Since I started my political blog, I do not venture down that road with posts here. However, my good twitter friend Roberta, published an excellent post 3 Reasons Why America is not Racist on her wonderful blog More Thyme Than Dough – a must visit for a selection of amazing recipes, mouth-wateringly good photographs of food and incisive writing. I wanted to make a few comments, but got carried away and wrote far too many words for a comment on her blog. Because the subject is more philosophical and attitudinal than political, I thought you might enjoy it.
Here are my comments, which because of my background, have been influenced by seeing the world and the antics of our species, through a completely different lens to that of most of you, or her readers I would guess. The comments do not have much to do with overcoming adversity, or personal development. They are intended to provoke you, to consider the race issue from a different perspective and think about how considering everything from a different angle can uncover huge opportunities. That can lead to an extraordinary life.
For back ground, as readers of this blog will know, I have suffered more than most from vicious racism which will also have affected my perspective, however that does not entitle me to whine or complain about it, or attempt to blame any race in particular for it. The perpetrators of the violence in my old country happened to be black and African, that does not mean that in my eyes all black people or all Africans are bad. Nor does it mean that all whites are good.
It also makes me realise as a new North American that the majority of black North Americans I have met, read about, heard or seen in the media, have far more in common with white, brown, or green Americans and Canadians than they would with most black people in Africa.
Over 20 years ago, when living in South Africa, a visiting black US politician (a senator I think) after travelling through many independent countries to the North commented how glad he was that his ancestors had been taken to the USA as slaves.
As much as I admire your country’s constitution, the words in the declaration of Independence and the spirit behind its creation, I believe the words “all men are created equal” while correct, are often taken to mean ” all men have an equal right to a similar standard or level of living, achievement, wealth and happiness” not, the same opportunity to seek them, which is the way I understand it was intended.
It is a fact that not all people are created equal in all respects. For example, no amount of training, encouragement, positive thinking or even steroids would ever enable me, a white male of average Caucasian heritage to compete successfully with even a mediocre East African Kenyan or Somalian marathon runner, nor a West African or Jamaican sprinter or long jumper.
I do not have the right genes. In those sports, I am not equal to them and happy to accept it. History and geography, prove that not all races are equal in all respects, some are better than others at certain things, both physically and intellectually. Does that mean that individuals of one race are better human beings than those of other races? Not at all, but let’s accept those differences and not try to hide them.
Who knows, in another 1000 years, through evolution and inter-racial marriage, we might be much closer to one homogenous race with fewer variations in abilities, of any type.
Image courtesy of Viado / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
It is a source of great amazement to me as a former white Southern African – the lost white tribe castigated universally and unfairly (another subject) for “oppressing” indigenous people in our countries – that the victims of racism in North America have, until the recent inclusion of Hispanic immigrants, always been portrayed as black people of African origin.
Very little mention is ever given to the indigenous people of North America who, in respect of lost land area and static population levels, have suffered far more as a result of white immigration than the indigenous people of South Africa and Rhodesia.
Despite their ancestors being involuntary immigrants, black North Americans are every bit as much immigrants or “occupiers” as any other non-native people.
Slavery was and is terrible and barbaric, as Roberta explained in her post, it was not invented by Americans. In earlier times, slavery, like many other practices, including denying women the vote, bear-baiting, bull, cock and dog fighting and other forms of human and animal cruelty were all considered normal. Things that were historically unacceptable, like homosexuality and unmarried pregnancies are now considered acceptable. Yet others like abortion are in a difficult transition stage.
In addition to slavery and child labour, there are still many horrific customary practices in different parts of the world, honour killing of women, female circumcision and dangerous – often with fatal consequences – male circumcision of boys at puberty during tribal rituals. We must hope that through education and enlightenment, they will all soon be ended in the countries in which they are still practised.
Who can guess what currently acceptable practices will be deemed not so in the next hundred years? Eating meat? Religion? Cell phone use? Or currently unacceptable, tolerated? Public breast-feeding, nudity, uni-sex public toilets or restrooms?
I believe that the over sensitivity to perceived racist comments has exacerbated the issue. When an English professional soccer player, can be hauled into court, fined, suspended from playing for a lengthy period and been subjected to hours and acres of media damnation for, in the heat of a game calling a black player a “black ****” (obscenity) something is wrong.
He was not criticised for the use of the obscenity, the other player did not hear the insult until it was pointed out to him on a video recording. He was more severely punished than if he had foul tackled the player and broken his leg.
That was not America or Canada, but there is a similar tip-toeing around reference to a person’s race here too.
Despite the assertions of not being racist, I believe that in general, most humans are loyal to and supportive of, their family, social, community, tribal, cultural, religious or national groups in more or less, that hierarchical order. In some instances and at some levels, that loyalty may include or exclude people from other levels of the hierarchy.
For example, an issue that affects say teachers, may well have teachers from different races and religions acting in concert. An issue at the family level – say a dispute between two neighbours of different races can easily escalate into tensions between the races in the entire neighbourhood.
Recently a good, solid, nice and self-proclaimed liberal person in our area got very upset when offshore migrant workers of a different race started taking a short cut through his property. Far more upset than when local youngsters on motor bikes and ATVs did the same. A case of racial tolerance only being skin deep, or tribal loyalty being stronger than the other levels of the hierarchy. A sense of threat perceived in foreigners even though they may have been less obtrusive and more polite than the locals.
Despite the problems in South Africa, most people had far more serious things to worry about than being called black or white to their faces or behind their backs. At the every day level, it was accepted and we had our differences and were merely stating the obvious. In the different regions, both groups would have slang references for each other which could be used in a derogatory, familiar or even endearing manner depending on the context.
In Zimbabwe, African workers on my farm would refer to a “murungu” the Shona word for white man when telling me about a European as naturally as they would refer to a “muntu” (Shona for man) when talking about a black man. No malice or insult would normally be intended. However during the political chaos of the farm invasions, the political thugs would use the word as an insult.
There were many cases of white employers risking and sometimes losing, their lives to save their black employees from danger one day but (by North American standards) treating them badly the next. Examples of employees of either race going to the assistance of their bosses in danger. Many instances in the police and military of both races going above and beyond the call of duty to save or protect both fellow security force members and civilians of other races.
During the recent terrorist attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, all religious and racial barriers dissolved in the face of tragedy. Media coverage of people of all races helping victims escape, people of all ages and backgrounds queuing to donate blood clearly demonstrate that humans can rise above prejudice and bias when the cause or motivation is strong enough. And most importantly, when that motivation comes from within – not imposed from outside by legislation or biased media influences.
My last comment on the subject concerns the acceptability of freedom of association. Nobody seems to have a problem with organisations restricting their membership to people with certain qualifications, i.e. accountants, hobbies or sports, artistic pursuits. There does not seem to be much concern for national or cultural organisations, Italian clubs, German clubs, British Clubs when the distinction is between different “tribes” of the same race. But the heavens will open and visit condemnation on anyone attempting to form a single gender or single colour organisation. Think of the uproar surrounding the remaining male only golf clubs.
Surely freedom of association should include freedom of exclusion too unless denial of membership constitutes discrimination in a person’s ability to compete on an equal footing, a trade association for example. Or a national sporting championship. Obviously we should not tolerate any organisation preaching persecution of, or promoting violence to, others. Most countries have adequate laws to take action against such groups without having to invoke new “hate” crime laws. Laws which often encourage the media to create victims and criminals for purely sensational purposes.
It’s obvious that America has moved a long way from the days of slavery and racial discrimination, that some laws needed to be changed and new laws introduced to encourage that progress. Perhaps it has gone too far and we are now confusing natural human diversity with real discrimination. Has political correctness hijacked common sense?
It’s time for us to stop using race as either an excuse or a weapon. Roberta’s post is a good step in that direction.
It’s also more important than ever to think critically about everything and not take as fact all that is published in the media, new or old. In this digital age, it is easier than it has ever been to find information from multiple sources and make up our own minds.