Sunday, November 8, 2009

It's disheartening to realize that these sentiments are out there, pt. 2

And then there's the following racist email below that I've excerpted for your entertainment. (If you want the whole text, just run an Internet search on "I have been wondering about why Whites are racists, and no other race" and you'll find all kinds of wonderful links.):


"WHITE" Pride"

This is great. I have been wondering about why Whites are racists, and no other race is...

Proud to be White. Michael Richards makes his point...


When I got this forward-forward-forward, I replied to all with:

I disagree completely with the substance and tenor of this email because it ignores the full and complex historical context within which people of color in the U.S. have had to differentiate themselves from the dominant white culture in order merely to survive. If slavery, Jim Crow, racism, segregation, ghettoization, real estate restrictions, inadequate education, lynching, unequal employment opportunities, internment, etc., had not been ingrained within or at least facilitated by the white-dominated legal and social structures of this country in the first place, peoples of color would not have had to organize and identify themselves in quite the ways that they have had to. For starters, see:

Jim Crow
Japanese American internment during WWII
Racial restrictive real estate covenants
Trail of Tears
Anti-Chinese laws
Anti-"Hindu" riots
Migrant farmworker struggles for equal rights
Segregated military units
Suffrage movement

Rights, being a social construct, are potentially infinitely inclusive. Therefore, there is no necessary inverse relationship when extending equal rights to groups of citizens formerly denied these rights: the increase of rights for one group does not, by definition, mean the decrease of rights for other groups. Granting women the right to vote with the 19th Amendment in 1920 did not disenfranchise white and non-white men, it merely increased the overall number of voters in this country. Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 did not take away the rights of white children to an education, it granted to peoples of color the right to an education equal to the white majority. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not take employment, housing, and education rights away from white men, it guaranteed equal employment, housing, and education rights to women and peoples of color.

I would argue that more rights are abridged in more egregious ways by the following factors: first, the FCC's media ownership rules that allow monopolization of local and regional public airwaves by for-profit corporations; second, the so-called PATRIOT Act enacted in 2001 by the Bush II administration that suspends fundamental constitutional rights such as habeas corpus and due process; third, undermining the effectiveness of labor unions, initiated by Reagan when he broke the Air Traffic Controllers strike in 1981; fourth, the de facto granting of "personhood" and, therefore, constitutional rights to corporations in the 19th century. I could go on. These are much more subtle, yet much more pervasive, erosional factors on our basic American constitutional rights than ever would be the case in helping ensure that my African American next-door neighbor's children would be able to dream of becoming a lawyer or businessperson or to own their own home in whatever neighborhood they wanted when they grew up, just like my children would be able to dream.

Like George Carlin said, there's no reason to be "proud" for something one doesn't have any power over -- such as the color of one's skin or the location of one's birth. One can be HAPPY to be white, to be American, etc., but PRIDE should be reserved for something one has accomplished, achieved, attained, etc.

I can sort-of, vaguely, understand the type of fear and frustration that would motivate a person to write such an email as below, but I believe strongly that if anyone would take the time to step back, think rationally, educate themselves, and admit to the less-than-rosey history of race relations in this country that the borderline white supremacist tone of the email would be more than apparent.


Whitey Cracker,


p.s., Here's an interesting commentary on this same email.


1 comment:

  1. Here's an interesting segment on Talk of the Nation about the relevance of Black History Month.