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The Right Conversation: Race, Racism, and the Unfinished Work | troublemakingpunk.org
 

The Right Conversation: Race, Racism, and the Unfinished Work | troublemakingpunk.org

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The Right Conversation Race, Racism, and the Unfinished Work ...

The Right Conversation Race, Racism, and the Unfinished Work
"Stereotypes are shaped and reproduced broadly, reinforcing the perceived inferiority of the oppressed group."...http://troublemakingpunk.org/2014/04/28/the-right-conversation-race-racism-and-the-unfinished-work/

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    The Right Conversation: Race, Racism, and the Unfinished Work | troublemakingpunk.org The Right Conversation: Race, Racism, and the Unfinished Work | troublemakingpunk.org Document Transcript

    • troublemakingpunk.org Love, Liberation, & Eco-feminist Boat Rocking The Right Conversation: Race, Racism, and The Unfinished Work April 28, 2014 // 0 Last week some old, white cheating cowboy fraud said publicly what he has probably said over and over to his friends. Another super rich white bigot’s private words were reported too. In many ways this really isn’t news. We live in a racist nation that has perpetuated derogatory stereotypes and promoted discrimination against people of color throughout most of its history. Thankfully, we have seen some hard fought changes occur, but do we really believe we can eradicate three hundred years of bigotry and ignorance in a couple generations? I heard a TV commentator say today that our nation “needs to have a conversation about race.” Really? “What do you get when you send a racist to college?” My friend and mentor, Will Nichols used to ask that question of his Black History students at Cuyahoga Community College forty years ago. A year earlier I met this decorated World War II veteran, who had worked his way through college on the G.I. Bill. He was teaching philosophy part time then, while working full time at the post office. As a full time history instructor Will Nichols quickly became involved as faculty sponsor for a number of African-American student organizations, and he developed the Black history courses into ones that would require senior level work of junior college level students. His rationale was that he wanted the Black students in his classes to be able to perform at a level far higher than would be required of them elsewhere. At the time, I thought it unfortunate that as a white student in his class I had to do this extra work too. As we groaned over doing 50 page research papers, Nick used to say, “I won’t do it for you, but I’ll wade in my own blood waist deep to help you up so you can do it.” True to his word, he was available 24 hours a day for consultation, inviting our study groups to his apartment on the weekends to work on our papers together. There was no Martin Luther King Day then, no Black History Month, just the same clear need in our culture to have an ongoing dialogue about our nation’s shameful history and continued behavior of racist oppression. I wonder what Will Nichols, who’s been gone a few years now, would have to say about the often repeated notion that Americans need to have a conversation about “race.” Post your own or leave a trackback: Trackback URL
    • I believe he’d say that it was an important issue, but as he smiled, waiting for the answer to his original question, he’d tell us that the crucial conversation had to be not about race, but about racism. We Americans have still not fully engaged that dialogue. Our primary problem isn’t about misunderstanding each other’s cultures (we’ve all been guilty of that at times); our primary problem is about facing the ongoing reality of systemic discrimination. It’s about recognizing the rationalizations and denial that occur in all situations of oppression. When your culture does something that is unacceptable, such as kidnapping someone and imprisoning them and their descendants for hundreds of years, there is only one way to feel okay about living with that. You must justify it. The Romans justified their domination and enslavement of Europeans and others by depicting them as animal like. The British justified their control of the Irish by depicting them as savages or sub-human. Europeans, Chinese, Euro-Americans, and other colonizing cultures all depicted indigenous peoples around the world as savages or scary beasts. The Nazi death machine depicted the Jews and Eastern Europeans as sub-human. The opinion maker apologists of each offending culture argue that because of some flaws in the victims’ humanity, the imprisonment, enslavement, or extermination of these “others” is in the best interest of everyone involved. Stereotypes are shaped and reproduced broadly, reinforcing the perceived inferiority of the oppressed group. The stereotypes used to justify the enslavement of African-Americans early in our history were so deeply imbedded in the psyche of white American culture that many of them continue right into the present. It is not some random accident that independent study after study show that housing, job, and justice system discrimination is still rampant in our society. Our rationalization and denial still keep us from addressing the reality of our culture’s racist legacy. So what was the answer to Nick’s question? When you send a racist to college, “You get an educated racist.” It doesn’t matter what’s put in front of our eyes to see, if we refuse to open our eyes to see it. We can change that if we as a culture continue to find the courage to face the reality of racism and its terrible consequences. River Smith is author of the book, A Conspiracy To Love: Living A Life of Joy, Generosity, and Power, and co-author with Victor Lee Lewis and Hugh Vasquez of The Color of Fear: A Teacher’s Manual. Tags Basketball, Bundy, oppression, Race, racism, Sterling Categories Uncategorized 0 Comments
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