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Please feel free to E-mail me with your own comments on this issue or on anything else included in my Philosophy of Life section. Debate is good!
Italicized/emphasized comments prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.
My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).
(R) I may be the first person ever to respond to you about this.
(MB) You get the honors! *grin* At least, you're the first person to respond by sending me an E-mail message. Hopefully, you won't be the last.
(R) First of all, I wanted to commend on your stance on race relations.
(MB) *thud* [Getting back up off the floor] Gee, I thought I had made far too much sense for anybody to agree with me... :-)
(R) What I found in my years in this country is that, in general, so-called "white" people are less racist than black people.
(MB) I don't know if that's true or not, but it does seem fairly obvious that non-whites are more likely not to be condemned for racist remarks or actions. That says more about political correctness than about racism, however.
(R) It seems that black people see whites as the enemy.
(MB) Some might -- and might even be justified in doing so. However, what's wrong about such views is that they tend to lead to justifying one's own behavior in terms of what "the enemy" has done to them -- whether real or imagined.
(R) I also take issue with the term "white".
(MB) At best, it's an inaccurate term and one that can be used to infer any number of derogatory connotations. Strangely enough, I believe that natives of India are also lumped together under the label "white" even though many of them are darker-skinned than a lot of American Blacks.
(R) Just because I am white (as you also said), doesn't mean I was a slave-holder, or that my family has traditionally received the white privilege. As you said, the majority of people in America immigrated here, most after the abolishment of slavery. My heritage has a long history of hating blacks (my family is Irish) but only because they were treated nearly as slaves themselves when they came to this country.
(MB) This is a fact of American history (especially during the Civil War) that is rarely included or detailed in history books. How many school children learn about the Irish riots in New York City in 1863? The immigrant Irish had no taste for being conscripted to fight for the Union in the cause of freeing Blacks, since they most often competed with free Blacks for jobs.
(R) However, I'm not demanding restitution. The past is the past, and you cannot ask people to apologize for what they have not done.
(MB) Unfortunately, it's much easier to rationalize one's own problems by placing unwarranted or inaccurate blame on others.
(R) At my college, we have just gotten a black president. She is very concerned with race relations, yet since her arrival, I have noticed more resentment towards minorities. This is because we are told that "racism is the biggest problem we have to combat" and that "all white people are racist." There are actually signs that say "Come to our 'Unlearning Racism' support group. You are inherently racist in a racist society, but we'll help you get over it." I don't believe that I'm inherently racist, because I was raised to believe that all people are equal.
(MB) I'd say that the perpetuation or inflammation of racism is a bigger problem than "racism" itself. As I said in my original essay, we're always going to find some way of choosing up sides. It's only when the divisions get out of hand that this leads to problems. I wonder if a lot of racism continues to exist as some sort of backlash over constantly being browbeaten about it?
(R) You are right when you talk about Africans selling off fellow Africans to the slavers. Until they arrived in America, Africans did not have an "African" or "Black" identity -- they identified themselves as members of different tribes. It is not at all surprising that they would enslave one another. After all, the Greeks did the same.
(MB) As has nearly every non-trivial civilization in the history of Homo sapiens on Planet Earth. Your comment about African/Black identity is interesting. Certainly, not all Africans are Black, and not all Blacks are Africans. How does the African-American concept of "being Black" play with non-American Blacks around the world? Could an American citizen who is of Egyptian heritage (i.e, non-Black) correctly refer to himself as an "African-American"?
(R) However, I disagree with you on the matter of the civil war. You say "The defining moment in our history -- the Civil War -- was, revisionist historical nonsense to the contrary, fought over the issue of Negro slavery". It is true, yes, that the issue was Negro slavery. However, it was not concern over the human rights of negro slaves that prompted the war, but rather an issue of economics. At least, that is my belief.
(MB) Those explanations started to gain popularity in the 1960's -- possibly as an attempt to forget or belittle the importance (or even the existence) of slavery. History shows, however, that North and South tussled over numerous other issues during the decades prior to the Civil War, but in all cases, political compromises solved the problems and averted any possible military conflicts. Only on the issue of slavery was no compromise possible. The election of 1860 saw the Democratic party split three ways over the issue. This led directly to the election of Abraham Lincoln and the start of secessions among Southern states.
(R) By the way, I just finished watching Roots, and it was quite an embarassment to the film company, I'm sure. In one scene, people are saying things that people of that time would *never* have thought of. Conversations that would only take place in our modern PC-oriented society.
(MB) That's typical of almost any movie depicting historical events in the distant past. If completely accurate language or viewpoints were used, most viewers would either not understand what was really being said (e.g, most of Shakespeare's plays) or would be seriously offended and might boycott the sponsors' products.
(R) Secondly, Abraham Lincoln is portrayed as some kind of hero who freed the slaves.
(MB) That, at least, would be historically accurate -- at least as far as the masses were concerned at that time.
(R) As I recall, he freed the slaves to reduce the economic viability of the rebelling states, not because he really felt that black people should be free.
(MB) True. His reasons for emancipation had more to do with crippling the enemy, but it was a sound decision at the time and had a great effect.
(R) I am not in any way supporting slavery or racism. I simply have a more cynical view of history and the U.S. government.
(MB) Healthy doses of cynicism and/or skepticism are good things. Otherwise, one is vulnerable to all sorts of BS that those with underlying agendas might attempt to foist off on us. Unfortunately, few people bother to examine the lessons of the past in their true context. One can't have informed opinions today without a good understanding of what really happened yesterday.
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