Friday, April 20, 2012

Without Knowing Your History, You Are Doomed to Perpetuate Bankrupt Legacies

A Hispanic male, George, marked a seventeen-year-old African American male, Trayvon, as suspicious in a gated community in Sanford, Florida.  George ignored the 911 dispatcher's command to leave Trayvon alone; the police, the trained professionals in the use of deadly force would handle the situation.  Instead George continued to follow Trayvon.  A confrontation occurred.  Shots rang out.  Trayvon lay dead on the ground.  A series of events that unfolded merely because George thought that Trayvon, a black male wearing a black hooded sweatshirt looked "suspicious."

Why is it that a young man whose skin tone ranges on the darker complexion be considered to be "suspicious" when on the other hand, if I put on the same hooded sweatshirt, I am not give those same suspicious stares?  When looking at us based on our skin complexion, the only reason why my skin tone is lighter than my African American classmates is seventy thousand years plus of changes in the amount of melanin in my skin after my genetic ancestors left the African homeland.

But it is that difference in the amount of melanin in the skin that has been the basis for all our racial tensions.  That ugly racial and ethnic history based all on the color of one's skin is whitewashed in the textbooks sitting in American public schools.  That whitewashed history does not call out the guilty parties; it does not accurately the horror, the pain, and the evil; that whitewashed history makes it easy for people to simply state: "why can't these people pick themselves up by their bootstraps."  It is hard to pull one's self up by bootstraps when you've been beaten by those bootstraps; when you've been strangled to death by those bootstraps; denied access to use of those bootstraps; and still arrogantly told to pull yourself up by those bootstraps. 

All because someone had a darker complexion, in the minds of sixteenth century Europeans, those darker persons were not equal humans.  Either they were merely chattel property as was the case of African slaves.  Or they were subhuman in the case of the Indigenous Americans who stood in the way of Manifest Destiny and were treated like any other pest; worthy of extermination.  Or that their "brownness" was sufficient grounds to block any attempt to gain statehood until there was a nexus of whiteness to make them more acceptable; ignoring centuries of civilization and laws under the Aztec, Spanish Empire, and Mexican governments.

The ugly reality is that the American Republic's power and wealth was built upon the scarred backs of slaves and rests upon the mass graves and stolen land of children of the Indigenous Americans.

All because someone had darker skin, it was unfathomable to the lily white man that a darker skinned person would have the ability to think, to write, to be equal in society.  The pseudoscience of phrenology was the racist's tool in proving that it was impossible that blacks were intellectually equal to the white man merely by the size of their skulls.  In the minds of enlightened white men, African Americans were at first merely chattel, a skilled mule to till their fields; but once the 13th Amendment was passed, these racists had to support their claims that African Americans were incapable of being equal to whites; hence the explosion of pseudoscience to support their racist ideologies. 

At the same time, these same racist pseudoscientific theories worked hand-in-hand with the arrogant and racist concept of White Man's Burden was carried in the vanguard of European and American imperialists into India, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.  It didn't matter than India was one of the cradles of civilization; it didn't matter that it was the Muslim world that preserved the knowledge of Greek and Roman antiquity while Europe wallowed in backward ideology; it didn't matter that these non-white people had century old societies and civilizations.  They were dark skinned; it was impossible for them to be equal to the superior white-European-Christian civilization.  All because Europeans had a diminished need of melanin because of the environment in the upper latitudes of Europe.

It is this ugly history that must be understood.  This history is just but one step to understanding the problems and to guide our actions in the future.  Without this history, we are doomed to continue to perpetuate stereotypes that young black or Hispanic men are to be feared as potential criminals.  If we don't realize that our deeply seeded mindsets on race, on color are premised on intellectually bankrupt ideas of ignorant ghosts, we are doomed to perpetuate the terrible legacy they have bestowed upon us.  We are wiser than our ancestors.

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