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    The election of the Republican candidate Donald Trump has really screwed the American society up.   The 45th POTUS whose actions and policies that can only be described as ignorant ineptitude has brought the United States to the brink of a major societal schism between a substantial group of alienated, antediluvian, racist white nationalists and those who believe in a heterogeneous, pluralistic society.

Anyone remotely familiar with the workings of American society knows that race and racism play a major role in shaping how cultural and social decisions are made.   What has been, until recently, described as the undercurrent of systemic racism in the US now dominates the front pages of the various US media conglomerates.

Demonstrations and counter-demonstrations, along with the associated violence, are cropping up from coast to coast in the US.  The racism that had been just below the surface in US society has arisen to dominate the news cycle and has taken hold  in the American societal consciousness.   This resurgence of this overtly racist behaviour stems directly from the current republican administration’s seemingly tacit endorsement of white nationalism/white supremacist attitudes and opinions.  This support/lack of censure from the White House has emboldened the once submerged racist elements in US society to once again walk in the sunlight and publicly make their point of view known.

That people somehow believe that the colour of their skin makes them special somehow in this day and age is quite beyond me, yet the racism that informs the current white supremacist movement is the very same racism that has been woven into the fabric of our societies.  The current turmoil in the US is a testament to the lack of effective measures against the systemic racism in society.  Oh, one most certainly acknowledge that there are laws now and many a policy that are meant to address racism and, of course, are moves in the right direction.   But, marginal moves in the right direction are not enough.  Not addressing the root causes of the racism that infects US (and Canadian) society will only ensure continued conflict over the issue of race in society.

The solutions for tackling racism in society are quite beyond the scope of a short essay, but I do want to offer one insight that might help in tackling the racism problem our societies face.  What I’d like to highlight is the divide and conquer strategy that has been used by the elites in society from pretty much time immemorial till the present to keep the poor classes fighting amongst themselves.  Poor whites and poor blacks inhabit the same economic class, yet the poor whites in the US have been given structural societal benefits to ever so slightly improve their lot in life, and of course with their ‘improved’ lot they have also been given a scapegoat/bogeyman  (the poor black population) to blame for their problems and to be afraid of.

Thus, the poor fight themselves, and not the actual root of the problem – the rich elites who have crafted this inherently unequal society – so the system that feeds and encourages structural racism can continue unabated while the ‘poors’ cut their own throats for the scraps that the wealthy leave behind (and of course the boons of society continue to go to the ‘correct’ classes).

Of course we must continue to confront and fight the current racism that has raised its ugly head in society, but I think we should also be looking for the root causes of these divisions, such as the elite’s divide and conquer strategy, and address those issues as well.

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Time to Revisit Mr.Wise on the problem of race in the United States.

webduboisDu Bois has a talent for using his prose to sift directly to the root of the problem, and then offer an equally elegant solution. The problem of race in America continues to this day, but Du Bois has already blazed the trail toward a possible just solution – in one paragraph.

“Again we must decry the colour prejudice of the South, yet it remains a heavy fact.  Such curious kinks of the human mind exist and must be reckoned with soberly.  They cannot be laughed away, nor always successfully stormed at, nor easily abolished by act of legislature  And yet they must not be encouraged by being let alone.  They must be recognized as facts, but unpleasant facts; things that stand in the way of civilization and religion and common decency.  They can be met in but one way, – by the breadth and broadening of human reason, by catholicity of taste and culture.  And so, too, the native ambition and aspiration of men, even thought they be black, backward, and ungraceful, must not be lightly dealt with.  To stimulate wildly weak and untrained minds is to play with mighty fires; to flout their striving idly is to welcome a harvest of brutish crime and shameless lethargy in our very laps.  The guiding of thought and the deft coordination of deed is at once the path of honour and humanity. “

-W.E.B. Du Bois.  The Souls of Black Folk.  pp.56-57

The story from the other side, to feel what others feel and appreciate and understand what their experience is like is the first step in resolving the injustices that mar our history and continue to sicken our experiences as we move forward.

  “I remember well when the shadow crept across me.

  I was a little thing, away up in the hills of New England, where the dark Housatonic winds between Hoosac and Taghkanic to the sea.  In a wee wooden schoolhouse, something put it into the boys’ and girls’ heads to buy gorgeous visiting-cards – ten cents a package – and exchange.  The exchange was merry, till one girl, a tall newcomer, refused my card, – refused it peremptorily, with a glance. 

  webdubois Then it dawned upon me with a certain suddenness that I was different from the others; or like, mayhap, in heart and life and longing, but shut out from their world by a vast veil.  I had thereafter no desire to tear down that veil, to creep through; I held all beyond it in common contempt, and live above it in a region of blue sky and great wandering shadows.

   That sky was bluest when I could beat my mates at examination time, or beat them at a foot-race, or even beat their stingy heads.  Alas, with years all this fine contempt began to fade; for the worlds I longed for, and all their dazzling opportunities, were theirs, not mine.  But they should not keep these prizes, I said; some, all, I would wrest from them.

   Just how I would do it I could never decide: by reading law, by healing the sick, by telling the wonderful tales that swam in my head, – someway.  With other black boys the strife was not so fiercely sunny: their youth shrunk into tasteless sycophancy, or into silent hatred of the pale world about them and mocking distrust of everything white; or wasted itself in a bitter cry, Why did God make me an outcast and a stranger in mine own house?  The shades of the prison-house closed round about us all:  walls strait and stubborn to the whitest, but relentlessly narrow, tall, and unscalable to sons of night who must plod darkly on in resignation, or beat unavailing palms against the stone, or steadily, half hopelessly watch the streak of blue above. 

   After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with a second-sight in this American world, – a world which yields him no true self consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world.  It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this send of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of the world that looks on in contempt and pity. 

    One ever feels his two-ness, – an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; to warring ideals in one dark body, who dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.” 

– The Souls of Black Folk.  W.E.B. Du Bois  p.2

     Women share this double-consciousness, with different actors, but the results are the same.

poorwhites  The game plan is the same, whether it be poverty of racism or the poverty of patriarchy.  Poor whites were given just a smidgen more social and economic power that the poor blacks in the USA – enough to make the us vs. them categorization viable.  The will of the oppressor is carried forth on the backs of those he oppresses, whether it be the handmaidens of patriarchy or the poor white people, historically speaking.

“The system of patriarchy can function only with the cooperation of women. This cooperation is secured by a variety of means: gender indoctrination, educational deprivation; the denial to women of knowledge of their history; the dividing of women, one from the other, by defining “respectability” and “deviance” according to women’s sexual activities; by restraints and outright coercion; by discrimination in access to economic resources and political power; and by awarding class privileges to conforming women.”

-The Creation of Patriarchy by Gerda Lerner
                                                                                                                                            — Stephen Jay Gould, The Panda’s Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History.

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