“It’s not what you say, it’s what I hear.” This is a phrase that could be used to address a problem presently causing a bit of consternation across America today. The problem? Bonafide, certified racism. It reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw a while back. “According to my calculations, the problem doesn’t exist.”
The narrative on “racism” today has become so convoluted it is hard to understand how we can even have a coherent dialogue about it in light of the old-fashioned racism many of us experienced; the bonafide, certified, legal racism that existed in America before civil rights laws were passed in the ’60s.
How do you explain to the people in our society who have no knowledge of history – American or Black – what the word “racism” really means, in the context of our American experience, past and present?
The clamoring of the masses, such as Black Lives Matter, makes no sense to one who lived through certifiable, definitive, constant racism. It is hard to understand what it is they are angry about – so how can you have an intelligent discussion of “racism” with people who have no historical experience with it and are so irrational as to believe that America is still a racist country?
You hear, read and see on TV, commentators and protesters decrying racism in America today. There are challenges to the political parties; which is the least racist: Democrats or Republicans?
As we prepare to enter the final stages of electing the next president of the United States, we hear and read of outreaches by the parties to the black community. It might be helpful to look briefly into this arena.
The “black community” – far from being monolithic – actually contains several schools of thought, politically speaking. Let’s look briefly at two major groups with divergent perspectives; one is more active than the other, and each is activated by different stimuli.
The pre-’60s group is the generation born prior to the ’60s civil rights revolution. This particular group experienced firsthand the oppressive atmosphere of institutionalized racism and are aware that while all may not be perfect, real change has occurred in America.
The post-’60s group is the generation born after the ’60s civil rights revolution. This group, more vocal and visible, may actually face a greater challenge because they are subjected to, and influenced by, a constant barrage of what I call “virtual racism” and propaganda by the media and so-called civil rights leaders. They view themselves as victims, based upon a new “we are all victims of something” thee-ology.
How will blacks vote in the upcoming election? Liberal or conservative? Democrat or Republican? Unfortunately, the pre-’60s black community is hampered because conservatives have failed to communicate their message effectively with a cultural ally – blacks.
Let me quote from my book, “Black Yellowdogs”: In the ’60s, when the northern wing of the Democratic Party was forced onto the leading edge of the Republican-supported 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the media miraculously transformed the entire Democratic Party into liberals, and the Republicans became the conservatives.
Republicans were the original “liberals” (liberal about granting civil rights) and Democrats (who had ruled Southern politics since 1874) were the original “conservatives” (refusing to grant civil rights).
As I point out in my book, every civil rights bill from 1865 to 1965 was passed by Republicans over the objections of the majority of Democrats.
In addition, the 13th Amendment (abolishing slavery), the 14th Amendment (granting citizenship to blacks), the 15th Amendment (granting voting rights to black men) and the Civil/Voting Rights Acts of 1870, 1871 and 1875 were all passed by Republicans and then overturned by Democrat “Redeemer” governments at the state level, a powerful Democrat voting bloc at the national level, and a Democrat-dominated Supreme Court.
In other words, every single civil right guaranteed to blacks by Republicans, and an amended Constitution, was ignored, circumvented or overturned by Democrats. Just imagine what America would be like today had not a Democrat-controlled Congress reversed the anti-segregation provisions of the 1866, 1870, 1871 and 1875 civil rights bills.
In their book, “America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible,” Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom wrote (speaking of blacks): “No group in American history has ever improved its position so dramatically in so short a time.” Considering where we are today, just imagine the further impact on the American economy of millions of totally free blacks having lived and worked for 200 years in a virtually colorblind society like we have now.
The problem with defining racism in America today, in the light of history, could be compared to asking the average American to define English trifle. They may have heard of it, but they have never actually tasted it. So it is with real, not virtual racism in America today.