Friday, September 11, 2015

Race Issues Part 1: The Whitewashing of American History

A friend sent me a link to an article written by Dennis Prager titled "From The Great-Man Theory to Dead White-Male-Criticism Theory".  As I was reading this article I was convinced that most people fall into one of four categories when it comes to race and racism in America. While this isn't a rigid theory, I think it will start a conversation.
As I was reading this article it convinced me that most people fall into one of four schools of thought when it comes to race and racism in America. While this isn't a rigid theory, I think it will start a conversation.
The first group of people belong to the school of "racial-realist": they acknowledge the progress made in areas concerning racial equality, but realize discrimination is still a part of life for some. They tend to support solutions to racial issues through the use of political and social power. Often they have a sensitivity to victims of discrimination and are more likely to be activists. 
The second school is inhabited by those I call "hyper-racialist". Members of this group have the ability to find racism in every aspect of life: any situation can be viewed through a hyper-racial lens. Tragically, the underlying causes of many problems are overlooked in lieu of the easier knee jerk charge of racism. Hyper-racialist are the hypochondriacs weakening the claims of discrimination by those with legitimate grievances.
The third school is comprised of people who are "racially-indifferent". They work and live in enclaves where the majority of their interactions are with people of similar racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. Their indifference isn't built on apathy, but comes from being disconnected from the realities of minority groups. Quiet forms of racism go unnoticed by many in this group because they don't hear the whispers. 
The last group are "race-negators". They are invested in the wholesale idea that we live in a post-racial America. They acknowledge the racism in our country's past, but completely negate racism as a serious issues in our lifetime. 21st century suffering in minority communities is often blamed on a lack of Protestant morality and work ethic. This ideology is necessary to maintain the illusion of an egalitarian society in which merit outranks privilege. Mr. Prager's analysis leads me to believe he falls into this category. 
His article starts out contrasting the nostalgic way older Americans look at paintings of the founding fathers versus the way (he feels) academia and younger Americans look at them. This is Dennis Prager in his own words:

When Americans over the age of, let us say, 45 look at any of the iconic paintings of America’s Founders — the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the signing of the Constitution, George Washington crossing the Delaware, any of the individual portraits of the Founders — what do they see?
They see great men founding a great country.
If you ask many recent college graduates what they see when they look at these paintings, the chances are that it is something entirely different.
They are apt to see rich, white males who are not great and who did not found a great country. And for many, it is worse than that. These men are not only not great; they are morally quite flawed in that they were slaveholders, or at least founded a country based on slavery. Moreover, they were not only all racists — they were all sexists, who restricted the vote to males. And they were rich men who were primarily concerned with protecting their wealth, which is why they restricted the vote to landowners.
Mr. Prager is trapped inside an ideological black hole that doesn't allow him to question or dismiss the rigidity of his own beliefs, nor does it allow any information contrary to his beliefs filter in and challenge him. He isn't alone. many "race-negators" have an overly simplistic worldview. The fact that the very claims he's ridiculing academia for discussing are true (for many of the founding fathers) is of no consequence to him. Instead of working through the duality in life to find a synthesis, he pretends it doesn't exist.
Sadly, this is what passes for cultural analysis. He (and many like him) offers some of the least sophisticated and intellectually dishonest arguments about culture and race. It's possible to look at the founding fathers and appreciate their courage and brilliance, while simultaneously acknowledging the cowardly and immoral way they subjugated women and blacks. Both things are true and worthy of discussion.  
I liken this whitewashing of history to a husband who has been a good father and provider, but abusive to his wife. His friends are constantly reminding the wife how much the kids love him while trying to convince her she's overreacting. The idea that historical figures should be remembered solely for the good they've accomplished is symptomatic of an ideology built on a fairy tale. The founding fathers get a pass that others don't. How many people remember O.J. Simpson as simply being hall of fame football player and pitchman? 
Mr. Prager finishes his piece with a diatribe centered on values. He makes the claim that the left and academia never extol the values that made the founding fathers great. This is an example of the whitewashing of history. Any mention of our brutal past and the role that past continues to play in the present is seen as an attack on greatness. There are political groups and think tanks that exist for the sole purpose of distorting history. Some very smart and educated people have allowed money and political ideology to delegitimize the universities that opened doors for them. 

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