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Du 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.
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.
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 CBC wrote an article about the misunderstanding of people who benefit from systemic racism have when it comes to Black Lives Matter versus All Lives Matter.
What Black Lives Matter is:
“Frank Leon Roberts, a professor-lecturer specializing in race and social movements at New York University, says Black Lives Matter is an “anti-violence movement that is attempting to end structural racism in all forms.”
“Police brutality is one form of structural racism but there are other forms that Black Lives Matter is combating as well,” Roberts told CBC News.”
Combating the system that is murdering your people is a historic task. The BLM movement is necessarily a long term movement, the structural change required in society is huge and most likely will require more militant action to see the problem of systemic racism resolved. But let’s just stop here and state for the record the situation in question.
- Systemic racism exists in the United States.
- It is a choice to maintain systemic racism.
- Society can resolve this matter in myriad of ways, but the two poles of the spectrum are peaceful revolution or violent revolution.
- Peaceful revolution *should* be the preferred method of eliminating systemic racism.
- The path that is ultimately followed will be the result of the dominant class in society making a choice, or being forced to make a choice, as JFK well understood, see his quote below.
“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” -John F. Kennedy
C. It behooves us (the dominant class), to fundamentally re-imagine society so it more closely resembles this (from the Declaration of Independence):
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”
(A side note here, “men” should not be construed as the default for everyone. Women’s struggle to be recognized as fully human goes farther back the Declaration and necessarily that struggle (sadly) continues to this day)
So maybe let’s err on the side of preserving human life and take the less violent option, just for once? The race issue in the US is not going to go away, this isn’t another #occupy, as this is so much larger and so so much more history behind it. Oh certainly this instance of BLM might simmer down a bit, but the on going injustice coupled with the immediacy of social networking will keep the boil going.
I think it would be wise if the representatives of he status quo decided to take the non-violent path, because soon that choice will become unavailable, and then only the more chaotic option will be all that remains (which will be bad for everybody).
Let’s take a peek at the what the other side is saying:
“But there are many who do not see eye to eye with the message Black Lives Matter is attempting to send because they believe all lives are important, and specific groups should not be singled out.
“It appears many “all lives matter” supporters feel that “Black Lives Matter” is not about equality, but rather focusing on the oppression experienced by only one group.”
Well duh? BLM is about the fact that being Black in the US is an oppressive experience. Would the converse statement make things any more clear? #WhiteLivesMatterMore? Don’t look at foreign policy if you’re about to disagree with #WLMM, the uncounted coloured dead in Iraq (Afghanistan, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Vietnam, Syria, Mexico, India, Philippines… et cetera) have millions of arguments to make against you…
“Recently, Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, went as far as to say that “Black Lives Matter” is “racist” during an appearance on Fox and Friends.
“It’s inherently racist because, number one, it divides us. All lives matter,” he said.”
Nothing more racist that overlooking the fact that a racial divide exists. :/ But here we go again, with the notion that somehow the playing field is the same for everyone and everyone has the same chances and opportunities in society. The answer according to the status quo is more ‘equality'(?). Unfortunately, ‘more equality equals ephemeral/meaningless ‘change’ to the status quo to make things look more equal, while in fact, maintaining the superstructure that is responsible for the racial oppression in the first place (we can lump a large part of liberal feminism into this grouping as well). So let’s dispense with the neo-liberal platitudes and realize:
- The playing field is not even.
- The opportunities are not the same.
- Treatment within the society is not the same.
- Outcomes in society are not the same.
Without addressing the root causes of institutional racism, nothing will change. (For a great example of please see the second wave of feminism, as they named the problem, and tackled some of the institutions responsible for their oppression) Let’s slip over to Deep Green Resistance for their take on the problem –
“Justice is not won by rational argument, by personal transformation, or by spiritual epiphany. It’s won by taking power away from the powerful and then dismantling their institutions.”
Hmm… sounds like a painful process. It all depends on how fiercely the dominant class latches onto the superstructure that benefits and supports them; maybe some enlightened self interest might take hold and change that doesn’t come from the barrel of gun will be possible. I doubt it, but it could happen.
Oh, and some gems from the comment section of the CBC article, ranging from light banality to vapid boorish ignorance :
-I think it just comes down to poor branding. Black Lives Matter might be better served by say End Racial Violence, or Black Injustice, or less vague and self-evident to anyone with an open mind. The issue isnt that black lives don’t matter, and no one who isn’t a racist thinks they don’t so maybe the movement should have a more focused name based on their stated goals.
[Because changing the name will make all the difference. Racists be like, “Oh snap! They are *just* trying to end Racial Violence – we’re totally on board with that!.“]
-“Black Lives Matter” doesn’t do anything to prevent racists from joining their group, and their group has racist overtones in their messages, focusing only on blacks when many blacks have already openly called “Black Lives Matter” an Anti-Police hate group.
[Binky has the fun idea that oppressed people can be racist. Sorry Binky, it doesn’t work that way. Racism has the institutional power of society behind the racist actions in question. Most certainly, oppressed groups can discriminate, but not be racist – especially toward their oppressors as they hold no institutional power in society.]
-Black Lives matter creates further division, especially with it’s members and supporters condemnation of saying All lives matter. Inclusive thinking rather than exclusive is required – All Lives Matter is inclusive and is something to strive for.
[Inclusion in this instance is just another way of obfuscating the fact that black people in America face more obstacles that white people do. In every facet of their lives’ because of the colour of their skin, they are treated differently. This has to change, and focusing on this difference is completely justified in pursuing their goals of a more equal society.]
-The problem is BLM aren’t selective in their support for black people who come to a bad end in encounters with the police. They even support the ones who have guns, a rap sheet five miles long and who had intent to kill cops. If you are going to support people who don’t deserve that support then your movement will be seen as a mockery.
[Ah, well perhaps we can use the tried and true ‘a few bad apples’ apolgia to wave this one away. Funny how it tends not to work when you happen not to be white, rich, and male.]
In the context of American society one of the deciding factors of how much your life is worth is determined by the colour of your skin. Here in Canada a similar skin tone gradient applies as being First Nations in Canada gets you the special police attention you don’t deserve. Bonus features of being in First Nations in Canada include (but are not limited to), poverty, limited access to potable water, and an hostile educational system. Make no mistake, we have much to do in Canada to address the needs of our people. We have a Canadian Highway of Tears that sullies our escutcheon and is indicative of the racism that still permeates our society.
The inherent racism present in Canada pales before the horrendous shitshow that is running south of the border. Racial divisions and discrimination represent a clear and present danger to fabric of the civil society of the United States (necessarily so). The scale of protests against the racial violence of the white establishment is increasing – fuelled by social media that circumvents mainstream media and offers a small gory window into the lives of black people who are being murdered by the security apparatus of the state.
I cannot imagine the horror of witnessing your partner being shot to death in your car, having to be polite to the individual that just inflicted moral wounds on our loved one while having your child witness the entire blood spattered episode from the backseat.
Violence breeds violence.
The unidirectional nature of the violence was reversed as an individual who proclaimed his hatred for white police, killed five white police officers in Dallas. The shooter was a reservist and had seen a tour of duty in Afghanistan. Lives are being lost because we have tied how much humanity you’re allotted to the colour of your skin.
Madness. It is sheer madness that we have allowed our societies to be shaped by racism and that the status quo is in fact racist. Is this series of murders in the US the tipping point? It certainly seems like people have had enough and are willing to entertain a large spectrum means to achieve their ends. It should be (like the constant stream of black people being murdered by police hasn’t been) a wake up call to the American congress and its legislative position on systemic racism and gun control. Henry Giroux paints a darker picture when he says:
“In the increasingly violent landscape of anti-politics, mediation disappears, dissent is squelched, repression operates with impunity, the ethical imagination withers, and the power of representation is on the side of spectacularized state violence. Violence both at the level of the state and in the hands of everyday citizens has become a substitute for genuine forms of agency, citizenship, and mutually informed dialogue and community interaction.”
The response of the law makers will tell the tale though, because the disconnect between public opinion and public representatives is being brought into stark relief. Congress has been mostly bought and paid for – but they have to at least look like they are serving the needs of the public on occasion, will the murder of five police officers stir the sycophants into action? I really don’t know, because getting reelected seems to override important qualities of being a decent human being. Qualities like empathy, compassion, and morality seem strangely missing when it comes to societal issues that threaten idea of moving toward a just society.
The cynical side of me contemplates this question: Would the US have gun control if members of Congress were similarly subjected to the murder/assassination program the rest of America is being subject to?
Racism isn’t that easy to define. There are two competing meanings and the new, more specific one, is quite controversial once examined.
The Pedagogy of the Meaning of Racism: Reconciling a Discordant Discourse Carlos Hoyt Jr.
“We do our students (white and not white) a disservice by indoctrinating them into a belief system that charges white people with being de facto racists (by virtue of being the beneﬁciaries of historic and present institutional race-based oppression) while providing an exemption to black people from being held accountable for racist beliefs (racism) or practices (race-based oppression). One of our basic charges as social workers is to afﬁrm that discrimination and oppression based on the accident of one’s condition (whether the condition is one’s appearance (lookism), physical ability (ableism), sex (sexism), sexual orientation (heterosexism), place of origin (xenophobia/ethnocentrism), or socioeconomic status (classism) are patently and intolerably unjust.
In deﬁning and describing the types of social bias and injustice we confront and aim to dispel, we are obliged to observe nuance when it is relevant to a thorough understanding of a phenomenon under consideration. The minute that one human being is treated unequally by another, without legitimate basis for the unequal treatment, there is injustice, but until the motivation for that unjust treatment is determined to be a belief in the superiority or inferiority of races, the mistreatment cannot reasonably be labeled as racist.
There are, unfortunately, many factors that can derail reason and lead to irrational unjust behavior (personal enmity, fear of the unfamiliar, the perception of threat, social conditioning, any of the isms listed earlier). When the ﬂaw is a belief in race as a legitimate reason to discriminate, it is racism. When racism is enacted to subjugate or disenfranchise others, it is oppression; when the source of the power is systemic, structural, or institutional, it is race-based institutional oppression.”
I highly recommend reading the paper in its entirety as Hoyt Jr lays out the arguments for the redefinition versus the original meaning of racism.