Seeing White At the University of Southern Maine

On February 10, 2018, beginning at around 6:30PM, the two hosts of the podcast Thinking White, Dr. Chennaj Kuman TikaTuayn (my apologies for any misspelling) and John Berwin took us all to the very necessary space of ‘talkin’ ’bout race.’ The event was held at Hannaford Hall, on the University of Southern Maine campus in Portland, Maine.

Essentially the event highlighted one of the podcasts, and played some interview excerpts about race. One thought provoked my mind (not in reference to the presenters’ dialogue at all), and that was, why do so many of the more recent presentations on race, include someone with an African name? I merely wonder if this is done on purpose, and perhaps in an attempt to create imagistic pictures that look beyond the U.S.’s racial problems, onto the larger, global scene. Just askin.’

The Seeing White radio podcasts are produced in collaboration with the Racial Equity Institute Training center; the program, in its rudimentory form is ‘how can we help people see white?’ I took this to mean, how do we help white people understand white people, in the context of racial issues?

One question that one might ask at this stage of our cultural politics is ‘Hey, what the hell’s up with white people?’ Many whites, too, have an urgency to see and do something about the problem of young (perhaps around high school age or less) persons of color being assaulted, harrassed, and in some cases, wounded or killed by white Law Enforement professionals.

Chennaj Kuman TikaTuayn suggested that when we use the term “race relations” in our society, it may conjure in our mind that racism is a disease; the disease idea is a myth. He also said that the need to justify racism was the invention of multi-black slavery, in all parts of the U.S.

John Berman pointed out his observation that Boston was one of the most segregated cities he’d seen. However, we can’t split up racism geographically to say that its most virulent manifestations are in the south, or the west or anywhere else for that matter. It’s a problem in urban areas, suburban areas, and in rural areas, in all regions of the country.

Someone is reputed to have said, ‘Northerners love the race, but hate the people, and Southerners love the people, but hate the race.’ Racism’s done a number on all of us-wherever we live-so it’s a good time to bring yourself up to speed. Some Northerners may distinguish good, moral Southerners (‘good white people’) who owned slaves and compare them to ‘bad whites who owned slaves.’ This is the myth of “we’re all friends in the south, black or white.”

The ideas of color blindness and political correctness need to be taken seriously and called out if we’re in a position to do so. If a white person says, “Oh, I don’t see color-they’re all God’s children to me,” there’s a good possibility that they will hurt a person-of-color who may overhear this. Why? The bottom line is that this worldview invalidates a person of color’s uniqueness and difference from whites.

As far as this writer’s concerned, to use the hackneyed excuse that people who are anti-racist in their mind-sets use politically correct language, and this is a way they deny the problem. Yet, this is usually an excuse, not to talk about racism or even to give it any kind of emphasis or reinforcement, like saying, “Oh, we can talk about race if you want-the one problem is that we hardly have any more of the racial incidents that we used to have in the south.”

Realistically, the southern systemic structural racial system, has to bear a major responsibility for the contemporary problem of racism. Prior to that, we’ve all heard the story of Christopher Columbus-he was a merchantile agent for the king and queen of Spain-he charged them ten percent of the going price for each slave; if he whaving personal financial problems, he took slaves to sell them as slaves. In the newest as world, owning human beings as property became the lucrative way for many to get rich, but in particular, Christopher Columbus.

Here’s another interesting note from the north: in the 1800s, the mayor of New York, put forth a legal proposition to suceed from the Union. Then the Draft-Race Riots took place in New York city in 1863; after the Civil War, the Reconstruction Era began, and the north embraced this idea. Today, it’s safe to say, that most major, northern cities have worse segregation than many southern cities.

copyright: Christopher Bear-Beam February 14, 2018


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