I disagree with Hightower.

What you will find here is: a centrist's view of current events;
a collection of thoughts, arguments, and observations
that I have found appealing and/or amusing over the years;
and, if you choose, your civil contributions which will make it into a conversation.

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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Race 1

I think that the place to begin a discussion about race, if you are an American, is to clearly acknowledge how bad the American version of racism was and why.  The short answer is slavery.  Racism is not just an American problem and slavery existed in many other societies.  But in America they came together in a particularly destructive form.  Those who were enslaved in this country were of course denied the freedom to choose the type of labor they would do, the fruits of their labor, and the opportunity to rise above their original position in life. 

But it was much worse than that. 

The people who held the slaves knew that what they were doing was contradictory to what they claimed to believe in.  In England during the revolutionary war some people ridiculed the Patrick Henrys of America as being slaveholders who prattled on and on about freedom and unalienable rights.  Thomas Jefferson said that slavery was, “A wolf that we are holding by the ears and don’t know how to release.” 

If you are economically locked into human slavery and philosophically devoted to inalienable human rights, then you have a limited number of options about how to sleep at night.  Where they went on this made use of the fact the slaves were quite different in appearance.  They “realized” that the black Africans were "not quite human".  In the terminology of the modern era they “blamed the victim.”  This meant that it was not just their labor that was taken from black slaves.  It was their inherent humanity.  Their right to reproduce as they chose; to live where they want; to love whom they chose; to love and protect their families; to strive to build something; and the opportunity, at the end of their lives, to reflect on and enjoy the satisfactions that are available to a person  who has made good choices.  They were, in short, dehumanized.

This was the original sin in the American Garden of Eden.  It predated the American Republic which was begun in 1787.  If slavery could have been abolished at that point, then perhaps our American racism would not have been so bad. I do not think that that was possible.  They did not choose between a union with slavery and a union without slavery. They chose between a union which could eventually abolish slavery and no union at all.  Eighty years later slavery was officially abolished.

But by then two centuries of conflating slave, black, and not fully human had gotten all intertwined into a deep seated and peculiarly American kind of racism.  It was one that would not be easily rectified.

"The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."  Chief Justice John Roberts, 2007


  1. Agreed that “all men are created equal” and slavery are made to seem compatible only by a very tortured, and self serving, path of reasoning.

    My knowledge of how slaves were thought about and treated in other parts of the world is quite limited. Perhaps the American version was worse than others, perhaps even worse that any of the others. Perhaps!

    My grandson came home from school with this bit of “knowledge”, I will paraphrase.

    “The difference between slavery in the US and slavery in Muslim countries is that the Muslims treated their slaves better”.

    I originally dismissed what my grandson was taught as PC correctness due to the Muslim reference and our obsession for being tolerant of all things Muslim. If we remove the Muslim reference and make the statement secular by replacing “Muslim” with “other countries” is there historical evidence to support that statement?

  2. The salt mines of -wherever - or the sexual slavery of even today in some parts of the world was-is worse than even the life of a field hand in antebellum Kentucky. I think I slipped into saying that the "slavery" was worse when I meant the consequences of it in the nature of our racism was worse. Ours was after the world had, by and large, turned against slavery and it was contrary to our principles. That and the color aspect made it very much harder for a person to move from slavery into a better life. Slavery was (here) not just a condition that you were in because "your side had lost the war". It was thought to be inherent in your very nature and because of color it was thought to stay with you.

    So I won't argue that the slavery was worse, but I do think that the racism that it produced was worse than regular racism. Certainly it was worse than, for example, the "No Irish need apply." signs that were up for awhile.