Three Kinds of Americans

I don’t expect everyone to get the nuisances and subtleties of American life. It’s difficult explaining to those across the pond why we do certain things here. They often laugh at us, then say with a slight smirk, “That’s not how we think.” No shit, Sherlock, as in Holmes, a Brit.

Let’s start with a brief look at US history. A bunch of white religious zealots came to a new land in search of religious freedom and food. They bought into a false biblical allowance of slavery, bought Africans from British traders, and started a new country with free labor. You may try to defend that atrocity by pointing out all the great things slavery did for our new, democratic form of government, but you cannot and should not ignore the original sin. Unlike the Irish, Italians, and others who came here, Black people were slaves.

Critical race theory, known as CRT, is an academic movement of United States civil rights scholars and activists who seek to diagnostically examine the law where it intersects with issues of race and to challenge mainstream liberal approaches to racial justice. CRT examines social, cultural and legal issues as they relate to race and racism. Just so we get our timetables aligned, CRT started in the 1970s and became full-blown by the 1980s. Now, these scholars are encouraging us to teach their position to young students in America.

Attempts against CRT are simple. Some ask why we are making young people hate America, while many on the right feel some CRT findings are untrue. As John Oliver pointed out on his HBO show, store owners cannot justify why Black hair products are locked up while the same products at about the same price for white people are openly stocked on shelves. One might say that hair products for African American women are stolen more often, but even if that’s true the store owners’ actions are fundamentally “racist.” Oh my, I used the R word.

According to Stamped from the Beginning, a book by Ibram X. Kendi, there are three kinds of people in America. There are anti-racists, racists and assimilationists. That last group takes significant heat because their goal is to assimilate all “others” into their Caucasian-European social, cultural and legal viewpoints. They are more or less saying that if everyone is more like them then everything will be fine. If you don’t know the essential qualities of racists and anti-racists, you might want to take a course in critical race theory. Without historical knowledge a person cannot offer a reasoned viewpoint on racism.

Louisiana is one of many states where legislators have proposed bills to bar educators from teaching “divisive” concepts like white privilege and racial equity. Former President Trump, who says he’s anti-racist, went out of his way to denounce school teachings with critical views of the white men who founded our country. Boy, wait until the history books are written on him; now that will be embarrassing. His biggest punch to the movement came when he was convinced by Congressional racist Tom Cotton that the 1619 Project was an evil work. Too bad it wasn’t a book; they could have simply burned it.

Trump condemned the 1619 Project, a Pulitzer Prize-winning 2019 New York Times report led by reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones. It contends that America was not founded in 1776, but rather in 1619 when the first enslaved people were brought to the colonies. Educators embraced the message and began a search for resources to teach a more accurate and holistic history of the country.

According to NBC News, “Trump rebuked the project as a ‘warped, distorted’ portrayal of American history.” It is uncertain if Donald John Trump ever read any of the 1619 Project, but his and Cotton’s comments sparked a special commission that presented a white paper titled The 1776 Report, which combatted the contents of the 1619 Project. The 1776 Report is not a serious historical work. I characterize it as a “pro-America” document that warps, distorts and justifies some dark aspects of our history.

No matter how hard people like Trump and their cotton-pickin’ masked racists try to defend slavery, it’s still slavery. Many Republicans have pushed into the bright lights to claim that America is not a racist country, yet not one of them has said there is no racism in America. Former Attorney General William Barr claimed there is no systemic racism in America’s police departments, but quickly added that there are racists in America and certainly some of them are police officers. Is that progress?

Ask just about any white American if they are racist, and I suspect they would quickly unflinchingly answer “No.” So, there you go, that’s that. Are we done here? We have not only a failure of communication but many different interpretations of what “racism” actually is. As Larry David pointed out on his TV show, the mere action of checking the locks on your car doors when you see a black person could be racism. If you honestly believe that your high school football team got better because African American families moved into your district, you just might be a racist. If you are shown a photo of two white guys and one Black guy and are asked, “Which of these men do you think raped the girl at the beach,” you are probably a racist if you select the Black guy.

The debate about critical race theories gets under the skin of many white Americans because they are called “critical” and are merely “theories.” Maybe it’s a nomenclature problem. “Global warming” was the wrong name for a condition that would not only create heat waves but also 25-inch snowfalls. If a person’s response to the saying “Black Lives Matter” is “All Lives Matter,” then it’s clear they don’t understand racism. Then there’s this. Why do some white people want dreadlocks? Is it an attempt to assimilate the Black race or an appropriation of white privilege? Oh, I’ll take that.

Maybe we need to change the name of Black History month to HISTORY MONTH. African Americans don’t own American History or critical race history — we all do. It’s time to own up to the fact that some of what has happened and what is happening here in the good old U.S. of A. is damn embarrassing. I am mortified when Tom Cotton and Donald Trump speak about racism because I honestly believe both of those guys are racists, but we allow them to speak because we have a First Amendment, and we are the home of the free. By the way, Tom, and Don, Black people weren’t free in 1619, and couldn’t speak their minds for more than 240 years in this country and judging by your whitewash of history you still don’t want them speaking here in 2021. Shame on both of you!

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  1. You know, if you analyze religious faith too much — demystify it, as it were — it tends to go away. Efforts like the 1619 Project can help us “demystify” racism, and help to assuage the fear that seems at the heart of it. What I can’t understand for the life of me is WHY this idea is seems so repugnant?

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