslavement.  Why on earth would anybody, from those individuals who are newly arriving in the US to others whose oppression wasn’t as visible or continuous, believe that their specific issues will be or should be dealt with first?

It is obvious that other races of people now experiencing unfair treatment as guests in the US are either convinced that Blacks, Negroes, African-Americans are satisfied and lazy or else are totally unaware of 400 years of their own mistreatment.

And now, instead of assisting Blacks, Negroes, African-Americans with their obvious and continuous fight for basic human rights, these other, now targeted groups/races of people either jumped on the bandwagon with the oppressor of Blacks, Negroes, African-Americans or pretend that they don’t notice the racial disparities that exist in the country that they chose to inhabit.

Perhaps if they had joined the ongoing struggle of the Blacks, Negroes, African-Americans, when it was only against Blacks, Negroes, African-Americans, maybe they would have avoided their starring role as criminal targets today.

They never considered that Blacks, Negroes, African-Americans didn’t come here willingly like they did.  They never considered that the very structure of America demands that someone be a permanent servant class.  They never considered that, even if they came in search of a better life than what they received in their homelands, they at least knew where they came from.  They also decided where they were going.  Blacks, Negroes, African-Americans are called African but, if they were dropped off in the continent of Africa, they wouldn’t know where to go.  Truth is, Blacks, Negroes, African-Americans are more familiar with the US than they will ever be with the continent they are labeled by.  And even here, they have never been welcome outside of the plantation.

So now, Hispanics, Muslims, individuals of Middle Eastern descent now find themselves the target of unfair treatment.  Now they are the bad guys!  They are the immigrants being targeted.  According to white America, if a wall is built keeping them out, crime in the US will diminish.  Like never before, US citizens fear being injured if they are allowed to stay or even worse if they are deported.

And now that they are the targets, they expect Blacks, Negroes, African-Americans to come to their aid and speak out on their behalf?

Have you noticed that no one is discussing building a wall in order to block Italians from entering the US?  No one suggests that all the criminal behavior, murders, racketeering at the hand of known Mafioso’s might be impacted.  We will never know.  That’s because they are welcomed.  In fact, all white skinned immigrants are welcomed into the United States without restriction.

Did the new arrivals totally miss that the US refuses to even acknowledge that racism is still very much alive?  They didn’t see that the country would rather address Women’s issues and issues facing the LBGT community than deal with 400+ years of the dehumanization of Blacks, Negroes, African-Americans—gay, straight, male and female?  What, did they think hard work would put them in good graces?  Did they think that they, in the last few decades worked any harder than Blacks, Negroes, African-Americans who built this country?  What did they really expect?

So, my advice is to take a number!  They’ve already missed their chance to take a stand.

Can anyone hear me?

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In the News, Julianne Hough has been receiving criticism for her choice of Halloween costume—namely Crazy Eyes of Orange is the New Black fame.   My question is why?  She didn’t don blackface to portray a nameless, faceless parody of all blacks (African Americans), she put on black face makeup to simulate the face (and hairdo I might add) of her favorite African American character.  Where is the harm?

Would it have been different if an African American chose Judge Judy as her Halloween costume?  Would she not have to don a wig?  Would she not have to don white face make up?  If she did not, would anyone know who she was imitating?  Probably not.

That being the case, was Julianne Hough supposed to don the hair and garb of her character choice and skip the fact that her choice is an African American?  Would you have guessed who she was imitating is she had not donned the skin coloring?  Probably not.

Now, do not misunderstand.  Blackface is incredibly offensive.  It marks a period of history where African Americans were treated as little more than circus clowns and toys for white Americans’ amusement.  Even today, signs of the quote unquote buffoonery can still be seen in certain aspects of entertainment.  Just a few years ago, it was used as a plot device for comedic effect, though I doubt anyone who noticed that was laughing.  Nevertheless, we must be able to distinguish between a simple—if poorly chosen/thought out—costume and one meant to offend.  Let’s face it, intent matters…as does effect.

As I hinted in a previous blog, there is a lot of confusion over what racism is and what it is not.  At the time, I stated that people seem anxious to label name calling racism and to ignore real racism such as what exists in the job market, in home buying, in choices of schools etc., for minorities.

I’ll/let’s revisit that.

Racism is not donning a costume for Halloween.  Racism is using that costume to inspire misery and feelings on insecurity for profit or entertainment.  Racism is not saying something that people do not like.  Racism is profiting or benefitting from the degradation and abuse of another group of people.  Racism is not mimicking.  It is destroying.  In the grand scheme of things, Julianne Hough’s actions amount to nearly nothing.

Julianne Hough did not cause the Federal Government to close down for three weeks for foolish reasons.  She didn’t name any of the sports teams in this country with offensive names like “Redskins” and then pretend that she doesn’t understand the true issue behind this choice of team name.  What she did was decide to dress up as her favorite television personality like most of us have been doing for years.  In fact, when challenged, she immediately backed down and apologized for her insult, however unintended it was.  I repeat, where is the harm?

Perhaps, just perhaps we should spend more time focusing on real issues of racism and not reduce ourselves or the struggle to squabbling over petty things.  A costume one day out of a year is not responsible for the imbalance in the law that benefits one group of people and harms another, nor is it responsible for the continued suffering of millions of people.  The fact is, we have much more of a pressing racial problem than whether or not some actress no one will even remember a few years down the line is engaging in cosplay.  Can anybody hear me?

In recent news, we have heard about the capture, enslavement and eventual liberation of three young women in Cleveland, Ohio—Amanda Berry, 27; Georgina “Gina” DeJesus, 23; and Michelle Knight, 32—as well as a 6-year-old daughter apparently born to Berry while in her imprisonment.  They were held in captivity for ten years by a man named Ariel Castro.

During those ten years, they were brainwashed, intimidated, raped, beaten and emotionally destroyed.   Without argument, everyone can plainly see that a tragedy has occurred.  Everyone agrees that the perpetrator of the crimes has to be punished.  Everyone is sympathetic, angry and downright incensed that such an event could take place in a civilized society/world.  There are those who feel that there will never be appropriate restitution for these three women.  Still, in order for them to have any chance at a normal life, all the experts are recommending therapy.  Even with the best therapists and counselors in the world, I think we can all agree that they have a long recovery ahead.  The public is outraged and rightly so!

Fortunately or unfortunately, this news story made me think—hard—about the many injustices that people have faced.  I started to think about all the enslaved peoples of the world.  Specifically, I thought about the plight of African Americans who, like these three women, were captured against their will.  Like that first group of Africans that arrived here in the United States, these women were strategically isolated, beaten and outright tortured to the point that the front door of the house where they were being held could remain unlocked and they would not attempt to leave.  So convinced were they that their condition was hopeless, they soon accepted their plight and made a life for themselves as best they could.  At the same time, they were forced to rely heavily on their slave master for food, water and shelter.  As such, they accepted whatever he said as if it were law and they assimilated.  As with the Africans, he wanted them to forget their former lives and to submit to him.  Soon, they didn’t question his authority.  Like the Africans, they submitted for the sake of survival.  On some level, they may even have identified with their captor.

I learned recently that the three former captives are receiving counseling and are slowly reclaiming their lives.  Nevertheless, the descendants of the African captives were not so fortunate.  For them, counseling was not even considered.  No.  Once free, they were expected to go about their lives, “get over” what happened and not “live in the past.”  As a result, they will never get the sympathy, restitution or even restorative counseling that are so clearly needed in order for the formerly enslaved individuals to make a life for themselves.   Do not misunderstand.  They will receive scholarships and grants to institutions of higher learning.  Nevertheless, we must all agree that classes are not the same as counseling, nor textbooks acceptable therapy.

The victims of Ariel Castro will see their tormentor prosecuted and punished to the fullest extent of the law.  However, the victims of the African slave trade will not.  Regardless of what happens that closure will never come.  Of course, the situations are not identical.  Many people will point out that, in the case of African Americans, no such therapy is necessary because the injustices and abuse of the past did not occur to them directly.  While this is true on the surface, we must remember that trauma like that is not something people just get over with time.  It spreads and eats at its victim.  Like a cancer, it spreads to every aspect of their being.  It is naïve to think that it spreads to every area EXCEPT social interactions, EXCEPT self esteem, EXCEPT childrearing.  It enters and twists every part of a human being until it expresses itself in everything they do and everything they see.  It is foolish to believe that such harm can be overcome simply by maintaining a positive attitude and chanting “yes we can.”  They NEED treatment.   Without that medicine, no matter their level of achievement, they will always be multiple steps behind individuals who, while not directly responsible for slavery, continue to profit from it by birthright.

So, rather than address the issue once and for all, we continue to play “Let’s Pretend” at work, at home, at church and everywhere else.  Let’s pretend that discussions of race are passé.  Let’s pretend that racism is confined solely to the history books.  Let’s pretend that we are not still celebrating “firsts” for African Americans in this country (e.g., first African American Mayor of this, first African American Governor of that, first African American President, etc.) in 2013!  Surely, the election of President Obama cannot make up for the continued suffering of a group of people struggling to make it in a land that continues to view them as second-class citizens.

Can you imagine a world where these three women had been freed, straightaway returned to society and told to stop whining and to make a life for themselves or to stop blaming their captor for their misfortune?  Would it be fair to them?  How do you think they would fare?  Yet, this is essentially what happened to the enslaved Africans now called African Americans.  After many, many years of slavery—much more than ten—they were released into society and told to “make it.”

How successful has that been?

Can anybody hear me?

 

PS.  This article follows a similar theme.