Is Race Most Important? (Part III)
(NOTE: This is Part III of a four part series: Links for the prior parts are: Part I - https://www.georgemarx.org/2023/07/newer-partial-table-of-contents-more.html,
Part II - https://www.georgemarx.org/2023/07/table-of-contents-plus-07142023.html
Part IV - https://www.georgemarx.org/2023/07/table-of-contents-07262023.html)
So, is race most important? Is it white domination over Black and Brown People? Is it class? Is it class with a touch of race? Is it a hierarchy of race and then class? Is it Intersectionality or is it The Patriarchy?
I strongly believe that racism is most important. Deeply tied to it is its intersection with The Patriarchy – with a deep touch of Intersectionality.
Kimberle Crenshaw, in 2016, eloquently addressed many of these issues in the Ted Talk noted below.
Racism and race have permeated The United States in a very, very deep way. Young children understand a lot, when they are too young to use words. Very young Black children pick up very quickly that whiteness is preferable to Blackness. The cues that they see often may be subtle, but they are perceptive.
White parents often want to let their children grow up in their innocence. Black parents face a different reality. They have a conflict – deep within themselves. They see how their innocent children – face a very dangerous world. They face the potential danger of waiting too long to save their children.
That ritual often is integrally tied to The Talk, again invisible to most white people.
An innocent child is often presumed to be a serious threat. While the police are the most common oppressor, others can turn most easily into a serious threat. A stick or a cell phone or similar can be perceived as gun. Joking words can turn deadly, easily. Travon Martin innocently died in 2012, while his killer, George Zimmerman was found innocent of murdering him.
Others – experience such issues, to varying degrees. There are biracial people. There are adopted children in an otherwise white family.
Layered into this are other factors which may vary greatly in their importance. Neurodiverse children and adults often live in a significantly different world. Other differences can include being: gender-non-binary, gay and lesbian, intellectually challenged, differently abled, and more.
Black People are killed much too frequently. They may be not responding, or not responding immediately or appropriately. They may be deaf. They may face serious mental health issues.
There are critical issues related to race and perceived race. Class, gender, and other such areas can be very important. Usually, they are less important.
In the United States, we often pretend that class isn’t significant. We have the myth of being a meritocracy. Supposedly, anyone can work and should work with dogged determination.
Hard work will allegedly allow us to move up into the middle or upper classes.
Black People (and those perceived as being Black) are different.
Most particularly in states like Texas and Florida, Latino/X People can self-identify as: both white vs. Non-white, while being LatinoX.
A significant number of (somewhat at least) assimilated LatinoX People identify primarily as white. Their identities may be tied to not being Black, as well as being USian. In that sense they are seeking the path that most other (white) immigrants have followed. Examples of this include: Irish, or German or Sicilian/Italian people significantly shedding their native culture through their children and grandchildren who become USians.
LatinoX and Black People could and logically should be allied together. The (mostly) white elites keep their power (again) by divide and conquer.
This is, of course, another example of the elites weaponizing our divisions with (false) binaries such as: white vs. Black. Other examples include unionizing and strikebreaking, as well as residential and educational segregation. Richard Rothstein’s – The Color of Law …
http://www.workingtowardsendingracism.org/2020/12/the-color-of-law-richard-rothstein.html gets at these issues most effectively.
A Native American individual may, or may not, appear different to others. Most of us know relatively little about Native People. We also know little about being Latino/x, as well as East Asian, and more.
Being Black, or appearing to be Black, is tied to slavery and its legacy in The United States. While white people often are in denial, the end of the Civil War, didn’t figuratively free the slaves. President Lincoln didn’t believe that Black People could and should become equal citizens amongst white people.
Despite Constitutional Amendments – which implied equal rights for all – Separate But Equal – became the law of the land. Separate it was! Unequal and discriminatory funding – and much, much more – moved the United States along.
Brown vs. Board of Education – in 1954 – was supposed to bring about and end to racially discriminatory public education. Residence to integration of schools continued into the 1960’s and in some cases beyond then.
The Civil Rights laws of the 1960s were intended to end our racial divide. Affirmative action, recently largely outlawed, proved to be largely a tool for white women, and a few privileged Black People to get equal opportunities. Ironically Clarence Thomas who benefited significantly from affirmative action, including (essentially) his selection to the Supreme Court, now lead and leads efforts to dismantle it.
In the mid-1960’s – Black Power – became an influential part of organized significantly Black organizations. Leaders of groups such as SNCC (The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) pushed white leadership and membership out. They basically said to them that it was time for the white people to work with white people in white communities to end racism.
We, the white people, resisted this challenge, and systemic racism is most vividly powerful today. A majority of Republican voters now believe that “Black against white racism” (sic) is more of a systemic problem than: “white against Black racism”. This is a vast distortion of reality!
Racism did not end with laws such as those that outlawed discrimination in the rental and sale of residential property. When – equally “qualified” – Black – purported purchasers or renters seek housing in multiple studies, their efforts are vastly different a significant percentages of the time, than similar white people. Recently there was a settlement of a lawsuit where a Black Family in Marin County, California, near San Francisco, established that their house appraised value was $500,000 less than it would have been if the had been white. This is noted at:
Intersectionality itself isn’t a neat box, where things are for example equal thirds of race, class and gender. We all are tied to our historic and personal traumas earlier in our lives. For some childhood goes relatively smoothly. For others the road may be consistently rocky, or have various ups and downs.
Even looking at class itself can be complex. My partner’s father’s family included some who managed to hold onto property they owned during the depression proximate to the 1930’s. Some had white sharecroppers working for the Black Family my partner came from.
Being a Black Man in South Carolina could put one at extremes in one’s life. Those successful, were quite successful. Others faced imprisonment and even early deaths in a few cases.
The pressures put upon Black Men vs. Black Women are not comparable to those upon white men and white women. The university hierarchies that my father went into as a white, Jewish man coming of age largely in the 1940’s were far different than they are today. Prestigious universities often had upper-class, Protestant white men who were the core of the faculty. Being Catholic was a step down. Being Jewish might have some inroads in the Northeast, however in the Midwest it was often different.
The periods of slavery and today are not totally separate. Religion was weaponized long ago, and today it seemingly is also having a resurgence. Black Women were often condescendingly viewed as either highly sexualized, or doting caretakers of the young white children.
Black men were viciously beaten down, while today they are seen stereotypically as brutish, unfeeling sexual predators. The actual predators in both eras were and still are primarily privileged white men.
Class is important. Race, however is much easier weaponized, and used to play off the lower classes of people against each other.
In what I hope will be the final part of this writing, I will try to draw tentative, at least conclusions.