Race In America: Dancing Madly Backwards on a Sea of Hate


minstrel

I paraphrase above the title of one of my favorite 70s-era songs, by one of the decades’ most under-appreciated bands, Captain Beyond from their self-titled debut LP.  When I think of how America deals with race, “dancing madly backwards” seems an apt description, because despite obvious progress, we remain in many ways divided.

I saw a brief online blurb from CNN posted on RawStory.com several days ago about racial incidents in the U.S. escalating after Barack Obama’s election.  I’ve been writing  about race frequently because his campaign and election brought back vivid memories of the Civil Rights movement in America and reminds us how far we’ve come as a nation.

Although it appears we were ready to elect a black Commander-in-Chief, America’s seamy racist underbelly, which dwells in deep crevices of our society, is not.  In fact, its belligerence and audacity seem to be on the rise.

Threats against our president have reached an unprecedented level, along with race-related crimes/incidents.  Aided by the anonymity of the internet, white power sites seem to be picking up new viewers/contributors.

Hate groups recruit heavily among society’s misfits, miscreants and lost souls, attracting those who, lacking any sense of self or belonging, see narrow opportunities, lack of success and “evil” but  but can’t explain it. They feel repressed, threatened, vulnerable, left out and pissed on. They desperately seek a scapegoat.

Some come to such groups because they need to belong.  Causes tend to unite people. One feels more powerful when part of something that’s bigger than they are. One feels that he or she can accomplish more through a group than as individuals.

Others seek validation. Life doesn’t seem to offer them much and they, too,  want someone to blame. Still others were raised in families that hated minorities and since prejudice can be and often is inherited, they follow their parent’s lead.

“Lone wolves” are different. While they may agree with views expressed by a group, they may be too alienated to relate with or respond to small group dynamics.  While they can absorb the tenets of a hate group and imitate its behavior, they’re far too threatened by or outside society to be part of a group. Sociopaths can go either way, assimilating to a group of like-minded folks or acting alone.

The cornerstone of racial prejudice is hate. Hate groups are as threatening to our society as any terrorist group, which is precisely what they are.  These domestic terrorists hope to ignite a racial conflict that rocks the world. And because they live among us, it’s easier for them to do than for outsiders.

History’s full of examples where social change, driven by racial tension and prejudice moved nations.  It continues as “ethnic cleansing” resurfaces across the globe. No nation is immune. Hatred unites and divides. Both foment change.

I picked up a story about a NYC pastry shop that was making “Negro Face Cookies” a few days back.  “New World Odor” is new and minuscule. Even so, the activity on that post was the second highest since I’ve been writing here.  And the search terms were scurrilous.  Most included the “n” word, which was quoted in my story.

I try not to use the word, “nigger”  because it’s so charged with hatred, violence and centuries of atrocious behavior that it still provokes deep-seeded, automatic reactions among people of many races. The power of this word is immense. 

While I agree in principal with what Lenny Bruce used to say,  that the word retains such power because we suppress its use, I also cringe whenever I hear it–even among blacks, many of whom use it freely among themselves.   I’ve also listened as blacks lectured younger blacks about using it to casually refer to one another (“Nigga, please or “you know you my nigga”)  A good friend of mine is among those who uses it casually. He calls me “his nigga” in front of his friends and we all have a laugh but I’ve never been comfortable repeating it, even though it would be cool with everyone in the room. I just can’t bring myself to say it.  I can write it but can’t say it.

I recall another opinion regarding racial prejudice but can’t think of its source at the moment and searches have proven unproductive.  But the point is that (paraphrasing here) we can obliterate race by extensively interbreeding until race becomes  so diluted, it’s meaningless. (Anyone know who said this?)

That’s not to say that ethnic pride would disappear along with all the hatred and fear but rather, race would become more of a defining characteristic than a restrictive or negative one. This is the case for many European immigrants, who felt bigotry’s sting of when they first came to America. We became mutts as as we did so, cultural origin increasingly meant less. But race, being more observable than other cultural differences, has been a tougher “sell”. I pretty much agree that the way to become one is to extensively mingle and interbreed. I think it will draw us closer and make us stronger.

That it won’t happen in my lifetime is deeply disappointing.  We harbor hate so deeply, I suppose it’s going to take much longer than my remaining years to eradicate it form our imperfect world.  Perhaps that notion itself is patently absurd. Maybe human nature dictates that a sector of society always needs to have a “beat up buddy,” someone who lurks, forever waiting for an opening, someone who must be repressed at any cost…someone inferior that one can be blamed for his or her inadequacies. When John Lennon in 1972 wrote “Woman is the Nigger of the World,” it offended many but looking at what women suffer across the globe, it indeed causes pause.

I hope and pray this isn’t the case. I want hate to end.  But until love conquers hate, hatred will be our companion, because as a good friend of mine says, “you can’t `out-asshole’ an asshole.”  And I might add,  assholes are all pretty much the same color.

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