Definitely. Your unique perspective on American race relations, (being in Hawaii) is a breath of fresh air. I love what you said about being a minority. It’s rare that whites in America find themselves being in the minority racially, but that is changing, and white people find that frightening.
I think your thoughts on what it is like to be white and be in the racial minority, will be enlightening to most Americans, who rarely see any whites in that position. I think that you could maybe quell fears that white Americans have about being in the minority. You’re dealing with it, obviously it can be done.
It is rare for a white American to find themselves in the racial minority, but it does happen. Dustin Briscoe spoke to his experiences with that. And when it does happen, it definitely alters their perceptions regarding race. Sometimes even drastically. Tim Wise, a white man known as the nations leading anti-racist, spent his formative years in an all black preschool environment.
A lot of times, being in the racial minority doesn’t bode well for the white person, as for the first time in life, they find themselves being treated differently, unfairly and discriminated against because of skin color.
In America, I think that white people greatly fear minority status, because they have seen what happens to minorities here; and if they’ve ever actually been in that status, their fears may have increased depending upon what happened to them as the result of the experience.
You also raise a lot of interesting points about ethnicity and culture, which undoubtedly ties into race. Some whites in America have deep ties to their culture (Italians, Irish, Jews). Others do not. To a certain extent, culture encourages otherism, which feeds racism, but it also feeds a sense of pride in one’s identity.
This is the reason Southerners love the confederate flag, they have wrapped so much of their identity into this idea that they resisted a powerful force that tried to legislate a morality to them. The narrative that the South holds onto, is that the North attempted to stomp them into oblivion, but they were not entirely defeated. They held on. They bounced back. They won back what they lost. It’s not entirely true. But the South still is, and it has its ways still. One of its ways is the brutal oppression of black people. I think a lot of Southerners feel like if they have to let go of that, then they have truly lost. Economically, the South does nothing but lose, and if it was willing to release old paradigms that might not be the case. But it is stuck in an 1850s mindset.
For a lot of Southerners, to confront that mindset, to tamper with the flag and those monuments is to tamper with their identity. Most people will fight to the death to protect their identity, especially when it’s a group identity.
This is why I see the removal of confederate monuments and the flag being problematic. If it doesn’t happen with a true consensus among all the people in the city or town, it’s likely to cause further entrenchment along racial and political lines. Are you surprised that sales for confederate flags went up after Charlottesville?
I understand how much of their identity many Southerners have wrapped up into that flag. I also understand that many Black Americans despise the flag because of what it represents: slavery. And there’s just no getting around that.
Southerners want to pretend that there is. If this isn’t the biggest piece of cognitive dissonance ever. When it comes to the confederacy, the state it’s currently in, the South’s stubborn refusal to move on peacefully, it’s a real huge mess.
Maybe Hawaiians can offer some advice on how to move on, being that the situation is similar. Hawaiians had an outside force come in and legislate some foreign requirements onto it. How did Hawaiians manage to retain their identity? Have Hawaiians moved past the resentments they developed over the occupation, or is this still a touchy subject in Hawaii?
To Native Americans, all of America is “occupied .” And moving beyond this is impossible for them. So I realize it’s no small thing to move beyond having an outside force come in and change your entire way of life, but at a certain point, it has to be done, as holding on to what was is no longer feasible.
The South is now bumping up against that reality. Southerners definitely could use some help coming to terms. Sadly, I don’t think I’ve had any Southerners comment yet on any of my observations on Charlottesville, which is a shame because Southerners (black and white) really need to step up and engage in dialogue on not just race relations, but especially Southern race relations. I’ve found this is a conversation most Southerners are terrified to have.
But the need for these conversations is critical. Because there, as David Antrobus pointed out, lies a gaping, infected wound, and I think it’s obvious to people outside the country looking in. It’s obvious to people outside of the South looking in.
But the time has come for Southerners to look inside themselves, to look at their culture and try to see what people in other parts of the country are seeing, not to mention the world.
Their Southern heritage and pride is one thing, but that brutal, ugly, racism that relies on instilling terror and fear into people, that resorts to heinous violence and oppression to get what it wants, that’s nothing to be proud of.
And a lot of Southern whites have it twisted. A lot of them think that it is.
But, these are the problems we encounter when we get into the weeds of race, ethnicity, culture. Every group has things that it can and should be proud of. Every group has practices that are disgusting, shameful and disgraceful. You can’t just elevate the former, and ignore the latter. You have to deal with all of it, and most Southerners, of all races, have refused to do this for well over 100 years.
Maybe Hawaiians can teach them a thing or two about coping. It’s worth a shot, I think.