Wednesday, 13 July 2016

The American Race Against Racism

US Race Relations Run Ahead towards her Past

Reflections on American Race Relations

The police shootings in the US cities of 2 black men in Louisiana and Minnesota in the recent past week are grim reminders of the consequences of losing the never-ending race against racism in the most developed and, arguably, most civilized modern human society. In a direct response, a black sniper-shooter killed 5 white police officers in another distant city of Dallas in Texas. 

America’s failures in her race relations are not amenable to easy or comprehensive understanding and analysis.  No pretension is attempt here to have the solutions to end racism in America.

Nothing in this Post is intended to condone the wanton Dallas massacre leading to the deaths of 5 police officers and the wounding of countless others, as well as the mayhem and widespread fear on the 7th July 2016. “All Lives Matter” and anything else are less than true and honest.  The “Black Lives Matter” (BLM) cry is inherently racist because it elevates the importance of the life of one group above others. 

In the weeks following Louisiana, Minnesota and Dallas, the US race against racism veered off its future destiny of true freedom and equality to run forward towards her bigoted Jim Crow past.

White American racism against Blacks in particular was thoroughly cooked and boiled in the living hells of her past institution of chattel slavery from 1619 to the 1865 Presidential Emancipation Proclamation that freed more than 3 million Black slaves, lasting about 246 years. Their freedom is followed by more than 150 years of systematic and continuous social discrimination and exclusion, as manifested lately by the Louisiana, Minnesota and Dallas killings.

To be fair, American race relations have in fact improved significantly since the 1960s. Many Black Americans indeed have moved up the social mobility ladder through education and achieve prosperous careers as entertainers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, businessmen, politicians, professioals … etc.  A Black President in the White House for 2 terms should have convinced Black Americans of the abundance in life and social opportunities awaiting them that they have access to. For many Black Americans, these are simply not enough.

Black Americans at 13% is the largest racial minority, compared with 77% of racial majority Whites Americans. Hispanic and Latino Americans together amount to 17% of the population, making up the largest ethnic minority. Asian Americans at 5.6% are at a far distance, but more than the 1.2% Native Americans.

Many Black Americans believe that they are singled out for systematic discrimination by social institutions and by the law-and–order systems. Their proportion in prison far exceeds their proportion in over 20 states.  On the whole, they made up 35% of jail inmates and 37% of prison inmates.  Another study concluded that at the time of his birth, a Black American has a 33% chance of going to prison during his life-time.

Black Americans appeared to be trapped and languishing in their own self-perception of a persecuted people who were freed from plantation slavery just to be quickly enslaved by the larger White society. Poverty, unemployment and incarceration reinforced inherently low self-image and perceived lack of economic progress when compared with other better-off non-White Americans eg Chinese, Koreans, Vietnamese, Hispanics and Latinos, many of whom were recent immigrants only in the last 30 years.
No wonder White Americans’ stereotypes of Black Americans are reinforced concerning the capability and suitability of the Black man to live and work in the civilized and modern American society of law. This sad state of mutual misunderstanding affects and retards any significant progress in their race relations, and can be attributed to the absence of visionary and courageous leadership in the President, both Houses of Congress, Community and Social Leaders, Black and White Influencers and Business Leaders. 

Leadership failure by both Black and White leaders is culpable and responsible for the American race against racism taking off on a momentum with racism in the lead far, far ahead.      

Know that American society was created with white racism. The earliest white God-fearing Christian settlers in the New World deployed racism as their weapon of choice, alongside firearms, to expropriate Native American Indians of their legacy ancestral lands as a matter of their self-assumed divine entitlement in order to create their own colonies. 

Early American colonies have a disdain for non-White immigrants who were not from countries like England, Ireland, France, Holland and Sweden.  That racism was nurtured and systematically developed by the early and subsequent colonies is baffling since they had migrated to the dangerous New World to escape religious persecution and social ostracism. 

Deprived of their birthright, the descendents of Native Americans tribes now live in respective “Reservations” which are often desolated properties on mere fractions of the greater American plains which once belonged to their fathers and ancestors.

The Chinese who first came to America in 1850s in search of gold and silver fortunes and who later helped built the Great American Railroads, like other non-White settlers, also encountered systemic White racism in the forms of legal and extralegal discrimination in daily living. Considered “the dregs of Asia”, they were prohibited from public schools, from voting, from citizenship and from testifying in courts or legal access. They were instead however legally liable to pay school, property, water, hospital taxes as well as a “permission tax” for gold and silver mining activities.        

The Chinese were only allowed US citizenship in 1943; Asian Indians from 1946 followed by Japanese and other Asians in 1952. With citizenship rights came the right to vote, or so it seemed. It is not until the 1965 Voting Rights Act which banned discrimination against voters belonging to language minority groups and provided critically important protections to these and other minority Americans. Section 203 of the Act which mandated the provision of bilingual ballots and language assistance to Asian American voters was only acted upon as recent as 13 October 2011, when bilingual ballots and language assistance were deployed in 22 cities over 11 states and in 6 Asian languages including Chinese, Filipino (Tagalog), Vietnamese and Korean.

We should regard the USA as becoming a young modern democracy only in 1965 using the universal franchise measure for a modern democracy. 

Singaporeans should be glad to know that we achieved the benefit of 1-man-1-vote universal franchise and democratic self-government in 1959, before the USA who is often hailed, factually incorrectly, as the greatest democracy of our time. 

Racism has neither a white or back face.  Racism is an evil that has neither colour nor face.  Racism is learnt.  We learn it from our parents. We teach it to our children.  The motivation to teach racism to our children arises out of our own fear.  We fear what we do not understand what or whom looks different from us.  Our natural reaction to the irritating uncomfortable fear is to retaliate, to defend, to eliminate and to remove the source of the discomfort by causing pain and possibly its death.  Racism counters such fears by concealing these fears.

The fear that Blacks can do what Whites do invokes such paranoiac fear from the thought that Blacks could actually be better than Whites in the things that they should not possibly have the genetics and aptitude for.  Racism rests upon the phony notion of inherent racial superiority.  

Racial bias may seem natural and innate in most of us. We need to take off our masks of racism. Using pride in our own cultural heritage as a cover, one is easily tempted to wear it all the time to compensate perhaps for an inadequate sense of self-esteem and self-worth.  Unconsciously, it gets the better of even the most “enlightened” among us who proclaim to be “colour blind”.  We are in fact blinded to our own racism which resonates in our unconsciousness. 

We must first face and admit the racism within ourselves. Black and White Americans must learn to discard, unlearn and scrub the baggage of their racist and bigoted history. Unhelpful history is best archived into irrelevance and possibly oblivion.  New chapters must be written inclusive of all Americans, and not just between Blacks and Whites.  

Racism feeds on a dangerous diet of contaminant ideas and lies regarding race and racial superiority, and regarding the inferiority of other races along various dimensions.  Read for example, the Malaysian Myth of the lazy Malay and the divisive bogus notion of Chinese privilege in racially harmonious Singapore.  

The race against racism is long and never-ending.  We need to conquer the lingering racism in ourselves. The imperative is to race towards and beyond the front of our own racial prejudices.  Some may believe that we cannot live without racism; for sure, we cannot live within it.  To win the race against racism, we have to first conquer ourselves (quoting Chinese philosopher Lau Tzu).

Yes, it is OK to ignore the things we disagree and focus on those we do, especially that which unite us. Social harmony does not require consensus or standardisation or assimilation. Harmonious co-existence in race relations needs only the respectful tolerance of differences without discrimination or recrimination.  A strong united community can embrace diversities of practice and opinions to allow the innovations of thought and ideas to make for a better future society. 

Only the end of racism will inject real meaning to the self-evidential natural freedom and equality envisioned and promised in the US Constitution. True freedom will bring responsibilities. These responsibilities include inclusiveness, justice, equality, sharing, opportunities, compassion, empathy, and condemning bigotry in any expressions.

After Dallas, can America run and stay increasingly way ahead in her race against racism? Only her readiness in truly acting out these responsibilities can begin the end of the long, long race against racism. Over these recent weeks, Americans know now that the mega-thon race against racism is far from slowing down … or over.

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