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Monday, October 6, 2014

What too many Americans--not just Right Wingers--don't get about race. And America


There is a terrific article out yesterday on Why the GOP hates U.S. historyInconvenient truths that freak out American conservatives.

It's a good to great read.

Full of those pesky facts, it tells of a few fairly incredible instances of where people on the Right (I like to call it "The Wrong") and in the Republican Party, specifically, keep either rewriting or trying to rewrite American history to fit their own ideas or preferences.

I think a lot of Kansas Citians suffer from this same mentality, clearly, especially regarding race as evidenced by people I've met or whom I know--some even in my own family, frankly--as well as the commenters of some blogs in town.

All that said, I think the best part of the article, for me, is this about that Right Wing rewrite of America's racial history, especially concerning blacks, African-Americans in the US, slavery and where we all are now, mostly economically and financially:
Recently convicted felon and conservative columnist Dinesh D’Souza’s book, “The End of Racism,” provides some great examples of rewriting race. D’Souza says of slavery, “No free workers enjoyed a comparable social security system from birth until death.” Later, he writes, “Masters … encouraged the family unit which basically remained intact.” In a particularly appalling passage, he writes, “slavery appears such a relatively mild business that one begins to wonder why Frederick Douglass and so many other ever tried to escape.” And concludes, “In summary, the American slave was treated like property, which is to say, pretty well.”
The Problem: Conservatives in the U.S. have a race problem, specifically that many of them believe that blacks are “primarily responsible for their own success or failure” and that government programs only get in the way. And conservative politicians tend to racialize welfare programs to decrease support for them. To believe that black Americans would have been better off without government intervention, you have to pretend history doesn’t matter.
As Marx notes, people, “The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.” There simply is little mobility for black Americans today because the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow and housing segregation still weighs heavily. A recent study finds that counties with higher concentrations of slave ownership in 1870 had higher levels of poverty and racial inequality in 2000. Further, white people in these counties harbor more racial resentment.
That’s because when slavery permeated society — the legal structure, culture, science — nothing was left untouched by racism and racial hierarchy. The conservative “I built this myself” mentality denies that most wealth is passed from generation to generation, and so is privilege. Erasing the memory of racial hierarchy allows conservatives and Americans to pretend that individual effort, rather than structural racism, is keeping black people down.
So what was slavery really like? Jennifer Hallam writes, “Economic benefit almost always outweighed considerations of family ties for planters, even those who were advocates of long-lasting relationships between slaves.” Rather than being “relatively mild,” slavery relied on brutality and violence, the horrors of which are described in Frances Ellen Watkins Harper’s “Bury Me in a Free Land”:
I could not sleep if I saw the lash
Drinking her blood with each fearful gash,
And I saw her babes torn from her breast,
Like trembling doves from their parent nest.
I’d shudder and start if I heard the bay
Of bloodhounds seizing their human prey,
And I heard the captive plead in vain
As they bound afresh his galling chain.
If I saw young girls from their mother’s arms
Bartered and sold for their youthful charms,
My eye would flash with a mournful flame,
My death-paled cheek grow red with shame.
And, of course, racism and racial hierarchy didn’t end when slavery was formally abolished, but rather continued through local policies, terrorism and violence. This violence was often orchestrated at the highest levels of government. Consider, for example, the FBI’s attempts to discredit MLK or the assassination of Black Panther Fred Hampton.
In his response to Phil Robertson’s sentimentalism about the Jim Crow era last year, Ta-Nehisi Coates cites Freddie Moore:
“The corpse of 16-year-old Freddie Moore, his face showing signs of a severe beating, hands bound, remained hanging for at least 24 hours from a metal girder on the old, hand-cranked swing bridge spanning Bayou Lafourche. Hanged by the neck the night of Oct. 11, 1933, in a mob lynching, the black youth had been accused in the death of a neighbor, a white girl.”
And racial violence didn’t end in the ’30s, but continued until through the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s and, well, two months ago.
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It's sad to even troubling so many don't know and understand this.
It's even more so that so many will not just debate it but deny it all.



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