What is America – The Grand Experiment

11/09/2020

This article is about a subject that has become a source of great division within the country.  It is a very sensitive subject, one that I truly feel a need to discuss but also, I want to treat it with respect and sensitivity.  If you read through the articles I’ve written over the last couple of years I genuinely believe you’ll come away with another way of critically thinking about the many issues we, as US citizens, are faced with on a regular basis.  Too many of us take the word of our news reporters as gospel and above questioning.  For at least the last decade we have been misled by a press that hasn’t been completely forthcoming with all the news, instead they’ve been feeding us only the part of the story they want us to hear, much like they did during the Vietnam war.  Now they are going so far as telling us the other side of the story is false or outright blocking it.  I for one, believe the American people are smarter than that so I try to give you other ways to critically look at the news and think for yourself.  A friend commented on one of my recent articles that “someone’s really drunk the Trump Kool-Aid.”  First off, I’m glad he read it, but the point of the article wasn’t to rattle off talking points but to actually look at published facts and do some critical thinking.  All the articles I’ve published require critical thinking and I hope you’ll do the same with this article.

One of the greatest qualities of this country is our ability to speak freely without fear of retribution from the government.  We can make our opinions known to others and in return other people can respond publicly to those views.  Soldiers have fought and died for this right whether we like what is said or not.  And so, we come to the heart of an issue that has raised a significant amount of controversy.  Roughly 2 years ago Colin Kaepernick came on the scene and decided to take a knee and hang his head instead of standing with his hand over his heart during the national anthem.  His purpose in doing this was to raise our awareness of racism in this country.  While I do believe it exists, having seen and experienced it firsthand, the racism I’ve seen came not from a particular class of people but from individuals, both black and white.  In order to deal with this, we need to discuss it honestly and up front in all the ways it manifests itself. 

Colin only focused on the racism of a police officer and then went on to say it was systemic with all police officers and further expanded it to our country as a whole.  Eventually the storyline became our country was founded on racist policies as declared by the “1619 Project.”  What is the 1619 Project?  Generally, this is the idea that the foundation of our country was formed in 1619 when the first slaves arrived.  The 1619 Project contends pilgrims came to this new land in order to build a country where whites reigned supreme and any black man would be brought here as slaves to provide cheap labor for the whites.  When you look at history, though, and learn why those early settlers came to this country you quickly learn this couldn’t be further from the truth.  The early settlers were in fact fleeing from oppression themselves.  They weren’t trying to set up a state where they could have slaves, they were an independent sort that didn’t want to be slaves themselves to the ruling classes dominating everyone in Europe.   England is a perfect example of this.  The common man was believed to be inferior to the ruling class and as such was unable to rule themselves.  This meant they couldn’t believe in God the way they wanted, it had to be the state sponsored religion.  Any goods they made weren’t made for themselves but the ruling class, but they could keep whatever excess they made after the ruling class took what they wanted.  Poverty was all they knew.  Some of the commoners understood they knew more than the ruling class even though they didn’t have access to all the education their “betters” had access to.  When they heard a new continent was discovered they wanted a chance to build a society without the classes and without someone else telling them what they could and couldn’t do.  This is the real beginning of what we now know as the United States.  Along the way the ruling class discovered that these commoners were being wildly successful in their efforts and they began to try to reestablish control over these settlers.   Much of this story, I hope, you are familiar with from your public education.  At least those of you in my generation were taught this, but it sounds like those in Colin’s generation were not taught these basic principles.  There are many stories I didn’t learn until I began studying the issue myself.  One such story is from the diary of a leader of one settlement in the late 1600’s.  They adopted a form of governance where everyone in their colony contributed goods and services to the whole colony and then took back only according to their needs.  Sound familiar?  In his diary he says they were forced to abandon the effort after discovering too many of the members felt their needs were greater than what they were contributing.  In fact, many of these people were not contributing but instead just taking.  After a year of this, they went back to more of a free enterprise and trade system forcing those who did not work to begin working and contributing.  This had nothing to do with slavery or the oppression of anyone, except perhaps, those who didn’t contribute to the colony but it had everything to do with discovering the commoners could in fact rule themselves.  There are some historians that believe this is the true genesis of the idea that we could become a nation governed by the people, for the people.

The 1619 project was first proposed in an essay written by a New Yorker magazine writer, who won a Pulitzer Prize for the essay.  As a part of the essay a historian was employed to historically fact check the work.  I applaud this effort but, the correction to the facts proposed by the historian were ignored in the final publication reducing this essay to nothing more than an editorial piece.  What does this say about the history being taught in school.  We really want our history to include all the facts, including the warts.  Our country is truly unique in history and it is full of warts, but a brief inspection reveals that the first slaves arrived in England when a British Captain brought the slaves from Africa as a last resort.  It was either that or stand by and watch them be slaughtered by the conquering tribe who was executing men, women and children at the conclusion of a local African tribal war.  I’m glad I didn’t have to make that terrible choice.  You can ask the question why did this practice continue and that would be a good discussion to understand the basis of it but, this does not change the fact that the establishment of our country was done in such a way that this practice could actually be eliminated.  That’s what our constitution actually allows for.  We established this country so we would not have to live by the rule of the British Monarchs or a ruling class and all people would be free and no one would live as indentured servants or slaves.

Another aspect to come from of our freedom of speech and Colin Kaepernick’s protest is the idea of Critical Race Theory.  Although I don’t know if Colin embraces this or not, it has become part of the discussion.  Critical Race theory can be summarized with 8 basic assumptions which I encourage everyone to look at.   The 8th assumption summarizes it nicely by stating that Whiteness is a form of property that is intrinsically “anti-Blackness.”  Thus, racial equality healing and reconciliation are impossible.  This flies in the face of logic when you look at how far our country has come.  For a vast majority of people in this country there is no color when dealing with other people.  The only people who seem to see color when dealing with others are those who still believe things like “If you don’t vote for me you ain’t Black” or “I have to remind him that he’s Black.”  Another classic line we’ve all heard is “I mean you’ve got the first African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice looking man.” The idea that I am racist because I was born white is just downright lazy thinking on the part of those who do embrace it.  Not to mention how much this discounts the successful people of color such as Thomas Sowell, Condoleezza Rice, Dr Ben Carson or Lawrence Jones.  These are unarguably very successful people who have made it from poverty to positions of great respect.  If we were all racists, then how did they become so successful.  To discount these people and so many more I haven’t mentioned, I would argue, is what the face of systemic racism looks like.  For myself, it doesn’t matter if you wear a blue uniform or your birthday suit you are deserving of respect for what you are doing or could potentially do.  I will confess to struggling with anyone who approaches life with a victim’s point of view though.  So many of us in the US have started with so little and become so successful on their own and not on the backs of someone else, that it’s hard to imagine being successful with the majority of society dedicated to suppressing you as systemic racism would require. 

 Does racism exist? Yes, it does, and is there systemic racism? Again, yes but it is a racism born of low expectations, “articulate and clean and good looking…” what kind of person actually says that?  I was as offended by that, as when I was told some members of our society weren’t as smart as others because their skulls were thicker or by the legislation that says certain classes of people won’t make it without our help.  That assumption is the face of racism, I would argue.  We need to be open and honest with our discussion of racism in this country and not worry about the cancel culture which seems to be growing.  I’m sure I’ll offend some people with what I’ve written but I hope those of you who take the time to read what I’ve written will look at some of the things said and ask a basic question, What is the whole story and more importantly have we become a better society since then.  Thanks!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s