Sunday, October 11, 2020

The Insidious Consequences of Racial Bigotry and Ignorance upon the National Character

It has been 400 years since the first slave arrived on American shores. It has been over 150 years since the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the American Civil War. It has been 66 years since the Supreme Court decision in Brown vs Board of Education that proclaimed that, “Separate is not equal.” Is has been over 50 years since the “end” of Jim Crow in the American South. Yet, in spite of this protracted length of time and the supposed progress that has been made in the area of race relations in the United States, why does the problem of racial, social, and economic injustice persist?

An honest description of the actual and unvarnished history of slavery and its aftermath is absolutely essential, if we are to fully appreciate its impact upon the very fabric of American life.  This history exposes the degree to which racial attitudes and prejudices have become interwoven into the life of this nation.  These attitudes are based upon an erroneous conception of racial disparities – the science of human genetics has shown unambiguously that there are no significant genetic differences between individual members of the human species (Homo sapiens) regardless of the category of race they have been included within.  Race is after all an artificial and contrived notion.

Any description of the horrendous details of this history paints a very disturbing picture of the brutality and violence directed against black American citizens of the United States who are collectively treated as somehow less than human.  It, in fact, portrays the dark and insidious aspects of public policies, personal attitudes and political ideologies sustained and nurtured by racial bigoty, ignorance, hatred, and violence. The abject failure of this country and its people to come to terms with the nature and substance of its racial attitudes once and for all and to rectify the deep inequities that exist among our people is a disturbing reality of contemporary life.  The most distressing trend is the apparent reemergence of the notion of white supremacy reminiscent of the pre-Civil War era in which the nation was sharply split by vastly divergent ideological principles.  This is especially evident given the rise of legislation in numerous American states especially in the American South designed to suppress the participation of the non-white population in the voting process reminiscent of the dark days of Jim Crow.

Jim Crow refers to an intricate array of state and local statutes that legalized racial segregation.  The first known instance was in 1875 when the state of Virginia mandated segregation in the public schools.  Jim Crow became prevalent in the American South and these practices became the focus of national attention as a result of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s and were subsequently outlawed as a result of federal law and intervention.

In spite of the fact that the legal infrastructure of Jim Crow has been substantially undermined, the insidious nature of this mindset still exerts a profound impact upon the human psyche.  For, it has left significant scars on the American character.  The intrinsic structure of Jim Crow was designed to restrict personal and economic freedom in a substantive way; to undermine a sense of true belonging; to threaten personal safety, and to demean and dehumanize an entire people based solely upon the color of their skin.  Jim Crow was a system that legitimized the imposition of daily and insidious abuse upon the lives of those who were once slaves and had the audacity to expect to be treated as a equals in a land that projected a patently false image of its cultural and political superiority.

Of course, this bigoted mindset is not directed solely towards black Americans, but also has been and continues to be applied to Native Americans, Muslims, Hispanics, and peoples of Asian descent.  This supposedly nativist outlook in this nation of immigrants refuses to embrace the reality that all humans are members of the same species on this our planet Earth and deserving of just and equal treatment in all aspects of communal life.  Instead, it invokes the inherently fallacious conviction that whites are intrinsically separate from and superior to all other people in the human world. 

The time is long overdue for this country to come to terms with its history especially in regard to the blatantly inequitable treatment of a sizeable portion of its population.  This kind of national self-assessment is also a critical part of the healing process that is required, if we are ever fully realize the dream of a truly free and Democratic Republic.  Our continued failure to do this, accounts to a large extent for the current state of disharmony and dysfunction in American life.  Our continued failure to recognize our failings and the unmistakably insidious aspects of our collective past will only add to our future grief and will further disrupt our progress as a nation.

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