As I consider all that is happening in our country with regard to racial injustice, inequality and abuse I’m concerned that the social constructs we have allowed to become prevalent in our society have not served us well. We keep revisiting these same issues (usually around elections, but that’s another subject entirely) but rarely do we address the root causes of the problem. Most people would be hard-pressed to be able to even identify the problem to begin with.
Let me first say the argument that we have “systemic abuse of black men by law enforcement” is not borne out by the statistics. Last year (2019) more white men were killed than black men by law enforcement for a number of reasons. I’ll leave that there. Research the data if you’re interested in the truth.
But the purpose of this article is to address those social constructs we have allowed to be used to identify us – labels. Perhaps we can start a true healing of the races in this country if we will eschew the labels and social constructs we have placed upon each other or allowed our government to place on us as a society. God created us all equal in His sight and we all bleed the same red blood.
I grew up in (almost south) Georgia in the 60’s and 70’s. My high school was predominately black, as I was forced bussed from the north side of town, past 5 high schools, to achieve desegregation. I was sent to the high school mainly attended by kids from nearby Ft. Benning and the black kids in the area. There were two “black” high schools in my home town at the time and I was bussed to one of them. Interestingly, we didn’t have any of the race riots during the bussing debacle to achieve racial desegregation. We all got along just fine.
But I digress. Back to labels.
Recently someone on my Twitter feed (a black male) tweeted that we needed to stop identifying his race as “minorities.” And that got me to thinking how awful it must be to be considered an “inferior” or “minor” race.
The dictionary defines “minority” as “the smaller number or part, especially a number that is less than half the whole number.”
We have an entire generation (since the 60’s at least) who have grown up calling fellow Americans “minorities” or being labeled as a “minority” – less than half the whole number (or majority). As a white man I can’t imagine being defined as “less than the whole” or as a minority – and that’s my blind spot when it comes to racial disparity. Interestingly, when I traveled to Africa or all over Central America never once did I feel like a minority, even I clearly was one of a few white faces in the crowd. Yet we call our fellow Americans whose skin is darker than ours a “minority.” This has to stop! God created us all equal in His sight and we all bleed the same red blood.
Calling someone a “black American” is just as bad. “Black” is defined as “of the very darkest color owing to the absence of or complete absorption of light; the opposite of white.” We typically refer to anything black in a negative light. We are taught in school that black means the absence of color. The negative connotation is there. And to call a fellow American “black” infers that negative connotation on that person even though we think we’re referring to his/her skin color. Our humanity can’t help but do so. I’m not typically referred to as “that white guy” but I hear all the time casual references to “black” folk.
How often do we use the color black when describing a seemingly innocuous situation involving a person of color?
“I really enjoyed shopping there – that black lady was so nice I think I’ll go back.” What does her COLOR have to do with anything? If she was Caucasian would we say “that white lady” or Asian – “that oriental lady” or Latina – “that Honduran lady?” God created us all equal in His sight and we all bleed the same red blood.
Finally, we’ve tried to soften the offensive nomenclature by referring to the ethnic place of origins of our black brothers and sisters. Quite honestly, this is the one I have resisted the most. Should we call ourselves “Anglo-Americans” or “Irish-Americans” or “Spanish-Americans?” We all came here from somewhere else – America is still the melting pot of the world (though we’ve ceased in large measure to integrate).
If we are honest with our background we will acknowledge that African slave-traders in Ghana sold their own African brothers, sisters and children to European slave-traders who brought them to the New World. There’s a whole lot of wrong there on every side. So this social construct doesn’t really work.
I’m not sure I have an answer for all of this. But I believe we as a nation need to stop the divisiveness; stop allowing hate-mongers to divide the races; stop giving in to the social constructs – labels – that separate us. After all, God created us all equal in His sight and we all bleed the same red blood.