Over the past two days, I have been embroiled in a verbal argument about racism. These are actual responses from real people, including myself. The last names of the respondents have been purposefully removed. The following is but a microcosm of race and race relations in America today, but obviously, these people and their beliefs are multiplied many times over across America today.
Sometimes the best way to expose a specific problem is to show the dynamic in action. The following dialogue is lengthy but is the exact exchange, minus citations given by Nancy, actually occurred between a black female American and a white female American. Please note that there are responses from two males on the issue.
Awareness of and understanding other cultures is integral in developing good social relationships. A person would think that the U.S., having so many different cultural groups, would be immune to racial fear mongering. Sadly, it just isn't so. Because of the political agenda of the administration, local incidents are blown out of proportion in the national, corporate owned media.
Education is not the answer when the administration effectively controls the curriculum. Even the churches are controlled by various tax relief laws and can no longer be a check on the administration's agenda of dividing the nation.
Americans need to wake up and see how they are being misdirected and misinformed. The two party political system is a dog and pony show for keeping the masses entertained while sustaining a fundamental division in values and perspective.
America must unite again as one people and refuse to be manipulated by the governing elite. The government is supposed to serve the public, not the other way around.
When has America ever been united as one people? You mean Americans need to be united as one people for the first time, forgiving the transgressions of the past by every demographic.
There are times that the people of our nation have united the last union was because of 9/11. Forgiveness of past transgressions cannot occur until a wrong has been acknowledged. Denying that there are problems only increases below the surface tensions. Think of all the transgressions that were and are being exercised and denied against Native Americans. If in fact there is truth in "what goes around comes around" our nation and its inhabitants have many future transgressions to come.
While I find all of the comments here to be salient points, my point of view, sure to be slammed, is:
We have become a nation of apologists. Apologies are issued so much now in the press and at press conferences, they've become meaningless. Just today, I read a quote in the newspaper that struck me as ludicrous.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey was asked of the involvement of military members in the scandal down in Colombia. His response? "I can speak for myself and my fellow chiefs: We're embarrassed by what occurred in Colombia, though we're not sure exactly what it is," Dempsey added. (
Really? You don't know WHY you're sorry, you just know you're sorry. Way to get in front of it, everyone!
Also, if an apology is demanded, does it really have any meaning when given? I would rather have an apology coming from the heart and conscience of the giver than one demanded by me or another person.
Sometimes, being the bigger person is accepting the contriteness of the offender and accepting they are changing, in spite of the fact they've not acknowledged or "owned up" to what they've done. Even in confession, God doesn't demand the "what" of the sin, just the acknowledgement of the sin and a feeling of remorse. Forgiveness comes from "Don't do that again" and learning from the transgression. With regard to Native Americans - I'd say we've sure come a long way since the days of cowboys and indians, wouldn't you?
The person against whom the "sin" has been committed has the ability to allow the rest of us to move forward from the act so that all might grow, rather than stagnating at the point of transgression. Planting a seed isn't all that's required to make it grow. The growth must be encouraged, not trampled
Unfortunately, I do not think our country has "come a long way since the days of cowboys and Indians." All American Indians do not own gambling casinos with high-income yields. I can only assume that you were referring to that change in how Native Americans are being treated? There are some excellent, well-researched documentaries on PBS that outline how far too many Native Americans live, even today.
You stopped short of stating that many apologies today are demanded, even when truth or spoken or written. Our political discourse has become so mean and divisive, I wonder if our country will survive. Once upon a time, far too long ago, many Americans believed in "United We Stand, Divided We Fall." Clearly the lines of division widen daily and the voices of reason are shouted down.
You really don't see an advance in this country and its attitude towards Natives, et al? I'm sorry to be so blunt but... What rock have you been hiding under?
That you use the example of casinos tells me you're not looking at things from an objective point of view. The casinos are not a "gift" from the white man to the reservations but something they opt to build on their own.
As far as the advancement of Natives (and this is actually what people of this race prefer to be called, having lived amongst them for the last nearly 10 years. In fact, they laugh about the PC crowd calling them "American Indians", at least here in Arizona) in this country and their treatment, um... Let's take a look, shall we?
An obvious one is Elizabeth Tall Chief - wouldn't have been accepted in a dance troupe as renown as the one she spent pretty much her entire adult life in 50 years previous.
Will Rogers - not too many people know he's a Native but he is - he is a member of one of the founding Native families of Oklahoma. I don't think this one needs any explanation.
Jim Thorpe - much loved inside the res, much loved outside the res. Often referred to as "The World's Greatest Athlete."
Ira Hayes - this is one kids learn about here in Arizona - you'll have to look him up because there's too much to put here. Suffice it to say, by the end of his military service he was heavily decorated and no one cared he was Native.
Charles Curtis - VP to Herbert Hoover from 1929 to 1933
Ben Nighthorse Campbell - former congressman and senator from Colorado, beginning in 1987 through 2005, when he retired.
Here's a site that lists Native celebrities - so many to list, so little time - http://www.nativecelebs.com/
I could go on and on with the main point being - were ANY of these people born just 25 to 50 years earlier, they would have been prevented from achieving simply because they were Native.
How can anyone with a rational mind believe as you believe that nothing, absolutely nothing, has changed since the 1800's. *Shaking my head in disbelief*
And your being PC doesn't sway me from believing a forced apology is garbage. Sometimes, you just have to accept the fallacies of more than 100 years ago and move on. You're stagnating in the name of righteousness.
Perhaps you should visit the reservations in the NE. I believe even in Arizona that the amount of "problems" on Indian reservations is appalling; to name a few, extreme poverty, alcoholism, rape, etc. Although you may consider me to be PC, your observation is further from the truth. I have Native American ancestors on both sides of
my family, Cherokee and Black Foot Indian.
You finish by being insulting. You are an example of why people cannot/do not have a dialogue about anything in this country. You are unnecessarily nasty ..."how can anyone with a rational mind..." just informative and so classically white American. You take a list of the few, to prop up your argument that Native Americans have achieved so very much in our society.
When our government, and I mean Our government, honor the Treaties made by our
government to Native Americans, until young Native Americans enter college with numbers greater than 1 % of the admitted student population, until Native Americans are recognized an an integral part of our country, then no, I don't think much has been accomplished despite the fact that you assume I have been living under a rock.
"...so classically white American"
And THERE is the first racist remark. YOU made it about race while I made it about facts. Who's the racist in this? Doesn't look like it's me. Just a tip - don't defend your bad attitude over racism if you're going to be a racist yourself.
And I HAVE been to the NE where there is a thriving Hopi/Navajo community. The tourism there is fantastic!
To be fair, some of the Natives who go to school with my son are from those reservations because the opportunities are greater down here than up there. However, they return to their communities, following getting an education, to help better them as doctors, lawyers and teachers.
And it's not a list of few - I gave a list of A few. There are many, many more. And I, too, have Native blood in my genealogy - you're not the Lone Ranger on that one. My genealogy includes Shawnee, Delaware and Creek. My GG Grandmother was a full-blooded Creek Indian out of West Virginia.
You profess to have Native blood in your ancestry yet you seem to know so precious little about them as either a whole or as individual tribes. Would you like me to recommend a reading list for you so your defense of them is stronger? Getting your info from a few documentaries and television shows is too linear. That's tantamount to using Wikipedia as a source for your college papers.
No dear...I don't need you to recommend anything to me. It seems that you feel you have a corner on knowledge, life experience, et al. I'm willing to admit that at my advanced age, I still have a lot to learn. But I also do not insult as you feel so comfortable doing..."...using Wikipedia as a source for your college papers." Funny how insults have a way of showing exactly how people really apprehend their position and importance in the world while negating anyone who doesn't embrace their thoughts. Because I am far older than you, I had the honor of sitting on my great grandfather's knee, the Black Foot Indian. He was a staunch Republican, a Methodist and a Mason way back in the day long before the freedom rides. You are quick to impugn and I wonder just how much your life exposure had made you more open to the experiences of others? From your responses, and by the way, if by identifying how you flagrantly responded as if you are the purveyor of all knowledge about Native American experiences in this country, is racist, then so be it. Although your experiences are very different from mine on the subject, somehow you feel completely comfortable stating that I am uneducated, misinformed, even stupid. And by the way, I am surrounded by very educated young people on a regular basis and many use Wiki in their research and their studies. You walk through life with a closed mind and heart and wonder why people of different experiences find it difficult to communicate with you. You experience is not the only one that exists. Funny, I would have thought you might have earned that by now. In ending this very fruitless back and forth, I wish you peace!
And thanks so much for completely ignoring your earlier racist comment. It's good to know, while quick to throw at someone else your belief THEY are racist, you can be so blind to your own.
And many years older than I. Nope - sorry. Unless you're in your 90's, many years if hyperbole.
If ignorance is bliss, you must be very happy up there in your ivory tower, filled with the righteousness of the politically correct.
I think we're done here and I believe you've helped me prove my point. Here's wishing you a wonderful life filled with much success and happiness.
Wow, what an exchange. See what you've done, Corey?
I think Allene and Nancy have each made some important contributions to the discussion of racism in the U.S. although some of the points are enhanced by emotions, like Nancy's position that things have improved greatly for Native people.
While there have been many advances; laws have changed making hate speech and behavior actionable in court; programs have been created making higher education available to those typically of lesser means and more. The success of a community or two does not mean the majority is doing better, and I think life for Native Americans is finally getting better, but it's a slow crawl.
The most recent census information made available seems to indicate that so-called minority populations are on the rise and in another generation the so-called white majority will become the newest minority in the ranks of the world's minorities.
The reason the whites have been of majority status for so long is because whites have murdered and spoiled the communities of virtually all others, with the exception of a few.
Not long after President Obama became president I was taking pictures of salmon run near Napa California for a local newspaper when I came across a white couple from Arkansas and their child. We began talking, mostly because my father's family is from Arkansas, and they were extremely racist. I asked them if race has become less an issue in Arkansas and the insisted racism had gotten worse.
I recently purchased three books about life in Afghanistan in an attempt to better understand the people of that nation and how they relate to the rest of the world. All were written by women. One author was a local writer who wrote an "authorized" perspective that put the president in a so-called good light. A second writer was a British reporter who lived among the Afghan people for several years. Her book tended to cast the people in a respectable light but who could only do so much against their extremist countrymen, they could only support their president and hope for the best.
The third woman was greatly more outspoken, calling all other accounts of life in that long-embattled nation packs of lies, untruthful and just wrong. I mention these because I think it helps see that how we humans perceive the reality of racism in any part of the world is eminently qualified by our perspectives. My father’s ancestors paid their way to the U.S. from Wales to Virginia by serving as "Indian fighters". Really. They were among those who drove the Choctaw from their homelands Arkansas, where my ancestors “settled”. I don't have any guilt about that as their descendant, so don't ask. For a long time I loathed Native American pow-wow events, thinking they lessened the character of Native peoples. Who was I to say the Native Americans were demeaning themselves?
I’ve learned, as one who has not had to suffer economically, psychologically, spiritually and socially from the acts of my ancestors and a nationally racist government bent on the genocide of natives or the enslavement of others, I cannot possibly say that things have gotten better. Not really, that's why I rely on the perspective of Native peoples, black, red, brown or yellow. When they tell me things have gotten better I will believe it. The victor has not had to live on the spoils of their aggression.
“Change does not trickle down,” said President Obama recently, “it grows from the bottom up.” He was talking about economic change at the time, but the same applies to racial attitudes.
America has become a nation of apologists, and while Nancy indicates she thinks that's too bad, being apologetic is an essential part of making things better, and forces us to consider the point of view of others. I don't apologize for the actions of my ancestors, but I cannot condone their ideals going forward and I can work on becoming a partner to all people.
John, you write beautifully and wish others would approach the obvious divisions in our nation as you have and do. I do not want anyone to carry the guilt of their ancestors, being raised Catholic and attending Catholic schools until college has forever marked my being with the concept of guilt. In a perfect world, everyone would have equal opportunities. And as racism has negatively impacted minorities, poor whites have been marginalized and are practically invisible in our society. If only we could find a way to stop seeing and perceiving someone a bit different as "the other"?
Allene - this is a comment with which I can agree.
I've never raised my kids to see the color of a person on the outside but whom they are on the inside. Until we moved to Arizona, this served us well. Once we got here, one of our kids was so bullied for being white it resulted in his being stabbed by a fellow student and the administration did nothing lest they upset the Latino community here.
But, Allene, as enlightened as you profess to be - I still can't forget it was you who said, "...so classically white American". I have a hard time hearing anything you say because of the cloud of racism you introduced to the conversation. Ending racism starts with the individual and for so long as people make comments like "...so classically white American", so will racism propagate. Statements such as those only serve to enforce the separation.
And Brian - I agree a great deal with much of what you say. However, I didn't say we SHOULDN'T apologize, I just feel it's been overused and not sincerely. Much like the "apology" issued from the General, people are apologizing left, right and center and they don't even know why; they're just doing it to assuage the situation.
I would much rather have an apology that comes from the conscience of the person giving it then to have someone say, "I'm sorry for whatever it is I did..." or "I'm sorry you feel that way." This is, most likely, the chip on my shoulder but, all I can think when I hear apologies such as this is, "Oh, so you're not sorry you did __________, you're just sorry you either got caught or that I feel the way I feel."
However, I feel strongly we could ALL learn from Morgan Freeman. In being interviewed by Mike Wallace in 2005 the following exchange took place:
MIKE WALLACE, CBS`s "60 MINUTES": Black History Month, you find...
MORGAN FREEMAN, ACTOR: Ridiculous.
FREEMAN: You`re going to relegate my history to a month?
WALLACE: Come on.
FREEMAN: What do you do with yours? Which month is White History Month? Come on, tell me.
WALLACE: I`m Jewish.
FREEMAN: OK. Which month is Jewish History Month?
WALLACE: There isn`t one.
FREEMAN: Why not? Do you want one?
WALLACE: No, no.
FREEMAN: I don`t either. I don`t want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.
WALLACE: How are we going to get rid of racism until...?
FREEMAN: Stop talking about it. I`m going to stop calling you a white man. And I`m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man. I know you as Mike Wallace. You know me as Morgan Freeman. You`re not going to say, "I know this white guy named Mike Wallace." Hear what I`m saying?
I couldn't agree more. When it stops being about color, it can be about people.
you attacked me...."ivory tower, Wikipedia research..." and this type of willful diminishment of my person as a person of color is very common for those who are comfortable demeaning the experience of minorities. You decided that my exposure to certain aspects of Native Americans was flawed. You decided that my experience/exposure was not valuable or meaningful. Attack rhetoric does not open avenues for people to dialogue. And yes, because you didn't see it when I said "then call me a racist" as a black American, I will tell you when you are addressing me as if I am not intelligent, that my experience is not valid, that I am somehow lacking against your obvious entitlement to judge what is right and wrong and whether my experience is valid.
Not that it makes a tinker's damn, I have been married to a white guy for almost 50 years and it took him a very long time to understand what the totality of my experience as a black American is and has been since I first took a breathe, and now our children, live everyday.
So Nancy, despite the fact that you claim to have raised your kids not to see color differences, I and many more like me, live that experience every day!
And that you rationalize your racism and bad behavior tells me so much more about your character than anything else could. Until you accept responsibility for what you said, until you recognize the thoughts behind it, until you are TRULY contrite for your racism and work to change that part of you, you will continue to stagnate and be completely ineffective in making tangible change in your world.
I truly don't even hear or read anything more you have to say since you brought your brand of racism into the mix. Racists, and anything they have to say, are irrelevant to me and they become noise in the background.
Wow!...Perhaps if you admitted and recognized your own racist predilection, then maybe you would have the right to pillory me. Since you are the self-appointed queen of outing racists, I wish you a ton of luck with that! I can rest easy that our world has rational people like John. You are so riddled with hatred you can't even recognize your shortcomings.
I'm sorry - all I hear is (much like the teachers and parents from Charlie Brown's show) - Whah, whah, whah, whah..." It's all white noise. I already told you, I can't hear racists such as yourself.
And that's the point..."you can't/won't hear me." I'm not credible because you have deemed that I am a racist. You are obviously more interested in "profiling" rather than open to dialogue with someone from a differing opinion. That's life Nancy! That's why little old white ladies still grab their purses when I pass their carts and purses in the grocery store. And I have a ton of white hair...meaning, I'm way too old to snatch, grab and run.
BTW...I'm done trying to reason with you and dialogue with you like you are a functioning adult. You are unreasonable and only interested in trying to push your agenda.."you're (meaning me) a racist and until you admit it, you're not worth taking to" is so established control mentality. To suggest that I be "Contrite" is laughable. Just who appointed you judge and jury? And therein lies something you will never address; you feel entitled to dictate to me. And why is that? Hmmm...let me think?
I apologize to Brian. I am certain that this back and forth between Nancy and I, is not what you were trying to advance. John, you are the clear, sane voice in the wilderness. To the other readers/commenters, I do apologize for wasting your time, that is, if you took the time to read the comments between Nancy and I.
Goodbye Nancy...You live in a truly horrifying place.... your mind!