Thursday, July 18, 2013

Will America Ever Truly Be My Home?

The title of this post is a rephrasing of an article I read today written by a Trinidad-born woman who, following graduation from college, had decided to return to Trinidad. Her thoughtful piece
details how, despite living in different areas of the country in different environments, among different cultures, she never felt a sense of belonging.

As a genealogist of 30-plus years, I have discovered that I am a fifth-generation American. My children are sixth-generation Americans and my grandson, a seventh-generation American. My family has been in this country longer than many, if not most, European-Americans. This doesn't include those ancestors who were Native Americans. Yet, like the writer of the referenced article, I ofen feel that I don't really belong. Yet, there are many here in this country who still don't see black people as "truly American." Yet, for the most part, we remain "the other." Yet, my educated, standard-English-speaking, non-baggy-pants-wearing sons are deemed suspicious, dangerous, worthy of being followed, attacked and even killed, solely because of the color of their skin.

Kidnapped, stolen, enslaved, beaten, lynched, stripped of native culture and tongues, Africans were bought to this continent literally kicking and screaming. The retelling of the conditions and treatment in which the kidnapped Africans were encased is unnecessary. We know, or should know, the history. We even have many who would tell us that, "We need to get over it." "That was a long time ago." "My grandparents never owned slaves." Yet, America won't "get over it."

We can educate ourselves at some of the finest institutions. We can gain employment at excellent organizations that enables us to purchase homes in gated communities, send our children to excellent schools, enroll them in extracurricular activities to build their character and help their communities. Yet, we remain the other. We still don't belong.

I've heard the question asked, "why do we keep trying to belong to a country that doesn't want us?" I can understand the sentiment. It's like the child who continually seeks his parents' approval, yet never gains it. It's like the abused wife who, despite her best efforts, can never satisfy the unreasonable demands and expectations of her husband. Dare I say it's like the cotton-picking slave, whose bleeding hands and feet traverse the cotton fields from sunup to sundown furiously picking the bolls in an effort to avoid the lash of the overseer, yet never seeming to be enough, do enough, be something other than the other, seeking favor, seeking acceptance.

I have friends who, tired of the fight to be more than the other, have just chosen to live within the system, eking out a living knowing the constraints. I know others who have fled the country to become ex-pats in countries they feel are more embracing. I admit to having strongly considered the latter in the past. Yet, I strongly feel that this country is as much, if not more, mine than most European-Americans. Yet, the melanin content of the skin of my sons conveys danger to many.

There are times when I doubt that we will ever belong. There are times when I suspect that is the agenda. Yet, this is my country. This is the country of my ancestors. Unlike the author of the referenced article, there is no African "home" to which I can return. The name, tongue and location of that African home was beaten out of my ancestors more than 300 years ago. I don't belong, but I'm not going anywhere.

It's 2013 and Trayvon Martin didn't belong either.

1 comment:

Mike said...

If you want to end racism then you need to do way with Empire; and the concept of the State.

Racism acts a kind of protectionism and replicates the image of the ruling group as the standard by which all things are judged. It is the anthropocentric reflection of the Empire.

Historically it was under Wilson who ushered in the Jim Crow laws and the institutionalized racism that accompanied it. The Wilson white house segregated their bathrooms and believed "that federal segregation was an act of kindness". The economic reforms the progressives pushed were political movements that created economic rents for the benefit of white people specifically. Occupational licensing reduced the number of people who could do certain business and this was used to restrict the number of blacks from competing against whites. The minimum wage was used against blacks as a way to keep "undesirable groups" from gaining employment. "A minimum wage was seen to operate eugenically through two channels: by deterring prospective immigrants and also by removing from employment the "unemployable" who, thus identified, could be, segregated in rural communities or sterilized." (Sindny Webb, Journal of Political economy, 1912)

Here's an excerpt from Douglas A. Blackmon's book "Slavery by Another Name".

"But it was business that policed adherence to America's racial customs more than any other actor in U.S. society. American banks maintained ubiquitous discriminatory lending practices throughout the country that until the 60's prevented millions of working-class African Americans from obtaining the lines of credit that millions of white families used to accumulate wealth and move from lower to middle-class status. Indeed, the opportunity for blacks to pursue the most basic American formula for achieving middle-class status -buying a home in desirable neighborhoods where real estate values were likely to appreciate over time - was openly barred by legions of real estate agents in every city and region. Until the 1950s, rules of the National Association of Realtors made it a violation of the organization's code of ethics for an agent to sell a home in a white neighborhood to an African American, or vice versa."

The form of capitalism we have today is all about State guaranteed privileges within the economic sector. It is the giving of economic rewards to some favored businesses, corporations ect and historically protecting the jobs of White people.

In a Stateless society the form of capitalism would change from one of State sponsored privileges and predatory protections to one free from coercion and open markets. Free markets by themselves won't end racism; only mutual respect amongst free individuals in a horizontally based society might accomplish that. But that requires people to recognize the hierarchy's that keep them separated and privileged; otherwise everything just breaks down into groups.

In a Stateless society the form of Law would change from protecting the Corpratacracy to protecting those within the community. Traditional tribal institutions operated on customary law which resembles European natural law in spirit but it's application is compensatory as opposed to punitive. Customary law is about restitution while Western law focuses on retribution. Customary law is controlled by the community while Western law is a reflection of the Empire and is enforced by the State. Equal protection under the law can only originate within the community.

It is not possible to have social justice within a society who's Empire dictates the political, social and economic values based upon the image of the ruling tribe. This is why POC may be represented in Government but the exploitation and marginalization continues. Social justice can't be bestowed upon a people by a benevolent State. Rather it is the mutual respect given to our "fellow men" and the willingness to stand up for your neighbors rights that insures Liberty.