Is America a Racist Nation?
Agreements of open-mindedness, acceptance, curiosity, discovery, sincerity, brevity, and confidentiality are welcome to this conversation to explore these and other questions:
- Is racism as American as apple pie?
- Do we still suffer from the “original sin” of slavery?
- Is our fear of immigrants justified in light of how badly we European newcomers treated Native Americans?
- Is “diversity” now Lady Liberty’s dirty word, and opposition to Critical Race Theory her latest cover up of how bad her past really was? Or is America’s culture of complaint and rampant political correctness just Woke individuals trying to shame the rest of us?
- Are we that bad compared to other nations?
- Aren’t things better than they were before the 13th Amendment and the Civil Rights era?
- How close are we now to judging others by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin or their country of origin?
The 1619 Project studies how intertwined American history is with the institution of slavery and the oppression of African-Americans that continued after the Civil War into the present day. (“If George Floyd had been white, would he still be alive?”) In America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States, Erika Lee describes how new waves of immigrants were seen as dangerous, diseased, and incapable of becoming “real” Americans. The Immigration Act of 1790 limited the right to become a citizen to “free white persons of good character” — only in the 1940s could a non-white person be naturalized as a citizen. Vine Deloria in Custer Died for Your Sins wrote of the continuing struggles of the original inhabitants of the United States, who were not declared “human beings” until 1879, nor “U.S. citizens” until 1924. Should these things trouble us?
Hasn’t America improved? Its Civil War freed those it enslaved. It celebrates Juneteenth as a federal holiday, but some remember its lesson that “legal freedom” meant nothing in some states. It recognizes Martin Luther King’s birthday, but not in some states. Its Civil Rights movement resulted in laws and court decisions establishing equal rights for minorities, women, and others. Museums and national monuments celebrate the milestones of the struggle. Doesn’t that mean America has addressed its past injustices and none is left in the present? Would there be a Black Lives Matter movement if that were true? Would there have been a January 6th Insurrection if that were true? Will there ever be a moment when we can say America has done enough to stop racial inequity? That Lady Liberty has done enough to ensure our common welfare? Should people just “get over” the past? Or are there some pasts that no one should just get over? What actions remain to be taken now that will one day allow us to say that racism was a past problem, but we’ve solved it? Is talking about “solving it” just another way of not realizing what the issue is?
Isn’t racism a problem that the rest of the world has? Aboriginals in Australia, Native Americans in Canada, and even the Sami (or Laplanders) in Scandinavia can complain of their treatment by the majority population. Ethnic cleansing in former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, and America’s abandoned Kurdish allies in Syria are recent atrocities. Uighurs in China and the Rohingya in Myanmar are in danger now. Russia claims it is invading Ukraine to rid it of Nazis. Like America, Britain, France, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Denmark have also had colonialist histories of racial exploitation. Mexicans don’t want Guatemalans settling in their country and Costa Ricans have issues with Nicaraguan immigrants. Europeans have large unassimilated immigrant populations. Are we worse than them? But if the poem on the base of the Statue of Liberty, the Declaration of Independence, and the U.S. Constitution with its Bill of Rights and later amendments promise equality and inclusion, is America’s pointing out other nations’ shortcomings addressing its own?
Does America throw down its torch and throw up its hands in despair or denial, and say it did enough, or has moved beyond racism? Or does it look for the best solutions it can still discern? Does it say racism, like tribalism & despoilation, are human flaws that will never be solved or made better? If America — We, The People — have a responsibility to our world and its future citizens, don’t we have to try something?
Inter-belief Conversation Cafe will use the magic of Zoom for far-flung members to meet without fear of COVID, monkeypox, or other ills.
The Zoom link is http://www.zoom.us/j/99973128471.