The 'Race' Card
The majority of people of African descent, living in America, do not have the luxury of compartmentalizing our collective experience here in America, beginning with forced immigration, enslavement, the Black Codes, Jim Crow, and after slavery, in modern times, the long list of inequalities and abuses that have been brought down upon our heads as a result of who we are and our past relationship to those in stewardship, of non African descent, in America, when we express our feelings, beliefs and concerns over our past and for our as yet to be known futures in America.
Many Americans find it difficult and it makes them uneasy to hear a perspective that does not reflect the experiences of their own. It's difficult to understand another's perspective if one can't hear the speaker because one doesn't like what the speaker is saying.
Race, in America, has remained a divisive force among many Americans, not because America's citizens of African descent speak of it; because the society has never reconciled itself to the reality that for centuries, those of African descent lived in a world so different, with many continuing to do so, it would seemingly require, literally, a physical transformation and, as that saying attributed to caretakers of the land before the establishment of European colonies here, the ability to 'walk in another's moccasins'.
Numerous studies and reports, regarding societal development along separate paths in the United States, including the report commissioned by President Lyndon B. Johnson, have been conducted over the past few decades that indicate all that has transpired in America, since its inception, has shaped the psyches and consciences of all in America, Black and White, resulting in divergent view points on many things due to our life experiences.
The African slave trade and the system of chattel slavery became major sources of wealth for Europe. Estimates of the number of Africans taken from the continent during the nearly five hundred year period, including the East Coast Slave Trade, carried on by the Arabs of the Middle East, reaches beyond 30 million, taking into account all the European nations involved in the transport of Africans.
As Europe emerged out of the times known as the Dark Ages and as it recovered from the loss of life during the plague that came to be known as the Black Death, the wealth generated from the transport of Africans and their enslavement allowed Europe to continue to rebuild, seeking new, previously unexplored territories outside of Europe.
All who partook of the wealth generated during the slave trade, received a leg up, economically, at the expense of lowering an entire continent of people to the status of less than human for those purposes.
I hear and read, nearly on a nonstop basis, the admonition to just 'get over slavery'. Our lives here right now are representative of our ancestors somehow grabbing hold to their belief in a Creator and against so many odds, including choosing not to take their own lives out of heartbreak and despair, who lived to continue, despite their hardships and struggles, in spite of slavery, so that each generation reaped the benefit of the succeeding generations' struggles, propelling us forward until we've arrived here.
One of the silliest notions that exists, whenever anyone of African descent speaks of historical matters that occurred due to America's history and how it viewed race, is that the speaker is playing the 'race' card.
For most within the African American community, the 'race' card is not some trump card that helps you 'win' any discussion or debate, as has been discussed by Tim Wise, author of White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son.
Virtually every time, whenever race is mentioned by an African American, nearly every discussion veers off course, with the speaker being called out for expressing a belief based on their life experience.
For all of my children's lives, our family has lived in a predominately White community. My oldest daughter was five years old when she began kindergarten. She had one child, who happened to be a White child, that she called her best friend. She and the little girl played together during recess after lunch. My daughter began school in 1994.
One day, as she and her friend approached another group of girls, they asked the other children if they could play with them. They were told that my daughter's friend could play but, my daughter could not because she was Black.
When my oldest entered 3rd grade, in 1998, another friend, who also happened to be a White girl, explained to my child that, according to the child's older sister, it was alright for my daughter to be friends with her but one day, when they got older, they couldn't be friends any longer because my daughter was Black.
Now, I sent my daughter out into the world to attend school in 1994 yet, it was as if she had been attempting to break the color line at her school in the 50's and 60's. Why is that? Can anyone imagine trying to explain these things to a five year old? This is not a unique set of circumstances or occurrences in the African American community. Is speaking of these incidents somehow playing the 'race' card? Some would most likely say it is.
However, I shared this story to illustrate that a child, who obviously wasn't concerned about the color of her playmates, was introduced to the concept of exclusionary race based customs, by White children, as she attempted to interact in the world, heedless of the complicated concepts and issues that weigh heavily on the collective American psyche regarding race.
In reality, that imaginary 'race' card? It's more like the Old Maid card in the children's card game of that same name because we know, that is, if you're an African American, when you get stuck with that card in your hand at the end of the game, you lose.
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