- By Lt. Tim McMillan
Dear Black America...
When I was in the eighth-grade I went through a “Goth” phase. There I said it…
At the time I was listening to Marilyn Mason and Nine Inch Nails. I even went as far as to dye my hair black. In light of the fact this was almost a quarter of a century ago, my Mom every now and then still likes to bring this up. Typically, it’s around some social gathering with other family members or my wife and kids. In fact, my sixteen-year-old son, who recently moved down from Maryland to live with us, recently told me he wanted to dye his hair. He said, “Don’t worry, I don’t mean anything crazy like when you dyed your hair black.”
In light of the fact that this phase of my life is indeed historically accurate, every time my Mom brings it up my response is always the same. “I don’t what you’re talking about.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not by any means trying to suggest there is something wrong with anyone who enjoys goth sub culture or dark period-styled clothing. I’m just saying, that I would not consider this phase of my life to be representative of who I am. I mean, Marilyn Manson actually had a song entitled, “Cake and Sodomy” that was popular during this era of my life.
What is my point of now very publically mentioning something I might consider to be an embarrassing part of my past? Well, the point is that all of us, both individually and collectively, have aspects of our past that we don’t want to define the people we are today. Some of these aspects are benign, however, we still consider them to be embarrassing bygone characteristics that we don’t particularly wish to discuss.
When it comes to our entire collective culture, often it isn’t the benign we wish to say, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Rather, it is the much more malignant side of our history that we would like to forget.
Ultimately, when it comes to racism or racial reconciliation in America one of the biggest hindrances we face with positive progression is our willingness to say, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” In fact, we often like to underscore America’s racist past and suggest that ultimately a whole new world now exists and all is forgotten. However, what we often fail to acknowledge is that for a lot of people, it’s just like my Mom, remanents of our past continue to permeate the present.
In order to facilitate the “I don’t know what you’re talking about” when the topic of racism is brought up we often fight like a caged animal in order to express that we aren’t racist or that racism no longer exists. There is a huge problem with this defensive reaction. It does not by any means actually express that we are not racist. Additionally, it comes across blatantly disrespectful towards the past tragedies and current concerns of people of color.
Ultimately, the end result is more divisiveness amongst people and the continued existence of racism.
Now look I get it. I really do. I get that many people across White America don’t consider the resistance to the presence of current racial bias to be in itself racist. To some a degree, we consider that refusing to accept that racism exists in modern America, means that racism doesn’t exist in modern America. However, there are some vital points we must bear in mind.
We must consider the existence of implicit racial bias. This is the unconscious racial bias that dictates our perceptions and behaviors. Implicit biases are indeed a very real thing that all of us have. Now, when I say all of us… yes, I mean all of us, regardless of racial ethnicity.
Often when someone who is African American mentions a racist incident that they have encountered, some individuals in White America will be quick to respond with some archived or episodic evidence in which racism has been expressed by someone who is African American towards someone who is White. Look, I’m not delusional here. I'm not suggesting that Black Americans or anyone for that matter cannot be racially biased towards White people. Indeed, assuredly this is can occur.
In a post, I made a month or so ago, I broke down the mathematical properties involved with racial demographics in America. What it showed was that based on racial demographic proportions, even if every single African American was racist against White people, due to the disproportion of the racial population, Black people would still be twice as likely to encounter racism provided only 25% of White America was racist.
Now I hope we can all agree, 100% of Black America is not racist towards White America. Therefore, though one might be able to highlight an example of racism directionally going from Black to White, these incidents are statistically small by comparison.
Equally, as important is to ask ourselves, what implicit biases might African Americans have towards White America and why? For starters, it has only been 53 years in America since African Americans have enjoyed equality and civil rights under the protection of the law. Think about that for a minute. 53 years… Is that really a long time? Moreover, do we think that time adequately reflects a genuine change in cultural views of equality towards African Americans? Seriously think about it. Does anyone truly think that we as a country went from having “Colored Sections” in society and then on July 2, 1964, with the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we all suddenly went “Gee wilikers guys! I guess it’s time to stop viewing African Americans as being inferior" and then we suddenly embraced everyone equally?
With those questions in mind, do you think that it is unreasonable to say that African Americans may themselves have some implicit biases towards White America? Do you think that it is unreasonable to say that many Black Americans might have their own examples and experiences that would contribute to having some biases towards White America?
Honestly, in that context, do you think that it is pretty darn impressive that there truly is minuscule wide spread resentment by African Americans towards White America today?
Let’s say you don’t think it is impressive because you feel like 53 years has been more than enough time to shed ourselves of our past ills and bring about a new tomorrow. Ok fair enough. Everyone is entitled to their opinions. However, let’s consider another hot button issue for a moment in the same context.
Presently, there is quite a bit of uproar about the removal of Confederate monuments across the U.S. The Civil War ended, and the Confederate States of America surrendered to the United States 152 years ago on May 5, 1865. To date, 56% of America’s collective history has occurred since the end of the Civil War. However, we still are holding on to it. We still are saying that it is a defining feature of our cultural identity and an important part of who we are as a nation.
In light of the fact that we are unwilling to let what defined us 152 years ago to slip away, we are willing to tell African Americans, “It’s been 53 years already! Get over it!”
Does this make sense to anyone? I’m not even debating the merit of Civil War monuments. Rather, I highlighting our leisurely progression in which we are willing to allow our culture to evolve when it seems fitting. However, by the same token we are will ask others to expedite their cultural evolution at a much more and frankly unreasonably rapid pace. Most importantly, we are asking for this swift cultural evolution to occur in the Black community, with no acknowledgment, compassion, empathy, or respect from us in the White community.
We may assume that by dismissing concerns of racial inequality in America we are somehow, “bringing the nation together,” or “Let’s all just be one race…the human race.” In fact, that indeed may come out of some people’s mouths. However, in reality, what that sounds like to the ears of those expressing concerns is, “Geez! I don’t say the N-Word anymore! What more do you want?!?!”
Ultimately, White America represents 63% of America. The reality is we white people have significant power in America. We can actually use that significant power to expedite and facilitate the exact racial equality that we claim already exists. Which I think it is important to note if indeed racial equality does exist what the hell are we afraid of with listening to concerns from the Black Community and then working to achieve equality? Essentially, if equality already exists, guess what? There isn’t any work to do now is there?
Ok, now let’s say you’re still with me up to this point. Let’s say that you have read everything and considered, “Ok fine. You can’t just will away a lengthy history of racial oppression overnight. So how exactly would to suggest that we actually move forward toward unity as a country?”
Well, first of all, I’m not some prodigy when it comes to racial harmony. I’m just an average guy like the rest of you. So I cannot say that I know exactly what will help bring us together. However, I know what hasn’t worked or what doesn’t work. Additionally, I know that based on nothing more than historical precedent and majority populous, we in White America have a significant voice towards actually making racial equality a reality.
Again, at this moment I don’t really care if you actually believe racial equality already exists. At this moment, I’m saying accept that many minorities across the U.S. do not feel that racial uniformity occurs. Therefore, whether you accept that it doesn’t or believe it does, at least possess a level of willingness in the desire for minority Americans to feel like equality exists.
Ultimately, the existence of equality and the feeling of equality are not mutually exclusive. On either of those two sides, between reality and perception, once one occurs the other equally exists as well.
In my opinion, the starting point of true cultural progression towards equality begins with something I’ve already mentioned. Acknowledgment, compassion, empathy, and respect for our fellow Americans, who just so happen to be people of color.
In that spirit, this is my message to Black America. Now, make no mistake, I say “my” in the sense that I wrote it. However, I consciously claim no ownership over it and express than anyone is more than willing to copy and paste it saying they wrote it themselves. Seriously, if you feel like it represents your sentiments, by all means, feel free to take it, omit some portions or add to it if you’d like (provided you don’t add anything that makes you look like an asshole).
Dear Black America,
The historical truth is 336 years ago White Americans kidnapped and enslaved Black Africans and brought them to this country. This act was not committed by me personally, however, it is indeed a part of the shared history of America. With that said, no person deserves to be enslaved or treated the way that Africans were treated for 242 years in North America and then ultimately in what would become the United States of America.
Additionally, no person deserves to lack equality or human and civil rights as African Americans did for 336 years. To suggest that 336 years of disproportionate treatment could be eradicated in the last 53 years, since the 1964 Civil Rights Act, is unreasonable.
Now, I did not personally contribute to the horrific tragedies that Black Americans faced for over 300 years. However, I am willing to do whatever is possible to try to overcome the historical evils of the past.
Personally, I believe that starts by demonstrating in 2017, I respect African Americans equally as I do any other person. Just like any relationship of mutual respect, I desire to listen to the concerns of Black America in 2017. Additionally, I desire to work together to remedy these concerns.
Ultimately, the motivation for my desire to listen and help overcome Black American's concerns is not rooted in some mystical sense of "white guilt." Rather, it is an acknowledgment of history, and most importantly, in light of such an egregious and atrocious history, I can say without any hesitation I am thankful that Black Americans are a part of this country and my life.
Every single aspect of modern American culture, down to the music we listen to, the clothes we wear, literature, movies, television, or any other cultural attribute one can think of has been positively influenced by people of color.
Without African Americans, the American culture that we are all accustomed to does not exist. Frankly, the tremendous positive influence that African Americans have made in the country given the grievous history they have endured is nothing short of miraculous. Consider the astounding achievements in light of adverse situations, I have to consider just how amazing this country could actually be if minorities were provided the unrestricted ability to influence the nation's success. Therefore, the mere suggestion that many African Americans do not feel this exists, is more than enough for me to be willing to stand up and say, “Let’s fix this together."
At the end of the day, indeed I know what my Mom is talking about. I went through a “goth” phase ok. However, I’m not still going through my goth phase of the 8th grade, not because it never happened, rather, because I decided that’s not who I really felt I was or wanted to be. Ultimately, it takes legitimate action to be who we want to be. Not merely magically thinking it will happen on its own.