We’re Not as Exceptional as We Think
Imagine a little boy watching his pregnant mother pushed to the ground by a tobacco-chewing, White row-walker, on a plantation in the Mississippi Delta. We’ll return to the plantation later.
Right now, I am furious. And I write this blog with rage and revulsion. I am distressed by the unabated, calcified, unmitigated, racial, sexual, and social discrimination we see today in 2012. And please don’t talk to me about what Jesus said and the word of God, until we talk of how we treat people.
We are good at cherry-picking the bible, the constitution, policy, our own memories, etc., without regard for how this affects the lives and well-being of fellow citizens. Our politicians want us to think that we are the most bodacious, bad-ass country on the planet and will manipulate the truth to uphold the shifting tides in our global leadership. Still number one, just elected the wrong leader; he’s not American enough, or capitalistic enough.
We can talk about the President, lie about him, badger him about his birth certificate, his ethnic origin, his college transcript, his religious affiliation, etc., all the while knowing that it’s not about that, but rather about the color of his skin. It is about getting, Barak Obama, that Black man out of that White House. Former Chief of Staff of former Secretary of State Colin Powell, made the most lucid and substantive statement about racism I have heard, especially coming from a White male.
Here’s what Colonel Wilkerson said. “My party, unfortunately, is the bastion of those people — not all of them, but most of them — who are still basing their positions on race. Let me just be candid: My party is full of racists, and the real reason a considerable portion of my party wants President Obama out of the White House has nothing to do with the content of his character, nothing to do with his competence as commander-in-chief and president, and everything to do with the color of his skin, and that’s despicable.” [Italics are mine.] Colonel Wilkerson made my day. See video: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/26/lawrence-wilkerson-colin-powell-sununu_n_2027721.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false#slide=1416197
Although it was amazing to see someone speak the truth, in my head, I continue to struggle with racism, hatred, dominance, violence, and oppression that I learned firsthand on Mr. Moore’s plantation. As mentioned earlier, as a child, at the age of eight in the “great state” of Mississippi, I watched a tobacco-chewing, plantation row-walker, push my pregnant mother to the ground; and as she lay holding her stomach, he spat tobacco juice at her. Had she not moved her head, the spit would have landed in her face. I will never forget her groans, the expression on her face, tears, as she struggled to get up. I attempted to help her and with help from the other sharecropper women, she got back on her feet and wiped her tears. All the while grown men stood, agape, and did nothing, because they wanted to live. That scene has played in my head since; and it appears in my head almost daily; it will not go away. How does one make sense of this behavior? And when I hear about this being a Christian nation, I ponder oppression, dominance. My insides churn.
When will the oppression and suppression of non-Whites, children, and women stop? Where is the leadership? Why so much social injustice?
I have watched dominance fulfill this country’s mantra for centuries. It started as European settlers murdered their way from East to West, lying to the Indians, killing them, taking their land, raping their women, pushing them to the reservations, violating treaties. Their skin wasn’t the “right” color, just as Blacks and Hispanics. The Indians were seen (and still are) different, not Christian, ethnically, culturally different, and treated differently, violently. Do we really think we can continue this way, in the 21st century?
Dominance. Violence. Oppression. Racism. Look at voter suppression, threatening signs in non-White neighborhoods, intimidation, false accusations of voter fraud. Not too long ago, the Freedom Riders fought and died for voting rights; some were beaten; many were murdered. The FBI transcripts are clear: Viola Liuzzo, James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, Medger Evers, and many more, lost their lives simply because they were helping fellow citizens exercise their right to vote. Today, again, in 2012, we still have to defend our right to vote, to stand our ground, reminding the powers that be, that we have a right to vote. Why? I am beyond frustration, anger, and being fed up! My strongest vote is for an “American Spring,” but without the violence. We, en masse, need to occupy every capitol place until the national leadership realizes what they are doing, or not doing.
Finally, what’s needed, in my view, is a change in worldview, leadership, and ideology. Racism, sexism, hatred, and violence will not keep this republic intact; will not create a strong nation from which we can offer the world leadership. A nation that can face its truths can be accountable to each other or hold complex discussions about these issues, leading to change. It will take a different leadership: one with audacity, authenticity.
Your thoughts are very welcome
Jefferson wrote in 1816, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and what never will be.” It is only through education that bigotry can be exterminated. Only by developing the minds of our students, only by teaching critical thinking skills, can racism and sexist become archaic words.
We have huge task in front of us. No Child Left Behind has devastated a generation. I have students here at McPherson College who can barely read and write. They have never been taught to think for themselves. Nevertheless, it is those same students who carry the torch for our future. We cannot allow a single one to slip through the cracks.
I would agree, there are several people in this country who have a problem with a black president. Since any overt expression of racism would be distasteful in today’s society, many will use subtle means of expressing their feelings regarding race. I am certain that our president is aware of the fact that there are those who would prefer to “put the White back in the White House” but one has to admire his perseverance, tenacity and level of confidence. These attributes were obviously instilled in our president at a very young age by significant others in his life who may have anticipated that he would one day face some serious challenges. Nonetheless, there is a lesson to be learned from all of this, which is that, it does not matter how others perceive you – what matters is how you perceive yourself.
Madelyn, Thank you so very much for your response !! I so agree with you. And even though he’s also criticized hy some Blacks about what he does or doesn’t do abour race, he’s steadfast, persistent, and I believe he knows who he is. He doesn’t ware his intelligence on his sleeve; he practices inclusion and cultural competency, which is needed in society.
Thank you, again!
Thank you for responding. You are on the mark when it comes to education in America. I recall a study when I taught at Boston University, where 9,000 high school graduates were surveyed; the results of the study showed that 25% of the 9,000 (students) could not read their diploma. So, my question is why did they receive a diploma vs. an attendance certificate? Better yet, why were these students passed to the next grade? If I can’t do 5th grade work, what tells me or the teacher that I can do 6th grade work? I believe school leaders aren’t doing their job; some teachers aren’t doing their job; and though there’s shared responsibility here, it’s primarily a leadership issue in my view. Leaders aren’t leading; teachers aren’t teaching. Thus, we have three million jobs (3,000,000) that cannot be filled: no qualified applicants, though they have gone through the education systems. We call that exceptionalism?