It seems that everyone is ready to move beyond race. My local NPR station published an online story on a local initiative to promote the lived experienced of Black Males in St. Louis. The effort is being sponsored by Washington University. In the comments section, a reader challenged the effort, stating that "the sooner we come the understanding as a people and society that (race is a social construct), the sooner we can rectify the consequences of racism." He seemed to imply that once we realize that we are all the same, we will stop acting the way we do. While I see this as a part of the solution, there is so much more to this complex equation.
Yes, race is a social construct. We invented race to secure power and control for certain groups. It has been one of the most effective tools for wealth accumulation for white's in the history of the world. The fallacy of white supremacy is only part of the problem, maybe half. The remaining challenge is to undo the damage caused by the long-standing conditioning. Black Americans, in particular, have nurtured this belief like a submissive wife. For hundreds of years, our role has been to support the birth, rearing, feeding, education, employment, advancement and perfection of this belief in white superiority. We have been complicit in advancing this notion of white rightness. So, on one hand, whites have greatly benefited from this constructed belief set. On the other, brown skinned Americans have suffered from diminished sense of self required to walk beside, or behind, our common law spouse.
To push this metaphor further: at this point, blacks must recognize the abusive relationship we have endured. That is happening now. The evidence is in the rejection of white social norms by young blacks. This season of protest and creative expression is a sign of a marriage on the rocks. I'm reminded of a the R. Kelly song, "When a women's fed up." It states, "when a (people) are fed up, there ain't nothin you can do about it. It's like running out of love...and it's too late to talk about it." As we fall out of love with the idea of white supremacy, we rediscover a "new truth." Blacks have been reformed through the experience. The trauma caused by hundreds of years of abuse and neglect has left many, if not most, of us with scars that will take generations to heal. We will need counseling and therapy. We will need to share our stories and redefine ourselves in our new reality.
That is the exciting part for me as a Black Male. The re-educating of mis-educated people will be a long process. However, there are few things more beautiful than a person who rediscovers them self after spending many years lost in a mental or emotional wilderness. Stevie Wonder says it this way, "I'm new, new like the first day of spring. New like a nightingale that's just learned to sing. I'm new, new like the very start of dawn. Like a child that's first born with your love, I'm new." Like the birth of the sun, it is hard to fully comprehend the joy, magic, and power of a person who uncovers the reality of them self. It is the pinnacle of our hierarchy of needs.
To get there, a choice must be made. We have to decide if we should salvage or abandon our current dreams of living, working and playing with whiteness. Notice, I did not say white people. White people are are victims of whiteness also. They have bought in to this idea of white supremacy as well and have suffered from an identify crisis also. Thus, we all must alter our relationship with whiteness to embrace a new identity. Yet, there is a long rugged road of truth and reconciliation ahead of us. The truth must be told and alimony should be explored. After that process, and only then can walk in this new sun together in a race free America.