0617blog

Curse Of Racism

I curse myself for being racist and I am furious about what this country has done to twist and contaminate my brain and this is not an excuse but merely stating a very disturbing and obvious fact that I believe is endemic to most white people in the country.

When I see a white person, I automatically think about the hairstyle or the clothing, whether the person is heavy or skinny, young or old, tall or short, pretty or unattractive, I might possibly wonder about the person’s occupation, whether he or she is wealthy or poor, but I don’t give a thought to skin color. When I see a black person, instinctively, my first and most predominant thought is about skin color. This is a black man, woman or child and that makes him or her a lesser quality than the white man, white woman or white child or so goes the lies I that have been subtly and not so subtly pounded in my brain and handed down as a national guidebook through the generations of our often shameful, crude, inhumane and contumacious history.

From when I was a child, I learned from the ether that is racism, that large lips, white palms, nappy hair are all somehow distasteful, that lighter skinned blacks are more attractive, that those who have features that more closely align with white people, are more appealing. And I learned that black men are to be feared and avoided, that they live in a violent world that is totally alien to mine and that anything good that has come to me has come from the white man. I learned that black people excel in sports, can run faster, jump higher, hit a ball further, of course play basketball better than the white players, that they have natural rhythm and could play jazz and rhythm and blues but are not skilled at classical music and that I would should not choose to be examined by a black doctor or be in a class where the teacher was black and that the best and brightest scientists have always been white and that there are certain skills, like skiing, and of course, governing, that are better left to white people.

It reminds me of a book I am reading about caste and class in America and how beginning in 1619, when the privateer “The White Lion” brought 20 African slaves ashore in the British colony of Jamestown, Va., earning the ignominious title as the first slaves in America, and how since then, blacks have been irreconcilably and violently relegated to the lowest class, regardless of their intellect, their ability, their profession, they were just black and subhuman. Irish and Italian immigrants were not distinguished by their skin color, people did not say there is a white Irishman or a white Italian and once they got rid of their foreign accents, they could easily blend in and compete in the dominant, white Protestant society. But black people are solely identified by the amount of melanin in their skin and these lessons have been viscerally imprinted in me as if my very DNA has been infected by a virus and there is no way they can change their skin color, keeping them forever consigned to a second class life, despite their individual qualities and accomplishments.

In Africa, there are no differentiations related to skin color; if everybody is black there is no need to name the skin color. It was not until Africans were enslaved in the U.S. that skin color became a defining characteristic.

As a young reporter, I recall the police reports would note that they were searching for a 24-year-old black male or more likely, a 24-year-old negro but no such distinction was noted in the press release if the wanted person was white. And the press releases often also included a photo or drawing of the suspect, and the black suspects were always a bit fuzzy and blurred and somehow most looked alike.

The line is clear from the first slaves to today and how black people were considered to be property and less than human and therefore, subhumans could be beaten, shackled, tortured and that perverse and wicked scenario remains to this day, although it plays out in a more sophisticated though no less pernicious way, through the prisons, the schools that are underfunded, the deteriorated housing, contaminated water, the white backlash to informing school curriculums about the legacy of slavery, the growing efforts to make it even more difficult for people of color to vote.

I can only imagine the fury of black people in America, living under a system that has been foisted on them and made them live like foreigners in their own country. I say these words because I believe that only when people are aware of their hidden parts can they hope to change.

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Phil Garber

Phil Garber

Journalist for 40 years and now a creative writer