A few hours ago, I watched a YouTube video where a bunch of brainiacs debated the meaning/cause/remedy for what we are calling racism in the United States. My Ninja-blender-brain has been whirring at warp speed ever since.
The podcast, Bret Weinstein's DarkHorse Podcast was a virtual roundtable (thanks, COVID) featuring Glenn Loury, John Wood Jr., Coleman Hughes, Thomas Chatterton Williams, John McWhorter, Chloe' Valdary, and Kmele Foster. This came to my attention when my inbox when our Nextdoor neighborhook gossip rag (sorry, but that's how I think of it much of the time) showed me a link to a posting by Uche Ama titled, Anti-racism is White Supremacy. I was immediately bumped by that statement and went to read her post. I wasn't sure I agreed with her analysis, but I went to the link in her post that took me to the podcast mentioned above.
What was interesting was that after two hours of discussion by a collection of brilliant minds with a collection of degrees that most likely have more letters than the Welsh town of Lllanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, there was no consensus or conclusion on what exactly needs to happen for our country, and ultimately the world for humankind to knockoff this bullshit race thing. There were, as you might imagine and you have probably experienced in discussions with your mates at the local pub, plenty of opinions.
A good number of issues were explored. Is police brutality a cause or symptom? Do we have a social structure problem? Can we legislate our way out of this? Is it a poverty issue? Is white supremacy a thing? Does a solution depend on the individual or on society and governmental structures? What role does education play in all this? The list of possible causes and effects goes on and on; watch the damn video to get a better understanding.
I came away with a couple of impressions and, I think, one conclusion. My conclusion was prompted by the discussions of a couple of the round-table participants, and it is, that the solution lies with the individual, first and foremost. Now, let me try to explain why I believe that.
I believe we are as we have been informed. As a child, we are informed in many ways. Certainly and most important would be our parents if we are fortunate enough to have at least one, and preferably two. In a "normal" home, they parent(s) hold sway over everything you know and learn for the first five years of your life. During this time, and in this modern world, you are likely glued in front of a TV a good deal of the time and you're taking in information from that source.
However, that information is in a certain context, whether it is cartoons, or Sesame Street, or any number of programs aimed at children to both entertain and to perhaps teach. But, what we see on TV is usually very different from what we encounter in the real world, notwithstanding the local/national news, but I don't know how many four-year-olds are glued to the TV during the evening news. My point here is that what is on TV is in fact inside a box, not unlike the little traveling puppet shows of old. When the curtain is drawn, the show is over, and we go back to real life.
At age five, our world expands, exponentially. We're off to school. We are now being informed by teachers, other students who were likely taught very different lessons in their homes, and once we learn to read, we begin to see the view of the world from various writer's point of view. We may be going to religious services where a point of view of our families faith is presented to us. This expansion of our world continues for around the next fifteen years through high school, college, maybe military service if that is our path. By around age twenty, we are an amalgam of ideas, philosophies, and stereotypes that have shaped how we view the world and the people in it.
We take in this wealth of information for the first twenty years of our lives. We accept some of it and perhaps reject some of it, but it does form the basis of who we are psychologically and socially. But rather than having a herd mentality, we retain our individuality, especially in our United Statian culture.
No, that is not a typo; I've made this point before. The Americas stretch from Canada's most northern borders to the southern border of Nicaragua and a number of Latin American countries. Incidentely, the NAC also includes Greenland.
We, those of us in the United States are not the only Americans. All the people in North America in this hemisphere should enjoy the designation of being an American. I would like to find a better term than United Statian - it doesn't quite roll of the tongue, but I do think it is unfair to the 227 million people who share the North American Continent with us, along with another 60,000 in island territories to feel that we are the only ones entitled to that lable.
I apologize for the side trip into geography. As I was saying, we are a compendium, a sum of the information that was either force-fed to us or that we took in over the period of our young lives. We are what we learned. Yet, while many of us learned much the same things, we mostly tend to reject the herd mentality.
Unlike herd animals, we have evolved a complicated brain that allows us to reach our own conclusions. We are social animals in that we want to do things in larger groups, but we still insist on keeping our individuality, a trait I seldom see in milk cows or a herd of sheep. While a few of us may feel comfortable in a herd, following a leader wherever that may lead us, the majority of humans will balk at being told to "just do it because I said so."
This brings me back to my point that the search for an answer to racism has to start with the individual. Each of us holds stereotypes of black people, Latinos, Asian people, Russians, anyone you can think of, that was taught to us through all the learning experiences I've mentioned earlier. If you grew up in a home where the Confederate flag was tacked to a wall and all you heard growing up were racial slurs and racial animus, the probability is quite high that you are now informed by what you learned. No legislations, no changing of rules of society, and no amount of money being thrown at the problems of racism is going to reach what you learned.
You are the only one who can do a self analysis of what you believe and why you believe it and make a conscious decision to change your opinions or to hang on to them. Since every part of society, our government, our schools, our military, everything is comprised of individuals who are being informed everyday by what they have been taught, the only way a sea change can happen is at the individual level and on a massive scale. Can that happen? I think so. Will that happen? That remains to be seen.
The discussions touched on this issue, and there seemed to be at least a partial consensus that we need a leader, not unlike JFK or MLK who had the ability to bring people together around sometimes a simple slogan; "I have a dream" and "We choose to go to the Moon". These simple phrases, bolstered by other leadership qualities and speeches by both men rallied our country to be a better society collectively than we could ever be acting individually.
Something I saw recently, and maybe saw thirty years ago, was a Don Cheadle appearance on Golden Girls. Remember, we were struggling with this thirty years ago, and long before that. At the end of this four-minute clip, listen to Cheadle's advice to Blanche about positive.
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