Thursday, August 24, 2017

Considering Race

Daniel Cano                                  Considering Race

For today’s Bloga, I had written a different essay. But after I watched fellow veterans provide security for Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists at last week's demonstration in Virginia, I felt I had to write something about racism. After all, I did spend most of my educational career teaching ethnic studies and racism in the U.S.

As a soldier in Vietnam, I was willing to sacrifice my life for the man beside me. It didn’t matter his color, religion, or sexual orientation. We were taught to be brothers and to protect each other. That’s why it was so disturbing to see veterans protecting racists.

It always puzzles me when I hear a person say, “White people,” especially if the speaker is a light or even moderately light skin Latino. I remember listening to Japanese-American historian Ron Takaki say, “White? What is white? I don’t know what that is. There’s no such thing as white.”

Of course, what he meant was that no person is truly the color white, just like no person is truly the color black or red, brown, or yellow. But the importance in Takaki’s message was that, even historically, racially, or nationally, there is no “white”, just like there isn’t any “race”.

Though there are people from Europe who are considered Caucasian, which is like “white”, I guess, according to most historical definitions, even folks from South and West Asia—or the entire Middle East, India, and portions of Africa are also Caucasian. So, will a Neo Nazis or white supremacist open his/her arms to Arabs, Mexicans, Persians, and East Indians who want to join the gang?

Even the word Aryan has its roots, not in Germany or northeastern Europe, but in Persia and India, in the Sanskrit language. Germany, as a country, didn’t even exist before 1850. If the Neo-Nazi or White Supremacist definition of “white” or Aryan means “pure blood”, that knocks out most Americans because few Yanks can claim 100% a pure bloodline, not even the Furor Donald Trump.

Recently, I watched television journalist Jorge Ramos interview an older, well-dressed, self-proclaimed white supremacist. In one exchange, Ramos used the word “White” to denote race. Now, Ramos is a blue-eyed, light skin Mexican national. So, it sounded absurd to me that Ramos would use the word “white” in the context of racial superiority because Ramos was as white or whiter than the man opposite him. Does that mean when Ramos uses the term “white” he is referring to himself, as well?

Technically, Latin-Americans (including Mexicans), are “white” or Caucasian, along with the other groups I mentioned above. Therefore, if a Chicano says, “White people are devils,” the speaker is also a devil, unless the person can prove 100% indigenous blood line? This is highly unlikely unless the person hails from Southern Mexico or Central America, places like Oaxaca, Chiapas, Honduras, Guatemala, etc. Though with nearly 500 years of European-mixing, the number of pure-blood Indians is getting rare.

I also hear Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists claim Western Culture as their heritage, which means Greek and the Roman civilizations. Yet Greek and Roman cultures did not divide their citizens by race. As the U.S. proclaims itself a society of immigrants, Rome declared itself a society of slaves. Why? A common Roman practice was to free slaves and admit them into Roman society with all the rights afforded any other Roman citizen.

No doubt, there were Africans and Jews among the freed slaves. One catch was that the freed slave had to accept Roman politics and religion. If American Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists are hailing the Greek and Roman civilizations as their heritage, then they must also claim the inclusion of blacks, Jews, and other people of mixed blood in their heritage.

Since Constantin also declared Rome a Christian/Catholic state, Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists should also be willing to kiss the pope’s ring. And any Irish, Scot, Italian or Polish Catholics out there marching with Neo-Nazis had better realize, their heads might also be on the chopping block.

According to sociologist and educator Dr. Joy Degruy, race didn’t become an issue for any society until the late 16th and 17th centuries when Europeans had to justify African slavery to the world by proving Africans were inferior to Europeans. That’s when European, so-called scientists, began measuring skulls to see if European skulls had different shapes than African or Mongolian skulls. A skull of certain proportions meant one race had a larger brain, hence more intelligence, that is until researchers began to see different shaped brains between parents and children of the same race, debunking that theory.

Even the tern Caucasian has a suspicious evolution. In the 1700s, a pseudo-scientist coined the word Caucasian referring to, what he considered, the most beautiful people in the world. They came from the Caucasus region of Europe. Therefore, all people of European extraction became Caucasians.

Now, we all know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and a subjective method for measuring anything. So, the word Caucasian has no scientific significance. I heard the man’s dissertation was fifteen pages and he never attended a university. He just used the personal library of a friend who oversaw his thesis.

Today, with DNA and a myriad of tools at their disposal, scientists have proven that all human beings share 99.9% of the same biological composition. Our differences in color, size, and shapes are cultural and not biological. That’s why parents from one region of the world might be tall and healthy and emigrate to another region of the world where the food is bad and medical care is lacking. After a few generations pass, their descendants can be short and scrawny.

Therefore, race is a myth. It doesn’t exist. It is made up just like the many fairy tales that pass down from generation to generation are made up. It’s what we do with stories, how we interpret them, and how we apply them to our lives that make a difference. Neo-Nazis and White Supremacist believe their race is superior when we now know that their race is fantasy, that their race is no different than any other race, and that the superiority they claim over other races is also non-existent. Their race is no better or no worse than any other race.

If anything, their hatred of the “other” is harmful to themselves and their descendants. While they spew their hatred for other races, the real enemies continue to take advantage of them. Instead of opposing ethnic groups who protest for better education, health care, employment, and political representation, they should be supporting them, for they share many of the same problems. Though they believe the government is holding them back, how can they not see that some masters of private industry control much of the government?

In the 1960s, when president Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, he knew it would destroy the Democratic party. At the time, the South was blue, heavily Democratic. He understood that “white” southern Democrats would not stand in solidarity with the ACLU, labor unions, Martin Luther King Jr., Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Cesar Chavez, Reyes Tijerina, Dennis Banks, Russell Means, or Students for a Democratic Society, even though, they were all fighting the same battles.

In Vietnam, the sons of working class southern Democrats, the sons of American ethnic minorities, and the sons of working class whites, in general, left more blood on Southeast Asia’s killing fields than did the sons of rich, influential Americans.

Southern Democrats swallowed the myth, hook, line, and sinker, believing that they were superior to the others--hubris, as the Greeks called it. Hubris toppled kings and dynasties.

There’s nothing wrong with “white” pride. Professor Takaki stated that Caucasians needed to study their own ethnic histories, just like other ethnic Americans did. In fact, maybe that’s why the Tucson Unified School District outlawed Ethnic and Mexican American Studies. The program might lead to Caucasian Ethnic Studies, and many working class “whites” would see how their ancestors of Irish, Italians, and Polish descent struggled to become Americans. The school district wouldn’t want that.

But “Caucasians” from the working class south failed to see that some of their Caucasian brothers on Wall Street and those running major corporations considered them inferior, exploiting their labor in Southern coal mines, factories, and farms. In the Army, it was clear to me how northern white soldiers looked down upon their southern brethren.

Proud outdoorsmen and women, the Southerners didn’t see, at first, how unregulated emissions from industry polluted their rivers and lakes and decimated their mountaintops. Instead, Neo-Nazi and White supremacist propaganda distracted them from the real culprit. It wasn’t only southerners. Northern working-class whites experienced much the same. Consider Flynt, Michigan.

We study how Abraham Lincoln and the North fought to end slavery. But rarely do we hear historians discuss the North’s desperate need for labor and how the northern Captains of Industry and Robber Barons saw the vast labor pool working the southern plantations. I’m certain more than one of the northern moguls, in the 1800s, said, “Let’s free the slaves and get them up north to work in our factories. They’ll be so happy to be free, they’ll work for practically nothing.”

Today, the "White" southern working-class faces the same miserable poverty as many other ethnic and working-class Americans in the north and southwest. Do they really believe a billionaire northerner who has been known to exploit his own workers is their savior?

When all Americans should be standing shoulder to shoulder in support of each other, hatred, or maybe just ignorance, is keeping them apart. After all, who benefits when the one in power can “divide and conquer?” Anyone who chooses racism and division over solidarity and unity will always be easily conquered, including the veterans who provide protection, allowing the hate to spread.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Absolutely spot on! While I don't at all stand for hate, the white race absolutely needs to understand where they too came from, their history, and be proud. Not in a hateful pride way, but in a, "Hey I have ancestors from Wales!" proud. Our ancestors and history is exciting!

Janet, Business Owner
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