I like it when people say we’ve made many strides in Civil Rights, especially in the southland, where only recently, a number of states, have pulled down & de-legitimized the Confederate flag. Yes, the vestiges now going through removal, but I wonder about the heart that seeks to learn the ways of Anti-Racism; and those who have bigoted & prejudicial hearts, and continue the same general storyline about race, will keep perpetuating & using the old, tired stereotypes of African-Americans & other persons of color, too.
A racist is someone who won’t listen to life & culture as it shifts around him or her. They live in a fake, distant bubble, isolated often from other people (other ethnicities than White), and are usually dis-connected from the hardships & adversities of others who have a different color hue than the usual European-American.
Why? Because, in our nation, Whites have White Privilege—privileges, access to other services, enrichment, and a clear lack of what it may be like living, or working near a person of color in a White-dominated culture & society.
I’ve been reading Harper Lee’s new book, Go Set a Watchman, and from what I hear, this latest release is the ‘real back story,’ and To Kill a Mockingbird was the “don’t rock the boat” story about Monroeville, Alabama and its racial issues. This is because the newest book really breaks open a sort of southern unaware racism—most formidably displayed in Atticus, and her uncle, Jack; at the conclusion of the book, Jean Louise, has had her expectations & reality crushed, says she’ll never come back to Monroeville again; her iconic heroes—her father & uncle—live now as hypocrites and unjust judges, and for that she can’t forgive them, yes, doesn’t ever want to visit them, or speak to them again. For her, this is the end of her relationship with this small town in Alabama, so she packs up & leaves with bits of gravel in her mouth. Monroeville is history!
In this final “good-bye” section, first she interacts with her dad, Atticus. He says this about “the Negroes”:
“Then let’s put this on a practical basis right now. Do you want
Negroes by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters?
Do you want them in our world?”
“They’re people, aren’t they? We were quite willing to import them when they made money for us.”
“Do you want your children going to a school that’s been dragged down to accommodate Negro children?”
“The scholastic level of that school down the street, Atticus, couldn’t be any lower and you know it. They’re entitled to the same opportunities anyone else has, they’re entitled to the same chance—“(p. 301).
“Let’s look at this way,” said her father. “You realize our Negro population is backward, don’t you? You will concede that? You realize the full implications of the word ‘backward,’ don’t you?”
“You realize that the vast majority of them here in the South are unable to share to share fully in the responsibilities of citizenship, and why?”
But you want them to have all its privileges?”
“God damn it, you’re twisting it up!” (p.297)
“Yes sir. Give ‘em a chance.”
“The Negroes? You don’t think they have a chance?”
“Why, no sir.”
“What’s to prevent any Negro from going where he pleases in this country and finding what he wants?”…”Her father picked up a pencil and tapped it on his desk. “Jean Louise,” he said. “Have you ever considered that you can’t have a set of backward people living among people advanced in one kind of civilization and have a social Arcadia? (A real or imagined place offering peace & security)” (p.296).
The main protagonists of Go Set a Watchman, are Atticus, Jean Louise’s dad, and her uncle Jack. In the final scene, they express
their racialized statements to her, and she tries debating both of them, and tell how things display the long-held traditions of Jim Crow, what’s really
happening in Monroeville, and how she feels about her loved one’s biased thinking & acting. In short, this is an earth-shattering realization for herself.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) slammed Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Thursday after he suggested African-American students do better in “less-advanced schools.”
“These ideas that he pronounced yesterday are racist in application if not intent,” the Democratic leader said. “I don’t know about his intent but it is deeply disturbing to hear a Supreme Court justice endorse racist ideas from the bench of the nation’s highest court.”
Reid’s comments come after Scalia said on Wednesday that “there are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into The University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well.”
So, the first case of racism played out in Go Set a Watchman, involving Atticus, Uncle Jack & Jean Louise tends to include the same arguments, of why “Negroes” are behind Whites, and that it naturally follows that African-Americans and other non-whites should be happier to attend schools that are of a “lower” academic quality. After all, it might make a better fit. Has anyone asked African-American and other non-white students what they would prefer? Did Justice Scalia lead some focus groups to get at the facts?
This statement by Scalia sounds like he hasn’t left the Supreme Court in quite a few years. How do people who express such ignorance, bias and Unaware Racism get to the rank of a Justice on the Supreme Court? How is it possible to sit on the nation’s highest court, and spout off racial statements that sound like they come from the Jim Crow era?
I’m beginning to think that all public servants & elected officials need to first go through a thorough & complete course on Racism & Cultural Competency. It could become like a background check for future employment. Many, many law enforcement professionals & police departments need this kind of training as well. Options would show a consistent type of Anti-Racism training model that has a track record of effectiveness, and would allow the freedom to choose the program that one wants; departments may want to choose a more customized kind of training, so alternatives would also be important.
The Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama has produced training content & methods for Law Enforcement Personnel. There has been a notable increase in lone wolf hate crimes, so the SPLC has put together videos & other training materials, and will present it to police departments if they request it.
Comparing Harper Lee’s book, Go Set a Watchman with Justice Scalia’s racialized comments tells us we are still living in the Modern Racism Era. Perhaps Atticus & Uncle Jack’s comments seem to be a harmless form of Racism (even when they had been privy to blatant racism, such as the KKK), yet really this kind of Racism is much more insidious & dangerous, because it’s often hard to see, to observe, & to document the situation. Usually, it comes through “institutionalism,” whose essence is formality, tradition, rule-based lifestyle, instances of legalism, rigidity, usually little access to these institutions for communities of color, and many possibilities for individuals to override the barriers of Institutional Racism. Many folks file discrimination claims against employers for their bias & unfairness in the workplace that also includes sexual harassment.
There is strength in numbers—what we need is socially-conscious White People who aren’t afraid to look into the face of the lion, and who are willing to do the work of Anti-Racism as a fully, committed partner. As Whites increase their “racism quotient” (what they know about Racism), perhaps momentum and authenticity will result in changing the system into one of cooperation, not competition.
©Christopher Bear-Bear December 28, 2015