RACISM-EDUCATION-RESEGREGATION 'The Shame of the Nation' - Kozol 2005 + NjW comments 09-09-06


As many FTers know; Mr. Kozol’s book addresses the small end of the telescope. It is the other end through which Americans must peer if we are to ever have any hope of curing the mortal civic wound of mindless hate we call racism. History will record that our failure to do so allowed this national affliction to be among the proximate causes of the downfall of a great nation (entrenched militarism, religious fundamentalism, and economic insolvency being the others).


Whites’ denial – even the “good” ones (myself and most of the folks receiving this post) - that they are part and parcel of this problem, tears at the vitals – the very spirit and humanness – of this republic, every minute of every day. In so doing, it

·         perpetuates our mindless fear - primarily of that unique progeny of American racism: large numbers of highly pissed-off, young black males;

·         dehumanizes the culture; white & black alike - as we close our eyes to “our” people’s naked attempts to control and/or deny people of color, but especially blacks, of all manner of rights we would fight to the death to preserve were a stronger force attempting to wrest those same rights from us: the unimpeded right to vote; the right to live where we choose; the right to equal treatment under the law; the right to… ad nauseum) – whatever we want, they want – why would we ever think otherwise? Then again, that’s what dehumanization is all about, isn’t it?

·         Eventually bestializes us all as we grow ever more distant from the values we claim are worth defending  as “Christian,” “compassionate,” “charitable” (and the greatest of these…), “lifting up the least among us,” and on and on ad nauseum. “Platitude” may have its roots in Ancient Greece, but us fair-skinned folks have raised its use to an art-and-a-half. It is known that the intensity level of stress is directly related to the gap between a person or group’s values and actions.


Is there doubt in anyone’s mind that the stress cracks in our society are on panoramic display, daily, across the land? America is one stressful place, alright. We are paying a steep price for our sub-human treatment of a small group of people who were brought here in chains almost 400 years ago. This is not a free ride. The psychic damage done to white America vastly exceeds that visited upon the recipients of all this unwarranted grief. It is long past the hour to right this wrong and heal the country. There is other, vitally important, work to be done. Islam enslaves the distaff half of its society and the result is clear for all (save themselves) to see; their Bedouins vs. our Blackberrys. Blacks play a similar tragic role in America. Both oppressions now act as moral albatrosses - black holes sapping the lifeforce from both cultures - preventing either from weighing anchor for happier worlds. Our hate will never set us free; we need only to see it and act to change it.


So, what enables such rampant, ingrained, continuous, consistent, and seemingly ineradicable racism in America?


I suggest it is the tacit approval, by the overwhelming majority of whites - by myriad, quotidian, micro-choices of lifestyle - which perpetuate the belittlement, dehumanization, denigration, ostracization, and yes, oppression, of an entire race; 140+ years after Mr. Lincoln told them they were free.


Few whites these days dress up in Cannon bed linens and go around burning down black churches and schoolhouses. Those were the good old dark days. But, maybe we should mourn their passing, in a way. At least those crimes were crimes, and as such, prosecutable under the laws of the land (which we finally got right; sorta). Apathy, denial, and smug satisfaction with the pigment of one’s skin will never appear in the dock, nor should they. These are crimes of the heart; de jure, not de facto. But they kill nonetheless, with ferocity, upon the intended victim, fully equal to a dirk in the heart.


Are there any among us – white folks – who do not (silently, to be sure) pass through a day without a fleeting thought of having won the ultimate lottery jackpot of a light pelt with which to navigate this already bumpy journey we call life. And why don’t we, as a people, do right by the imported blacks in our midst? Why is it that every other group that has fetched up on these shores has, eventually, no matter the temporary difficulties, managed to become “invisible,” in the main, to those same whites who still insist on the endless castigation of this one race of people who have never managed even to “pass” as “humans,” let alone “Americans?”


Q Did we impress blacks to this country solely to have a convenient whipping boy for the past 4 centuries? No, but it has sure worked out that way. I think of blacks’ place in this society as default demonizees. As objects of demonization, black folks – unlike every other group that has voluntarily come here – possess some irresistible qualities that are hard to find in any other group.


Blacks are a cinch to recognize, by race, at a distance, instantaneously. This comes in real handy for the cops whom white society hires to deal with the hordes of angry “Nigras” which they themselves created.


After 400 years of being purposefully denied acculturation in the white man’s world, American Negroid speech patterns both instantly identify the speaker’s race in, say, a dark alley, as it does to the prospective landlord on the phone who regrets to inform his, obviously African-American, caller that the apartment is no longer available. So sorry.


An American black’s appearance almost cries out for discrimination. Given this country’s coin of the beauty realm: you can’t be too skinny or too rich (and, the tacit, “too white”), a flat nose, full lips, “nappy” hair, a prominent “booty,” and jug ears don’t play well with the Bert Parks crowd. Too bad the beauty pageants don’t give credit for the wisdom of anthropological traits.


Paris Hilton’s blonde hair, aquiline nose (Roman), and slight build works better in her daddy’s penthouse than it does in the jungle. But hair that wicks off Equatorial moisture in a nonce; flat, wide nostrils that move large volumes of moisture-laden air (less H2O, remember?); massive gluteus muscles that allow the owner to scoot up nearby trees to safety; skin resistant to UVB rays and the concomitant melanoma; and jug ears that serve as the wearer’s early-warning system to danger of things that see you as a quick snack, are all prized attributes in that same jungle. In this culture, they only come into play in sports and hip-hop.


A Here’s my best take on the answer: Due to this nation’s original settlers’ (and I don’t mean the Indians) religious proclivities, blacks – and episodically, everyone else – were toast from the git-go.


The one salient driving force for the fundamentalist mentality is demonization. It is the mother’s milk that gives their lives meaning. And it is of little moment to the fundamentalist as to exactly what is being demonized at the moment. Like war, demonization is a truism; it is worth pursuing because it is worth pursuing. That’s why the target is unimportant; only the God-fearing righteousness that biliously boils from such a cauldron of discontent is of value. It’s all about what button needs to be pushed to tap into the rich vein of poor self-image that is the real fuel for this fire. Angry righteousness is what powers the Dominionist leadership in their allegedly godly pursuit of all manner of affronts to the deity: gay marriage; “baby”-killing; stem cell baby-killing; and the umbrella term called into service whenever a clear target is not in sight, “family values” - loosely translated as anything the Fundies are not.


When the first slaves were brought here from West Africa, they were brought to the only settlements with enough money to purchase and support them. In the Early 1600s (1619 records the first downloads of slaves to these shores), that meant settlers who took The Good Book seriously. But, there was a fairly large worm in this apple: the strange set of values these folks carried with them from the Old World. Among those long-ago precepts was a very misanthropic take on the “family” of man.


I’m no religious maven, so I’ll pass on how Fundies actually arrived at the conclusion (prevalent to this day) that blacks – and all people of color – were “mud” people. All I really know is that some folks need to beat someone else down to raise themselves up. Mud folks, as if you couldn’t have guessed, are not real people. They are, in fact, Untermenschen – barely worthy of human status. This POV really comes in handy when you intend to steal the fruits of their labor for a few centuries.


The really sad part in all this is that, although they were soundly thrashed on the battlefield and in the courts, the religious Right fundamentalists in America have – mainly through sheer bloody-mindedness – managed to infect the rest of this nation with the bacillus of their hate. While nowhere near as potent as the original racist poison of the Old South, the rabid, watered-down export is toxic enough to have done a pretty good job of fucking-up the rest of the country.


Kozol’s book is just the latest slap to our lily-white consciences that the outrage remains unaddressed; that we can run, but we cannot hide; that all the “bad boy, bad boy” cop shows are just a continuation of the demonization of these poor souls bound up in a culture they had no say in being a part of; and that unless and until we make a national decision to accept blacks as our equals and use our moral strength to help them achieve such status – beginning with our failure-disseminating schools (two generations would do it) – we will know no peace; in spirit, or in fact.


Until then, we will knowingly accept the present unjust, inhumane, demonizing, spirit-killing (ours and theirs), culture-destroying (ours and theirs), and a perpetually mean-spirited and fear-filled society – not quite a “family values” paradise.






“I only said the Pledge once, but, I meant it.” - Ray Yazell (courtesy of Jeff Harper)


Nigel J Watson  think@ij.net  727 822-9290 Real Estate Broker - serving Tampa Bay since 1984


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