Typically on this blog, I like to talk about ways that we can make our world a better place. I talk about changing our culture largely challenging the information taught through advertising, news programming, and public school. I try to emphasize that by trading out our assumed beliefs, we can educate ourselves into a new personal human experience that reflects our core values.
Well, today is no different.
I feel the need to address an attitude I saw last week on Facebook. I know Facebook is not a great place to go for a balanced perspective. Yet, I still found myself feeling hot under the collar due when I saw a picture that had the words: How come: Black Pride = ok
Mexican Pride = ok
Asian Pride = ok
Muslim Pride = ok
White Pride = Racist
Honestly, I am not proud to be white. In fact, I can't be proud of being white because most of the time when I think "White", I think Imperialism. "White" to me brings to mind British empire building--which generally meant the capture, enslavement, or killing off of the native peoples. I am not proud of that.
Now that perspective of white is pretty far removed from my personal experience of being white. I am proud of my Norwegian heritage and my Slovak heritage. I don't believe my ancestors were the viking type. Well... I hope not. From what I know they were farmers. But what I actually know about my heritage is how my family worked to make their way in this country after coming as immigrants. I know my family have been people who put importance on their families, their faith, and living honestly. On one side people were teachers, farmers, and more recently sales and retail people. The other side supported their families as steel workers and railroad workers. I can be proud of those ethics, the struggles, their work, and learning English. But none of that makes me feel "white pride". In fact, I can think of no single unifying event or perspective that unites me with all "white/European people".
African Americans, on the other hand, come from a common treatment that affected a significant majority of them. They came from different countries (tribes) within the continent of Africa, but lost that identity and were forced to become brothers and sisters as they were all treated the same--and divided from their families. All of them had to come from extreme poverty. All of them had to rise above the challenges of being segregated and being treated as different from "normal" humans. (It makes me sick just writing that...) And so you end up with a vast community of people who've had to make their personal decisions to 1. join the mainstream culture that treats them as "less than" human and try to blend in with that culture. 2. Give into the identity that they've been trained to believe they are supposed to be or 3. Rebel against both of those expectations and create their own culture with their own unique set of values. Now, this wasn't a choice provided simply provided to the people living at the end of 1865. Each generation of people deals with that choice of joining the culture, fighting the culture, or ignoring the culture and doing your own thing. Each generation is influenced by the experience through their own family. So imagine if grandma is kidnapped and lynched. That has an effect on your family. Imagine your children killed. That has an impact on your family. Imagine every day you are told by someone that you are less than human. Who do you choose to be then? Progressive? Rebellious? Forgiving? Resentful? Trusting? Skeptical? Joyful? Bitter? Each person has to make the choice. That choice is based on your daily experience--which is colored by the perspective of the family who raised you--which has a history of ups and downs, failures and successes. But for African Americans they have one thing in common: They survived. The people who are still here have SURVIVED.
Does it make sense why there is a sense of pride? That's an accomplishment. They continue to live. How has their family overcome the oppression? And how far have they come with each generation? For each family it's different based on location, access to education and employment, and personal treatment. I've met African Americans who are prejudiced against African Immigrants who've come to America after Slavery. It's a shame. But see, it's not about skin color. It's about a common experience. Imagine if you tried to say that you understand the plight of those who survived the Nazi Concentration camps, even though no one in your family went through the camps and you have no personal stories that affect your family.
How could you know? You can read all of the stories. Many have been written. It won't help you "know" what it's like. But it can help you empathize where they are coming from. Why do I have my perspective on African Americans? Because I've read:
Zora Neale Hurston Langston Hughes* Maya Angelou Charles Chesnutt Countee Cullen Harriet Tubman Ralph Waldo Ellison* Richard Wright* Sojourner Truth* August Wilson WEB DuBois* Fredrick Douglas* James Baldwin Amiri Baraka James Weldon Johnson Marcus Garvey Booker T. Washington Martin Luther King Jr.* When we label the above authors and activists as "Black", do we dismiss their writing and work as "good enough" to be considered human in spite of their blackness? Or do we lump them in with the guy who was just rude to us on the bus? Or a group of people rioting? Now what about the below white Authors. Do they have much credibility? Are their experiences and perspectives worth more? John Steinbeck Laura Ingalls Wilder* Ralph Waldo Emerson Lois Lowry* F. Scott Fitzgerald Jack London Harper Lee Edgar Alan Poe* Henry David Thoreau Emily Dickinson Helen Keller Mark Twain* Walt Whitman Ayn Rand* Ernest Hemingway* Or would you lump these people in with the woman who cut you off in traffic? Or the KKK, alt right, skin heads and neo-Nazis? When we start looking at the individual contributions of individual people to the society we live, you can see individual acts of Hate, Love, Kindness, Apathy, Blaming, Shaming, Killing, Insulting, Laughter, Inspiration, and Hope. When we start looking at vast groups (whites, blacks, women, men, Christians, Muslims, Atheists, Immigrants (lumping both legal and illegal), or sexually identified) and attributing any of those acts to the... entire group... Just stop and think for a minute.... How can we do that? The idea of "White Pride" (from my personal experience) is completely made up and used--at least, in earnest--only by hate groups. There is no signifying unilateral event that unites people of so many different European nations in their experience in America. The purpose of this argument is not to get you to support "Black Pride". The point is to help you understand a potential reason for it (whether or not each individual has black pride for the reasons I mentioned) and to recognize that "White Pride" has only been used to continue to suppress other people--or at least--fight the racial unity that we see from groups of people who have traditionally been discriminated against. I still hold firm the belief that the only way to defeat Prejudice... the only way to remove our base mode of operation to judge someone prematurely... the only way to not judge someone by their appearance...
is to have the courage to seek out people who look different. Move through the prejudice and extend your hand to the person. Get past the front. Get to know the person. Do this in all of your relationships. Pour your energy into this process. Don't hold them at arm's length and debate their significance as part of a group. Meet them. Talk to them. Judge them on the content of their character.
I share a dream today.