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Strauss's avatar

How does our (U.S.) history with racial injustice impact what we’re experiencing today, and how do we overcome it? Please read details.?

Asked by Strauss (22408points) October 31st, 2020

As part an effort to memorialize victims of lynchings as well as certain other aspects of history that have traditionally been whitewashed (pun intended) from the curriculum, an organization in Denver, known as the Colorado Lynching Memorial Project has recently erected a sign in downtown Denver that reads:

On November 16, 1900, a white mob abducted a 15-year-old African American teenager named Preston Porter Jr. and lynched him near Limon, Colorado. At least 300 people attended the public spectacle lynching.”

This organization is also sponsoring an essay contest at Denver Public Schools using this question.

I’m striving for civil, thoughtful conversation.

Edit: typos

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16 Answers

gorillapaws's avatar

I think these “clarion call” moments are important to recognize and remember. My main concern though is that symbolic action and identity politics are being weaponized as a smoke-screen to signal to the electorate that racial issues are being addressed, while the major causes of racial injustice are maintained and advanced by these very same people.

For example you’ll have a lot of neoliberal folks talking all day about how they support BLM and the right to kneel at a football game, but those same politicians refuse to legalize or even participated in the prosecution of black Americans for marijuana possession and then take checks from the private prison and beer/wine industries. They’ll support tough-on-crime laws that disproportionately affect people of color. They’ll take checks from the payday lending industry, support their usury and financial predation of people of color and then speak about how “racially woke” they are on social media. They’ll go to Black churches and pray with black people but then do everything in their power to undermine efforts at a Medicare for All plan that would disproportionately benefit black Americans. Black politicians like Cory Booker will take money from Big Pharma and then vote against the bill to import drugs from other countries at much cheaper prices. Neoliberals will support sending our troops (which happen to be disproportionately people of color) abroad to fight in wars for profit. They will support tax policies that keep public education funding based on local property taxes so that black kids in poor neighborhoods do not have access to the same quality of education that white kids do.

How do we overcome it? We vote out neoliberals while still remembering important catalyzing historical events. We honor the memories of the victims of hate by enacting POLICY that helps create economic justice, not simply maintaining the status quo and trying to win racial justice bona fides by empty rhetoric and inaction—invoking the memory of victims for political gain instead of taking real action.

janbb's avatar

Like @gorillapaws I think action to address the longstanding inequities needs to occur. Some kind of affirmative action, access to fair housing and reparations needs to be done. I’m not sure how a reparations program should be designed or run. But I also feel that before or alongside that, we need to confront our racist past, possibly through a Truth and Reconciliation panel as the South Africans did. Memorials like the one you cite, @Strauss , and Bryan Stevenson’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice which details the history and specifics of lynching are also important. I would also like to see history books rewritten to include the whole picture of how this country was founded on racism and genocide.

In my congregation and the wider religious association, we are engaging in discussions, workshops and hopefully actions to confront the racism in our own religion and address it.

stanleybmanly's avatar

I believe there is little hope until the ACTUAL history of this country is taught and this process initiated at an early age.

janbb's avatar

@stanleybmanly I don’t think we can or should wait another generation.

JLeslie's avatar

I recently watched a show about the confederate statues being taken down and some white people argued they were important so people would remember what happened. One Black historian said he didn’t agree with taking them down, but he did want information adjacent to the statue telling the truth about the war and the person portrayed by the statue.

In one town there was a stump/block on the main street where slaves used to be sold. Black people in the town seem to agree it was a reminder of a horrible past and felt white people wanted it removed. Is that stump different than marking the place someone was lynched? If the stump has an explanation should it stay? If I remember correctly it eventually was removed.

I’m in favor of teaching our past. I think it would be a disgrace to omit black history or gloss over it.

In school, I see no need to teach very young children about it. A lot of people disagree with me. I think the youngest I would want it taught is middle school. In elementary I think children should be taught to treat others as they want to be tested. Teach children people come in different colors and sizes. Teach young children great contributions black inventors and scientists have made. I like to keep things positive for young children, especially for the self esteem of the minority child.

seawulf575's avatar

I think most of these efforts at “undoing” or removing the reminders of the wrongs that were done are completely bogus. Until the same people pushing the removal of Confederate statues or screaming about racial injustice are willing to take on the Democratic party, it is all smoke and mirrors….complete bullshit, if you will.
Remembering things such as lynchings, to me, are important. But remembering just the bad that was done is completely disingenuous and more damaging than ignoring them. We had many very dark periods in our history as a species. We can remember them and learn from them. But part of that learning is to look at what we have done to overcome those things. And if you are pushing for reminders of the evils but can’t look at those things we did to correct those times, or aren’t willing to give them just as much importance, you are adding to racial tensions and hatred.

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stanleybmanly's avatar

The most potent of the arguments I’ve heard for the destruction of Confederate monuments is the plain and simple fact that the South LOST the war. The primary reason we have for the civil rights struggle is that the South was permitted to perpetuate its myths regarding color and not subjected to the fate attributed to any vanquished power. Try to find a bust of Hitler or Mussolini in a public space in Italy or Germany.

seawulf575's avatar

@stanleybmanly Maybe if you had a thorough understanding of the political conditions at the end of the Civil War, you would understand why there were actually statues in the first place. But as a Russian agent, you probably don’t understand things like that. And there was a huge difference between our Civil War and the Axis leaders during WWII. First off (and this plays back into the political conditions) we were a country at war with itself. It wasn’t a bad leader that led us down a bad path of destruction. It was half a country wanting to go one way and the other half wanting to go the other. When the war was over, to say “you lost! We’re going to get rid of anything you valued!” is childish and worthy of, well, a leftist. The statues were a way to say “We understand you are having to embrace our path as a country, a path you didn’t want. And we can respect those that were willing to die for their beliefs.” It was a consideration to help heal the country…not rub the faces of the losers in the muck.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Nevertheless, the effect was to perpetuate the idea that there was “nobility” attached to a way of life built nearly exclusively on the institution of slavery. No one advocates rubbing anyone’s face in the muck or confiscating mementos of or property (except of course the slaves) from the losers. But monuments to those defending slavery, and erected with money from the public treasury are more than worthy of of circumvention.

Strauss's avatar

@seawulf575 But part of that learning is to look at what we have done to overcome those things.

One of the first entries in the log of Admiral Colon aka “Christopher Columbus” after he arrived on the island he named “San Salvador” is a commentary stating that the native Carib people would make great slaves. Now, 500 years later, we allow descendents of African slaves to be legally murdered by police. And that’s just the tip if the iceberg. Lynchings, sundown towns, miscegenation, red-lining, and more. Many of these things happened in past decades, many continued within my lifetime, and still continue to the present day. Why memorialize those who fought to defend a social system that included slavery and not memorialize those whose lives were most directly affected for generations?

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