Larry 'N Atlana

Race relations in America

While some will say that race relations in America are at a low point, looking back through history reminds us how bad they used to be. We still have a ways to go, but things can be fixed fairly easily if only people would not put so much emphasis on race.

History of race relations in America

Columbus landing at Santo Domingo
Columbus landing at Santo Domingo

Issues between races go back as far as when Columbus “discovered” this continent. Columbus and his crews found people of a different race than they were and sought to dominate them, enslaving some and ruling over others. Would he have done that if the inhabitants of this land looked like him? We’ll never know that, but it’s safe to say that Columbus believed he was superior to those who would later be called Americans.

The Pilgrims

The 17th century settlers in Massachusetts also encountered peoples of a different race. In some cases they sought to dominate them, other times to live peacefully among them, and sometimes they had to defend their settlements from them. But written history shows that they looked at them as inferior. This attitude toward Native Americans extended throughout the settling of the west, and some say even to today.

Pilgrims and Squanto
Pilgrims and Squanto

Slavery in America

Slave woman being whipped
Slave woman being whipped

I won’t go too much into slavery. Much has been written on that issue throughout the history of America, but needless to say, the enslavement of black people was the low point in the history of race relations in America. Some seek to erase all mention of it, such as the removal of a slave auction block in Fredericksburg, Va. I believe we need to remember our past, no matter how bitter. The famous quote from George Santayana reads: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Reconstruction

Reconstruction used to be a bad word in the south, even as recently as when I was a child. People in the South rebelled against the northern push to force southerners to accept blacks as equals. This made things worse. I truly believe that the south would have been more progressive towards blacks if the north hadn’t forced it. Most of the Confederate monuments were erected after reconstruction when Southerners began to resume control over their towns. Many of these were in defiance of the north and bemoaning the “lost cause” of Southern independence. The topic of the removal of these monuments will be the subject of another article.

Lincoln reconstruction cartoon
Lincoln Reconstructing the south

Race relations in the 21st century

What about now? We’ve gotten past slavery and Jim Crow laws, so have racial relations improved? Judging by the recent spate of black people being killed by police and the subsequent protests and riots, relations seem to be at a low point. But beyond all of that there are positives. Look at the protests. We see whites and blacks walking together in protest over a common cause. That’s a small thing, but even a small step is a step.

But we still have this underlying thing that’s causing race relations to not be as positive as they should be. That thing is that we still separate people by color. Whites have done that since the end of slavery, we had “white” and “colored” areas of theaters and waiting rooms. Separate water fountains, etc. Whites sought to keep the races apart from each other. That was then, this is now. Why are we still doing it?

How can we improve race relations in America?

White and black women working together
White and black women working together

Short answer: Not going to happen. Not at least until we as a people change. Racial relations have come a long way in the century and a half since slavery was ended, but could things have happened faster? I believe so. The improvement of race relations in America has been hindered by the fact that we focus too much on what race a person is. As long as we constantly refer to people by what color they are we will always have bad racial relations.

Since the recent protests and riots due to the killing of black people by police, I have seen an uptick in articles talking about achievements by blacks. This only exacerbates the problem. The only time a person’s race or color is needed to be mentioned is when identifying them physically (Tall black guy, short white woman, etc.).

Race for the sake of race

As you read the news, make note of articles where a person was identified by their race when it wasn’t pertinent to the story. If you pay attention, you’ll see that it happens a lot. Also many people choose to refer to themselves by what color they are.

i love being black shirt
Black pride shirt

Now, there’s nothing wrong with being proud of what you are. But there’s a difference between being proud of you, and being proud of your skin tone. Being proud of you simply because you’re of a certain color does nothing but intensify the separation of people by race.

As long as people continue to look at themselves as being different simply because of the color of their skin, racial problems will persist in America.

Miss Black America

Yes, I know that’s an old debate, but it’s still an example where the races are still being separated. Other examples are the 100 Black Men of America (a very good organization, but why exclude all other races?), Multiple National Association of black (insert profession here) organizations, an entire month dedicated to black history, and even US and state legislative black caucuses.

Yes, back when most events and organizations were white only, and blacks were excluded, the only thing they had were these “black only” events and organizations. The Miss America Pageant actually had a rule that stated “contestants must be of good health and of the white race“. But why do we need them now? They only emphasize the conception that blacks and whites should be separate.

Then there’s this big movement to promote black owned businesses. Is patronizing a business because of the race of the owner the correct thing to do?

The pressure is on for Joe Biden to pick a black woman as his running mate. If I were a black woman I would be insulted to think that I was chosen not because I was the best person for the job, but I was the best female black person for the job. Companies used to hire “token” black people in order to appear like they were truly integrated. What does this look like to you?

Miss Black America USO show poster
Miss Black America USO show

In all of the examples above, try substituting the word “white” for “black” and tell me what it sounds like. If changing the race makes it sound bad, then it’s bad to begin with.

Can race relations in America improve?

Black Lives Matter protest
Black Lives Matter protest

We can improve race relations by not focusing on race so much. That’s it. I’ve solved the problem. I’ll take my Nobel prize now, please.

But seriously, there are times when race needs to be in the bull’s eye. Right now the spotlight is on the treatment of blacks by police. There is evidence to show that blacks are targeted by police at a higher percentage than whites. That’s a valid reason to focus on race and making changes. Other than situations like that and others where one specific race is targeted, I can’t find a reason to point out what color a person is.

Without getting too political, I believe it’s the black “leaders” that are promoting this. By continuing the perception that blacks are separate from whites, they are able to keep their positions of influence. Without such separation, these leaders would cease to have power in the black community.

Speaking of the black “community”, that insinuates that all blacks have the same ideals, goals, dreams, etc. Isn’t that a bit prejudiced? Are we saying that all black people think the same on all issues? People think differently, but it’s not their race that makes them different.

“I don’t see race”

Bullshit. Anybody who says that is lying through their teeth. Everyone sees race. When I meet someone I can usually tell what race they are. Seeing race isn’t the problem, making it important is the problem. What I say is: “I see race, It just doesn’t matter”. As long as we continue to separate people by color, we will always have race problems.

We need to look at people as people, not as white people, black people, whatever people. Just people. Yes we will have racists, bigots, and people who are racially prejudiced. But they should not deter us from improving race relations.

We can do better

Race relations are better now than they have been in the past simply because we’re talking about them. But talking isn’t enough. We have to start looking past seeing race as a determining factor in our perception of people. Only then can we truly say that we are one race, the human one.

 sign. "We the people will bring change"

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