4/03/2008

April 4: A Day to Erase Racism

This evening on Pacifica radio they played a goodly portion of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Beyond Vietnam" speech from April 4, 1967 (or possibly a very similar one from the same period).

He was assassinated exactly a year later, 40 years ago by the time you read this.

He was only 39 years old. I'm already three years older than that.
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I recently read the book Erasing Racism by Molefi Kete Asante. It's a powerful book, blunt and truthful and at times painful, such as describing in horrifying detail some lynchings of African Americans from the historical record. Some not that long ago.

His metaphor throughout the book is that African Americans live in the Wilderness of America, while whites live in the "Promise," or the Promised Land. There are many things I'm still absorbing.

Here's the most important point: The development of equal rights, self-determination, and individual and cultural subjectivity for African Americans in no way takes away from my own identity as a white American of European descent. (See the quote from page 70 below.)

Yet one would think from the mainstream political discourse that nothing could be further than the truth, that assimilation into the white mainstream culture is the only possible "ethical" approach. Clearly, that's nonsense.

Following are some highlights from the book for me. Starting with page 12:
On May 4, 1969, James Forman and his supporters interrupted a worship service at the well-known Riverside Church in New York City to present the “Black Manifesto” and a demand for $500 million* in reparations to African Americans…. Soon after the Black Manifesto was issued, Arnold Schuchter... assigned a leading role to the church, seeing it as a bastion of revolutionary activity. He was sadly mistaken about the role the Christian church would play in bringing about justice, for, like the rest of American society, the church has been afraid to confront the sin in its own soul of supporting slavery and discrimination for so long.
* Based on “Measuring Worth,” that 1969 figure would be worth anywhere from $2.3 billion to $7.0 billion in today’s dollars. See http://www.measuringworth.com/uscompare/.

Page 70:
There has been personal and collective fury, and there will be fury, so long as we do not deal with the primary issue of white racial domination that influences every aspect of this society.... Perhaps also whites will interrogate preference in order to create racial harmony. But this will require whites to get beyond the idea that they are being dispossessed because others are being treated fairly and justly. It is in the best interest of whites and blacks to have a society of harmonious race relations. Our lives and property will be more adequately protected in a society of racial peace than in one where the Wilderness and the Promise are in permanent antagonism.
Page 124:
Reagan’s image as a cowboy did not make us feel any better and, since the African American community had sensed in his rhetoric a virulent anti-African position, we could only expect the worst from him…. What seemed like an outlaw mentality at the top spread quickly among the Wilderness dwellers….
Page 167:
After so many incidents during the past decade in which white youths have shot up schools or other venues, one would think that there would be outrage in the white community and among the police forces of the country. Instead, there is this denial.... Imagine what would have happened if the Columbine or Santana or numerous other shootings by white youth had taken place in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Harlem, Chicago, or Detroit?
This last question is particularly pertinent in light of the number of shootings in the last six months alone.

I've typed some final thoughts for a second post on the book, since I've probably overindulged in the fair use of quotes for now.

2 comments:

Allison said...

Thank you for posting this, Chris.

I remember seeing an interview of Bill Gates once talking about international development and saying "it's not a zero-sum game." Whatever people say about Gates, I think that was a powerful statement coming from one of the richest men in the world.

Everything I learned as a Family Studies major basically hammered this message in. "It's not a zero sum game." Study after study shows if we all just give a little to sustainable social development, the benefits to society will be tenfold.

Elizabeth said...

Thank you for posting, thank you for taking note,,, please check in every once in a while on my blog on Hispaniola and Haiti -- Changing Perspectives,,, as I try a bit to remind Friends that our sister repubic of Haiti is only 90 miles away....only 90 miles away... not a zero sum game,,,,