Saturday, February 21, 2009

Of Cowards and Courage

As usual, a little context helps:
  • Even as we fight a war against terrorism, deal with the reality of electing an African American as our President for the first time and deal with the other significant issues of the day, the need to confront our racial past, and our racial present, and to understand the history of African people in this country, endures. One cannot truly understand America without understanding the historical experience of black people in this nation. Simply put, to get to the heart of this country one must examine its racial soul. Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards. Though race related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion, and though there remain many unresolved racial issues in this nation, we, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race. It is an issue we have never been at ease with and given our nation’s history this is in some ways understandable. And yet, if we are to make progress in this area we must feel comfortable enough with one another, and tolerant enough of each other, to have frank conversations about the racial matters that continue to divide us.
    -- U. S. Attorney General Eric Holder, February 18, 2009

As always happens when someone picks the nation’s worst historic scab, peels of mock outrage have sounded throughout the land in reaction to Holder’s challenge. The high-pitched squealing by the usual suspects who have no interest in racial understanding – he called you cowards! – has again managed to muddle the issues at the same time it makes Holder’s points for him.

The cowardice exemplified by a willing ignorance of history, an exaggerated sense of sufficient progress and the rush to unearned, premature closure should be self-evident and its exposure applauded. Instead, it is supposedly the nation’s first African-American AG who is the bad guy for providing educational perspective during Black History month. Go figure.

The African slave trade and its continuing legacy is America’s Original Sin. Along with the attempted genocide of the Native American by the European "pioneers" and the criminally unnecessary nuclear annihilation of hundreds of thousands* of innocents in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, slavery stands as part of America’s grim contribution to some of the greatest crimes in human history.

From the Middle Passage (the horrific ocean voyage in which between 2 and 4 million Africans died enroute) to the practices of the slave masters (deliberately divided families; repression of African language and religion; murder, torture and beatings) to eventual "freedom" in the Jim Crow South and the segregated North, black Americans have endured an experience like no other group in this or any other country.

And, as a country, we have never dealt with it. With every half-step, White America has rushed to declare the problem solved. Cause-and-effect is denied and victims are blamed. An African-American president is elected and caricatured as a chimp plugged full of bullets in a New York Post cartoon.

Pardon Eric Holder for speaking truth while himself in power. It could be, but it doesn’t have to be enough for he and President Obama to lead by example; they can and should lead us to new places of understanding and self-awareness. To deny and mock Holder's declaration of American cowardice on the issue of race is to pretend the problem is solved. It is to play enabler to the ultimate Big Lie.

It's way past time for America to come out from its hiding place and face the fear of its own compromised history. The nation was built in large part on the backs of a strong, talented race of involuntary immigrants who too many -- much less the drafters of the Constitution -- have never accepted as full citizens, neighbors or even strangers on the bus. We have already tried waiting long enough until everyone just forgets. It ain't happening.

Get real, America.

*corrected from "millions" - thanks, Patrick.

8 comments:

patrick said...

All we do is talk about race and examine our souls. We are all familiar with the idea that the crimes that came before prompt the crimes that come after.

More than talk, we have legislated--voting rights, affirmative action, preferences and quotas. But in the end we come back to the same assumptions that enslave us all: the privilage of white people continues, African Americans can excuse any fault of their own on whites, race baiters and those who make careers from it will always have employment. Holder says we should talk, but he offers no new topic of conversation. Lets list our sins again, our endless national anthem.

And by the way, when you mention the "millions" killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, you must mean .2 millions as the death toll was about 220,000--far fewer tahn the Japanese killed in Nanking.

AnotherTosaVoter said...

Plaisted proclaimed,

"And, as a country, we have never dealt with it."

This statement shows how unserious you are and how little credibility you have.

What you should have written was, "We have never dealt with it the way I want it dealt with", whatever in the hell that is.

Your posts have become more unhinged than usual lately, and this one is no different. As usual it's just one big complaint with no solution.

What do you want us to do in order to be satisfied that we've "dealt with it"? What would have to happen? What steps would we have to follow?

How about actually providing solutions or outcomes instead of complaints all the time?

Or is that too difficult?

Mike Plaisted said...

Patrick, thanks for the correction on the numbers of innocents slaughtered in the terrorist bombings of Japan. That makes me feel much better -- not. Those bombings had nothing to do with the war against Japan and everything to do with a Cold War strategy to make the Soviets think we were crazy enough to use the Bomb. Either way, the blood is on our hands.

ATV -- What should be do? We should have an honest, universal understanding of the past -- how many of the general populace know of the millions killed, stacked like cord wood in the ship holds in the Middle Passage? How many of the blame-the-victim crowd (like Patrick) will acknowledge that black families might be a little dysfunctional because the families themselves were ripped apart by evil slave owners, who also robbed them of their culture and traditions? How about the institutional racism in voting booths, workplaces, labor unions up until only 50 years ago? A knowledge of history goes a long way.

Once we have the historical base, can we talk about the large and petty indignities that black Americans still suffer every day? Or, I should say, can we talk about it without the dismissive get-over-it eye-rolling by people like you and Patrick?

The cowards Holder was talking about refuse to be honest about the past and refuse to recognize the present. Manipulated for decades to blame their economic hardship on anyone but the bosses who cause it, they are threatened by the empowerment of others.

But, the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, ATV. Learn some history. Then tell me it's all their fault.

patrick said...

And who should write this universal history? You, Mike? Makes me laugh. Consider for example your grasp of WWII. Who bombed pearl harbor? Who perpetrated the rape of Nanking? The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki didn't prompt the Japanese surrender. Right. Will you bemoan Hittler's losses next?

All people have boood on their hands, Mike. Its the human condition. Why not spout about the africans who aided the slave trade too.

Look. Slavery happened. It was the darkest flaw in out national history. School children are taught in detail about all the things you mention--middle passage, Jim Crow, KKK, Freedom riders, all of it.

Reight now, black families are in trouble. Out-of-wedlock births are by far the majority. Sickening numbers of young men have turned to drugs and crime and find themselves in prison. African Americans still report real and imagined racism. Everyone knows these things.

But lets also remember the incredible effort and money put into addressing the problems--welfare, job programs, racial admissions quotas, food stamps, Acorn, and all the rest.

After Holder's comments, what is supposed to happen? Another handout? More white guilt? What?

Holder's comments--like yours--are easy as they are pointless.

Mike Plaisted said...

Alright, Patrick, have it your way. At some point -- when was that again? -- all of the sins of the vicious slave trade, Jim Crow, racist segregation and discrimination, all of it was washed away and America's conscience is now clear. Everything wrong in the black community is the fault of the blacks. The rest of us can wash our hands of the whole thing, forget it ever happened and wax scantimonious about everything that happens in the inner city.

There. Feel better? Cowards usually do. But only temporarily.

AnotherTosaVoter said...

Mike,

For all intents and purposes, in response to your question to Patrick, Yes.

Is everything wrong in the black community the fault of blacks? Well no, but mostly it is, yes. Slavery and Jim Crow and everything else have little or nothing to do with an individual's decision to have another child out of wedlock, to sell drugs, to be a worthless sack of shit instead of showing up for work on time. At this moment, it is the repetition of those poor decisions that has led to the black underclass' conditions. At some point, like an alcoholic (white or black) who loses yet another job or alienates yet another family member that they have to take some responsibility for their choices. Just as I'm sorry slavery and all the rest happened to African Americans, so I am sorry the alcoholic had a dysfunctional family life. But at some point the african american and the alcoholic have to move on, accept life as it is, and take personal responsibility for themselves.

A national, universal "acceptance" of the past in your terms will do absolutely NOTHING to ensure the next poor black person makes good decisions.

Anonymous said...

I think what Mike truly wants is for the Republican party to come out publicly and simply admit that they are racists...this, to him, would fix the situation.

TerryN said...

Maybe Michael Steele can apologize for the Racism in the Republican Party;-)