A Practical Guide on How Not to Approach Talking About Race or Any Serious Issue Part 3 (Final)

Historical episodes such as that of  the genocide of the North American Native Americans, forced labour and concentration camps of Nazi Germany, slavery past and current , etc speak for the fact that majority rules cannot be the way we work to address and deal with social ills.It is important to say, before going any further, that no one group should every have the monopoly on the truth of an issue, with some caveats or points to consider. For example  male politicians should not have the final and only say in legislation  dealing with specifically woman issues. They should of course be able to voice their opinion, add whatever they can to the discussion, to be able to have the final say and ignore scores of women nationwide protesting for their rights and freedom to do with their own bodies what they see fit.

Legally Equal, but Sociologically Different

One thing we have to realize I feel if we are to deal with any serious issue is that our national is constituted of unique groups of people with unique social realities. This is very important.What is I consider normal, like hearing gunshots out the window is clearly not the normal for you. More importantly the differences between what two group considers normal should not be used as a means to demonize either group.Correlation doesn’t equal causation.  If I am an African-American that lives in a violent neighbourhood, it doesn’t mean I am by nature violent.

In every community in America there are invisible lines that separate the rich from the poor, the Blacks and Hispanics from the white, Muslims from Non-muslims and of course the worse prisons are the one with the invisible bars.  I have traveled through this country of ours and this has been my experience that on the basis of being human beings who happen to be American citizens, we in legally terms equal.However how those laws are interpreted and enforced can still allow for the gross abuses the laws were created to prevent to subsists covertly.  Each community in this country has its own history that shouldn’t be glossed over but taken into consideration when we try to address social ills. We cannot seek to separate some from their history, but we can give their history a voice in the current affairs of our country.

Multiplex Phenomenon

The One thing I feel we should take head of is the inability to isolate issues from one another: we cannot separate sexism from racial issues, from LGBT issues. I would like to give you a very poignant example of this taken from Howard ZInn‘s People history of the United States:

imagesThrough all the struggles to gain equal rights for blacks, certain black women spoke out on their special situation. Sojourner Truth, at a meeting of the American Equal Rights Association, said:

There is a great stir about colored men getting their rights, but not a word about the colored women; and if colored men get their rights, and not colored women theirs, you see the colored men will be masters over the women, and it will be just as bad as it was before. So I am for keeping the thing going while things are stirring; because if we wait till it is still, it will take a great while to get it going again… . 

I am above eighty years old; it is about time for me to be going. I have been forty years a slave and forty years free, and would be here forty years more to have equal rights for all. I suppose I am kept here because some-thing remains for me to do; I suppose I am yet to help break the chain. I have done a great deal of work; as much as a man, but did not get so much pay. I used to work in the field and bind grain, keeping with the cradler; but men doing no more, got twice as much pay-… I suppose I am about the only colored woman that goes about to speak for the rights of the colored women. I want to keep the thing stirring, now that the ice is cracked. . . .

I have chosen this example for two reasons. For one it shows that things are not as simple as we would like them to be. Each of the many diverse groups in our nation isn’t a homogeneous group. I wrote a post on the fiction of the “black community” in which I argued that black people in this country come from so many diverse backgrounds: We come from the Caribbean from Africa, some of us are first generation like me , some are third generation, some are atheists some are Christians some are Muslims, some of us are male some of us are female and some of us transgender, some rich some poor. To lump us all together as one homogeneous community because we are “black”  in terms of a discussing social ills is problematic.

The second reason I have chosen this piece is that it illustrates how much we can benefit as a society when we embrace not just the experience of this other diverse groups but the groups themselves.  I think black women have a unique history in the United States that is of course not being told. It is unfortunate that black women are so stereotyped as  they are. There is a lot that can be learned from their stories about equality of the sexes, about approaches to labour, and family raising. I think for instance that Hispanic women have a lot to add to the discussion of  treatment of immigration and how to create better programs to helps the illegal immigrant who are already here and to helps the naturalized citizens find a place in our society. When we marginalize people we not only prevent our culture from growing, we deprive our selves of other views that might help to inform our opinions on how to tackle problems. We will never have a utopia but that doesn’t mean that we can’t advance further from where we are.

The Legacy of The Social Movements

41I think we have to realize that any plan to move forward requires a unified platform.

Racism, Ageism, sexism these are all tools used for a particular end. Racism in this country was used to establish a social structure where some people could benefit at the expense of another. That willingness to exploit and benefit from another suffering  is still there. Read my post on the Prison Industrial Complex. Given how diverse we are as a nation, and how diverse in turn the many groups who constitute our nation, we cannot afford to make progress with racism while ignore the poor. We cannot hope to tackle womans issue without addressing the pain of young men in this nation, we cannot address police brutality without LGBT rights etc.

The first step in doing this I feel is to admit that:

  1. All issues need my input whether or not I am affected (we all need each other)
  2. My educated opinion is valuable in all issues – (key word is educated. If you get your info from Bill O’Reilly or some other pundit you are the furthest from education )
  3. There will be issues that I will not have an experiential background in, but that shouldn’t stop me from empathizing with people.

The second step is to realize  that if I don’t agree with you I am not necessarily against you.

This is where if we have made the effort to educate ourselves may others can benefit. If someone tells me they don’t think racism doesn’t exist, I will ask them why so do they have any examples, other than what they have seen from their porch or heard from the television. if they have nothing substantial I just move on.

Final Thoughts

There are many more steps but that should be the subject for another day. Solutions to social problems are complex. There isn’t one solution there isn’t one method. We need a diversity of people and their input to change things. The various groups that  constitute our nation are very interconnected. We need to recognize our interconnectedness and not impinge on or deny another’s history. I think we have to expand our understands of race and religious tolerance and sexism etc to include how they interconnect with each other.

Think that is it.
That’s all I want to say


One comment

  1. you have great insights and a good way to present things on this subject. I think we have had to many people with ill intent in society past and present that would use any means possible to keep any from of racism alive. Some have found power on either side of this coin. Funny how people in the trenches in day to day life would rather celebrate our differences than promote one over the other. I believe the individual, the citizen, then the city’s, county’s, states should play a far bigger role with issues of the social variety. For federal government regulation only succeeds in pleasing some of the people some of the time. Usually motivated by maintaining their power over the people by any popular means. Of which history isn’t so positive…in fact it is when government and some kind of religious belief systems or the popular movement’s of the day have united is when we have had a history of unbelievable abuse of people of every group.
    This post of yours is thought provoking, thanks.


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