Warning: Despite this blog post’s length, it doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the rampant increase of police brutality and blatant racism that is spreading not only all over the United States of America, but also the rest of our precious world. So, make yourself a cup of tea. Pop some popcorn. It’s going to be a long read.
I had considered posting this long blog post in one hefty steak-and-potatoes meal, but I’ve chosen to have my readers read it in bite-size, healthy chunks so that they can digest it, reflect on it, mediate on it, and then act. This is a serious post and even though I may dash a few humorous rainbow sprinkles in it to ease discomfort, it is of dire importance to our ever-changing world. Change is uncomfortable. And yes, change can be good. But the changes that are taking place in the United States are disturbing, distressing, and must be acknowledged.
I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I will say it again: I am not a conspiracy theorist, but I have realized that whenever something disturbing happens in the USA, instead of peeling back the comely visage of America the Beautiful and seeing the sometimes horrible ugliness beneath, it’s due to fear and the stubborn unwillingness to address or even accept the terrible fact that: something is rotten in the USA (to paraphrase Shakespeare’s Hamlet).
Some time ago, the “business company” I work for had us participate in a training called “Ouch! That stereotype hurts!” http://ouchthatstereotypehurts.com/ We had to watch a series of videos that not only angered and disgusted me, but set off a mega-thunder clap of super-cala-frajalistic-espialadocious EUREKAS in my brain. At first, I thought I would have a seizure at any moment, due to the massive pain in my head, but then I realized it was merely a headache spurred on by stress and distress.
During this training, here are some things I learned:
*Stereotypes are pervasive.
*Some stereotypes are accepted more than others (the Model Minority – uh, if you never heard of it before, I’ll discuss more on that later).
*Stereotypes can affect people on a subconscious level . . . (more on that later too).
I have a particularly twisted sense of humor and some of the dumb, thoughtless things some people say in public (and often get away with) brings to mind this tongue-in-cheek satire of racism in the United States of America:
Some viewers thought that this portrayed blacks as upstanding citizens and whites as ignorant, self-serving nincompoops who were not only oblivious to their white privilege, but also to the unfair prejudice against blacks and other melanated minorities.
Well, burnt cookies for you, haters, and you can swallow them down with a nice, frosty glass of Hatorade!
The fact of the matter is some whites and some blacks ARE ignorant. Some whites and blacks are oblivious and/or don’t WANT to accept the reality of White privilege! Why?
Let’s eviscerate one reason and reveal all of its bloody, glistening guts, beneath the glaring lights of the autopsy table of truth.
I asked my husband-to-be about this (he’s white and no, I don’t believe he’s the spokesperson for white men everywhere) and he admitted that he often did feel guilty about how he is treated in comparison to others that aren’t white. I responded that he need not feel guilty because it’s not his fault. Also, guilt doesn’t help. (Especially when I devour an entire cheesecake in one sitting). Yes, I feel the guilt and it is so heavy it weighs down on me like a sack of rotten potatoes, but a month later the guilt is ignored and replaced with my longing for more cheesecake paired with a side of ice cream.
Guilt doesn’t DO SH!T! It’s often an emotional reaction that gives no solutions and greedily denies a path to answers.
Yes, the video is disturbing, like a train wreck, that you just can’t look away from no matter how hard you try. HOWEVER, it is a satire, which pokes fun at the many nuances of racism and stupidity in the USA.
If I received money every time I heard “Oh, you’re not the average black girl because [insert stupid, insensitive comment here] . . .” I’d be richer than Solomon of the Bible! Or Oprah! Or J.K. Rowling!
Shake my head . . .
And when I shared how I felt growing up as a black woman in the United States of America, I didn’t think my husband-to-be would understand. And something wonderful happened. He found this video on Youtube that revealed some of my own thoughts and feelings:
I asked him why he felt the need to text this to me (this was before we were engaged).
He said, “Because I’m sorry. I’m sorry for some of the insensitive things I may have said.”
Now, back to my EPIC EUREKA MOMENT!
Stereotypes: The Lie That Just Keeps Giving
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
Stereotypes are similar to lies that are created by lazy, human thinking. Some sociologists call them “shortcuts”, like a**holes call deception little white lies. And stereotypes do more than hurt. If repeated again and again and again in various formats — they become internalized. They’re accepted for unchallenged truths. Stereotypes are destructive.
According to http://beachflute.teachforus.org/2007/10/28/the-list-of-stereotypes/, here are the following most common stereotypes for blacks, whites, latinos, and asians (I had to research these on my own):
Stereotypes about Black people:
- Crack babies
- Teen pregnancy
- Fathers leave their kids
- Love fried chicken and Kool-Aid
- Hard workers? Lazy? (there was considerable debate on this)
- Live in the ghetto/the projects
- Wasted generation
- Loud, obnoxious, rude
- Nappy hair
- Bad attitudes, disrespectful
- Sex, drugs, porn, weed
- Low job expectations
- Speak different English
Stereotypes about White people:
- Eating disorders
- Trailer trash, rednecks
- Very proper
- Sense of entitlement, power
- Always think they’re right
- Rich with big houses
- Have better jobs
- Priority is staying in a relationship
- Drink a lot of beer
- No rhythm and bad music
- Serial killers, suicidal
- Can’t discipline their kids
- Like crack, ecstasy, LSD, PCP
- Always in a hurry and on time
- Impatient, rude
- Can’t dress
- Not funny
- Not athletic
- Plastic surgery
- Smell funny
Stereotypes about Latino people:
- Construction workers
- Flirtatious, lots of PDA
- dangerous, gang members
- taking over everything
- filling cars with people
- illegal immigrants!
- Hard workers, odd jobs
- Stealing music
- Fake teeth
- Greasy hair
- Spicy food
- Run-down houses
- Don’t use their intelligence
- Too many kids
Stereotypes about Asian people:
- Parents are conservative and strict
- Have bad English
- Sikhs are the same as Muslims
- Bad at athletics, but know Martial arts . . .
- Most are doctors or engineers
- Poor except for Arabs
- No fashion sense
- All look alike
- Meek, humble
- Females are submissive
- Males are effeminate
- Socially awkward
- Hard workers
- Success driven
- Failure to assimilate
- Stealing jobs
- Too little kids
- Restaurant owner
I noticed while reviewing each list that each ethnic group possesses both negative and positive stereotypes. But ask yourself, which ones are challenged as merely stereotypes? Which ones are glorified in mainstream media? Which group has the most negative stereotypes that effects the ethnic group’s success as a whole?
Which ones are accepted as Truth to you?
I’ve been an educator for over a decade and counting. I noticed that when as a school we’re analyzing data, blacks are usually the lowest. No, strike that. They’re always the lowest, followed by Latinos. Whites and Asians are at the top – provided that they are not ELL (English Language Learner) or have an ESE disability that compromises their many, many test scores. I also learned that a great majority of black children (especially boys) are placed in ESE classes – rarely ever Gifted – and smacked with a learning disability or some whack-a-doodle diagnosis of Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD). Sadly, some of these young men have beautiful, brilliant minds and are actually Gifted, but are simply bored and tired of a school system that wants them to assimilate and act like well-behaved little automatons who raise their hand, speak at the same time, stay in their seats, and only talk when told. I passionately feel this way about boys of all colors and ethnic groups! Boys and girls are NOT the same, but education is a “one-size-fits-all-and-if-you-don’t-fit-we’ll-make-you-fit-darn-it” kind of business. The educational system with all of its multi-billion dollar te$ting, cutting beloved programs (Art, Music), and a myriad more list of self-defeating naughtiness, sometimes reminds me of a diabolical Greek character named Procrustes who would stretch his victims or cut off their legs to make them fit his iron, torture bed.
When I was an elementary school kiddo, we had recess and PE every single day! Now, our children – of all colors – have been robbed of recess and don’t get PE every day. I don’t know if this is true for other states around the country, but it’s true of the state that I live in.
Now, flashback to the meeting I attended for Ouch! That Stereotype Hurts! During the meeting I started wondering what effect long-lived stereotypes taught inadvertently to generation after generation, shown in the media, played in commercials, and/or presented in literature could have on the mind (especially a young, pliant mind) and what ramifications it would have on children and the generations before and after them. As an avid reader and an aspiring history buff, I recall the study conducted by Dr. Kenneth Clark and his wife, Mamie Clark for her master’s degree thesis. It’s an interesting study with disturbing results that gives me shivers and grieves my heart. Basically, the results proved that “school segregation was distorting the minds of young black kids, causing them to internalize stereotypes and racism, to the point of making them hate themselves”.
The purpose of this blog post isn’t to prove that Blacks have been taught by design to hate themselves, due to the pressure of white hegemony and the malicious myth and lie of white supremacy. That fact has been proven time and time again for centuries. The point of this blog to expose the fact that Blacks, Latinos, and Asians have been crushed by the heel of white hegemony since time immemorial. And then after being crushed, ethnic groups like Asians (dubbed model minorities) have been tempted and enthralled to believe that they have been accepted by the white majority against their fellow minorities. That way, instead of uniting with other minorities in order to fight against this nonsense, some stand divided in the supposed United States of America. I’m not saying that minorities as a group banned together against whites. What I am saying is that if more and more people regardless of their color and ethnicity choose to fight for the sake of other people, because we all share this ephemeral human experience on this planet, those in power who want to keep us divided (focused on race – which is a myth and a societal fallacy) we can get to work fixing our country.
Here, let me break it down like this:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
The above quote comes from Martin Niemöller, a protestant pastor and foe of Adolf Hitler. Reread the quote, replace it with an ethnic group that isn’t yours. What’s been happening to Blacks and what has happened to Asians and Latinos regarding police brutality is a warning of what will happen to anyone in this country. It may be practice for something bigger and so terrible it’s hard to imagine. Heck, I don’t want to imagine it!
The position that Blacks have once held as the hard-working model minority has been eclipsed deliberately and passed onto Asians and Latinos who were once just as hated and feared by racist, power-hungry whites. When will it change for them too? Like a pendulum, this trend can swing, and Lady America is oh so capricious.
The Myth of the Model Minority
The title of “Model Minority” was a label given first to Japanese-Americans by Caucasians in an attempt to honor them for their success and triumphing against discrimination and subordination. Supporters of this backhanded compliment argue that Asians no longer face discrimination. As the saying goes “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”, and it is debatable that giving such a title was motivated by good intentions; however, the label is merely just another negative stereotype. Basically, the success of Asian Americans is simply generalized and simplified. Instead of giving credit where credit is due, Asian Americans are successful simply because they are Asian and not because they possess positive human qualities shared with other ethnic groups, (whites, blacks, Latinos) such as good work ethic and determination. This obnoxious title robs them of their humanity and makes other minorities look less than and lacking in their humanity as well. Sadly, I often hear students at the school where I teach exclaim, “Of course she got an “A” – she’s Asian!” Need I ram my point home further? I think not.
Murder of Vincent Chin
“What kind of law is this? What kind of justice? This happened because my son is Chinese. If two Chinese killed a white person, they must go to jail, maybe for their whole lives… Something is wrong with this country.” Lily Chin, mother of Vincent Chin
Vincent Chin was born in China. After being adopted, his family moved and settled in Michigan. The night he was murdered, he celebrated with his friends the upcoming wedding when two white men insulted him and blamed him for their lack of employment. Chin demanded that they not call him names. The two white men didn’t like that and decided to get revenge because how dare an Asian man disrespect not just one white man, but TWO white men and think he can get away with it?, right – especially when they’re the ones who started the argument in the first place. I mean, he should have just kept his mouth shut and bowed or something, eh? (dripping sarcasm). To make a sad story much shorter, one held him down and the other bludgeoned him with a baseball bat. He died four days later from the injuries. Initially, the men served no jail time, served three years of probation. They paid a measly fine of $3,780 (court cost and fines). Fortunately, Chin’s determined mother chose to fight back. If you want to learn more, I’ve assigned it for homework.
Stereotypes Can Change
For some time in history (during Reconstruction Era after the USA Civil War and up until the Civil Rights Movement) Blacks were considered the model minority. Blacks worked long hours with little pay. Blacks would work under deplorable, unfair environments in order to pave their way to the American Dream. For a couple hundred years or so, Blacks in the USA have struggled with being given the basic human rights that everyone deserves regardless of their skin pigmentation. Year after year, February after February, Americans are bombarded with slave movies, the black struggle for Civil Rights, the enduring abuse, rapes, murders, and downright disrespect that comes with being Black. And I used to think that perhaps the intentions behind these movies were good, even at the expense of such a shameful past being constantly thrown in society’s face. So, as the surviving Jews of the Holocaust would lament, “Never again. We must never forget our past”. That was the mentality I chose to have, despite the fact that I didn’t cater to these recent movies.
Now, not so much. This constant rinse and repeat of slavery and “you had no rights” because you were slaves in a “white man’s land” isn’t and wasn’t always Black America’s legacy. Like other ancient civilizations around the world, Africans have a multifaceted past, both glimmering and shining, but also dark and disappointing.
This too is the shared music of humanity’s legacy. We humans, yes the human race – I don’t believe in different races, but one – are not cookie cutter creations. Even when writing fiction, you can’t get away with Pollyanna goodie-goodie heroes or Sinister-Charlie-Curling-Moustache villains.
And Africans weren’t always slaves. Nor were they the only civilization who took part in a slave trade.
Africans, were not always slaves, as the media likes to portray over and over again. Africans came from a rich past of royalty – princes, princesses, kings and queens lavished in gold and lapis lazuli that any European queen would envy.
Now out of all the ethnic groups, I hear a lot of hate – vitriolic, poisonous hate spewing from the computers of people hiding and click-clacking away at their keyboards. Blacks, as of late, are treated as the worst of minorities or people of color in many countries. I think of the dark-skinned native people of Australia, the native Africans of South Africa denied equality with their white neighbors and it grieves my heart as to why that is. Blacks in America are perceived and portrayed as lazy, drug dealers, Welfare Queens, Ghetto squatters, the masters of improper grammar, and murderers of not only others, but of their own.
Here are some examples of hate I found while reading comments during the latest murders of young, Black men (emphasis mine):
*“Why aren’t Hispanics in East Baltimore brutalized? Here’s a hint they don’t act like animals.”
*“It’s not a police state. If the black community acted like everyone else none of this would be happening. How many Asian boys are brutalized?”
*“Ya sure – just ignore the real issues. no justification for brutal cops but the clear reality is black men have very little to fear from cops since 98% of the shooting deaths are from other black men.”
*“Only by picking up their pants and speaking good English can blacks stop police brutality. Remember, the system never has to change, the victim does.”
I had to take a break after reading most of these comments. A lot of them didn’t address the real issue, a deeper issue that is of such scope and magnitude, I don’t know how it will be resolved. Instead of asking for answers, commenters blamed the victim who was shot and killed. The victim was Walter Scott, an innocent, unarmed Black man, who was shot eight times. May he rest in peace. You can find more information here for your own perusal: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/08/us/south-carolina-officer-is-charged-with-murder-in-black-mans-death.html?_r=0
Despite the string of negative, ignorant comments, two comments gave me a ray of hope: First this one: “Basically the officers don’t see the community as individual people but the enemy. A dysfunctional mass of people that they have to aggressively police. They see the carnage and dysfunction up close that impacts a person. Teachers at inner city schools go through a similar process.” And the second: “Maybe it’s time to address the real issues of bad schools, poverty, broken families, no jobs etc. Ya know the things the press never really covers and liberals won’t talk about for lots of poor reasons…”
No, I’m not a liberal, nor am I a conservative, but this last commenter showed that he understood the issue of Blacks being murdered in cold blood. And now, crime in poor areas isn’t necessarily the problem, but a symptom of a much larger issue. I detest both sides of the same coin of liberal and conservative. I just want a politician who won’t lie, cheat, steal, and one who will keep his or her word about fixing our country – I’d much rather vote for Batman than any of these uber-wealthy men or women who have no idea what it’s like to be an everyday American. Heck, at least, Batman gets things done. 🙂
Personally, I know how the American system had nearly destroyed my psyche as a young, Black woman. And though I can’t speak for every Black person, I know what struggles I endured and overcame:
*Fighting becoming a statistic (single mom; never married)
*Speaking out and acting against stereotypes and discrimination (speaking proper also known as “talking white” – (more on that in Part Two), pursuing a good education, going to college, being a writer, speaking multiple languages, traveling, etc.)
*Despising being Black and learning to love who I was not because of my skin color alone, but because of who I have grown and matured into being: a woman of great accomplishments, a mother of two beautiful children, a writer, an educator, an artist, a xenophile.
A powerful and poignant scene comes to mind from a book I love to hate and hate to love: Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye”. It centers on a little, Black girl named Pecola who believes that if she had white skin, golden hair, and blue eyes, she would be loved and all of her problems would vanish. Her very whiteness would wash away her unhappy, miserable life, which is perpetuated by the Black adults in her life, who hate themselves just as much as she does. “Here was an ugly little black girl,” the text reads, “asking for beauty…A little black girl who wanted to rise up out of the pit of her blackness and see the world with blue eyes” (Morrison, 174). I too remember being like this little black girl wanting to be like the Barbie dolls in the toy store; the Sweet Valley High twins with their fair features; the “popular” girls deemed beautiful by white America on various soap operas, commercials, magazine covers, and music videos.
Growing up, I would often wonder: “Where am I? Where is a girl like me with dark brown skin, warm brown eyes, and a bright smile? Where is she?”
And if she is nowhere to be found, she must not be wanted. And she is not beautiful. But, thank God that I learned with the love of my parents and also due to my pursuit of knowledge, I learned that I don’t need mainstream society’s skewed carnival-mirror to reflect me. I have my own mirror. I have friends and family who love me. And I have my legacy. I am more than a pretty face.
I am so much more.
CONCLUSION of PART ONE:
Last year, I read Banks’ book “Is Marriage for White People: How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone”.
Overall, the book fulfills the adage: “A writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it.” Ralph often mentions “white follows black”, meaning that trends that occur in the black community will eventually effect the white community. If one closely observes what’s been happening to our society for the past one hundred years or even most recently within the past decade, his theory is frighteningly accurate. “White follows black” indeed. I will not go into detail because I don’t want to spoil the reading experience for others. Even though the book stirred plenty of emotions in me (both negative and positive) the book was an eye-opening, validating, and bitter-sweet experience. There is a family-destroying-agenda in this country and as it has been seen in the black community, the white community will soon experience the devastating effects also. Like a domino effect, we’ll all come tumbling down, crushing one another.
Hmmm. An answer would just be the very tip of the iceberg because once we have an answer, we’ll need a solution and unfortunately, I don’t think the majority of Americans want a solution. Why do I think that? Well, I’m realistic, and I often verge on the side of pessimism with a dash of optimism. “Hope for the best, expect the worst, dearies!” I sing.
George Carlin, deceased potty-mouth comedian extraordinaire often said, “Nobody seems to notice, nobody seems to care.”
And it’s true. That’s why there’s so many problems in our country and it’s only going to get worse before it gets much, much worse. Why? Because most Americans even if they notice, they don’t seem to care. Caring seems to take too much effort.
Awww, darlin’. You thought I was going to say “it’s only going to get worse before it gets better, right?”
Sorry, I won’t and cannot coddle you with lies. Ignorance isn’t bliss. It’s poison. A verse in the Bible says, “My people perish for lack of knowledge”. And yes, never forget that knowledge is power. The most important thing is knowing what to believe and with the viral expansion of knowledge in our world, there are groups who want you to believe the wrong things.
I shall leave you with this gem of profane-laden truth a la George Carlin, which only begins to answer the problems in our country, before vexing you with a deluge of more questions:
You dear reader, must be proactive. You must choose what kind of America you want to live in.
The choice is yours.
Knowledge is power. And knowing is half the battle . . .
Say it with me, fellow 70s and 80s babies: “GI Joe”.
Stay tuned for Part Two coming soon.