The morning after Donald J. Trumps stunning presidential electoral victory in 2016 my very smart lawyer-daughter observed, Abbie, I think we simply underestimated the level of white rage in the country following the Obama years.
I believe she was absolutely correct. My daughter, her husband and their 9-year-old daughter had stumped for Bernie Sanders in their hometown of Worcester and in New Hampshire. Her younger brother, though, a hip-hop artist with a degree in political science, had toured the Tea Party Midwest the year before, noticed a marked, compelling sense of reactionary white alienation in the region and had warned of an upset for the Democrat shoo-in liberals. He, too, was correct, of course.
Past IS prelude. The storming of the nations Capitol on Jan. 6, just like Trumps 2016 storming of our nations historically fickle experiment in democracy, was telegraphed, forewarned. Many Americans of conscience could feel it, they just couldnt see it. Or, they didnt want to.
Like many social upheavals in our nations relatively brief history, the role of white supremacy, that demonic vice originally engineered by the American 1% and their minions to be as destructive as it is deniable by our ardent, white working classes, is seminal.
Denial is racisms heartless enabler, a practiced self-defense to make the uncomfortable comfortable, most often through gross distortions of real life, of reality. Our best chance at national racial redemption is to truthfully tell the stories and histories of American racism and white supremacy.
Kamal Ali, Associate Professor of Ethnic & Gender Studies at Westfield State University, left, organized a rally outside of West Springfield High School Wednesday to protest alleged abuse of Muslim sisters by fellow students over a period of years. They were joined by students from Westfield State University, Holyoke Community College and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. April 30. 2014 (Michael S. Gordon/The Republican) Staff-ShotThe Republican file
If were going to live under one roof as an indivisible American people, with liberty and justice for all of us, it is absolutely essential that we educate ourselves on certain undeniable contradictions and distortions that have, over time, assumed the mantel of truth.
The back story of white racism is part of the apocryphal story of race and our nations ruling class obsession to create a scientific rationale for imperial slavery on one hand, while maintaining the equally dangerous, galling hypocrisy of a totally false Christian respectability on the other.
The truth about race is there IS no race. There are no genetic markers, or visible ones for that matter, that we find in one so-called race that we dont find in another race.
All anatomically modern humans, homo sapiens, are descendants from a common Black biological ancestor from Africa, most likely East Africa. For most of us this truth is like learning the Earth is not flat, so addicted are we to the European illusion that race is science, and a determiner of ability, performance and culture. That belief did not develop by happenstance or coincidence.
The slave system established in the Americas and the Caribbean delivered unimaginable profits in the United States and Europe. Resultantly, the contest to portray enslaved or oppressed people as pagans or subhuman heathens whose subjugation by superior white cultures was not only normal, but the decree of almighty God, began in earnest.
Beginning in the early 18th century highly motivated clergymen, physicians, philosophers, jurists and lay scientists were hard at work attempting to classify what they supposed were different racial groups along a hierarchical ladder, with whites and other western Europeans at the top, and darker races at the bottom. These were men, by the way, who represented the intellectual elite of Europe and America, not a bevy of charlatans and conspiracy theorists of the type we know and love today.
The idea was to prove, empirically, the superiority of whiteness as justification for the continued exploitation, globally, of inferior races. In short, early 18th century anthropologists, as they came to be known, tended to follow a biblical or monogenetic view of humankind that implied all humans were of one species but varied in appearance and capabilities.
But even the Bible thumpers were patently racist, describing folk who looked like my family as not the white mans equal, who were meant to be servants of servants, and who believed slavery is justifiable. Thomas Jefferson, slave holder and father of four surviving children with half-caste Sally Hemmings, the Beyonce of her time, suspicioned Blacks were a distinct race, but was absolutely convinced of their dulltasteless inferiority to white folk.
By the 19th century the science had devolved to the point where blacks and other racial minorities were seen as different species altogether, and were summarily, in their view, written out of the human family. What these anthropologists were really up to, their smoke-and-mirror experiments with cranial capacity, head shape, hair texture and brain color notwithstanding, was affirming their own preconceived prejudices and formally justifying the racial inequality, oppression and immorality of their world.
In 1859, a year or so before the Civil War, Charles Darwin published his work of authentically scientific, biological literature popularly known as The Origin of Species. However, the formal title of his work, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, is clear in its intent to label a publication that would, in part, underscore and affirm the glaring inequities in the prevailing racial landscape, which it did.
Pseudo-scientists like Herber Spencer and Francis Galton (Darwins British cousin) used Darwins work to usher in a more sophisticated strain of racism known Social Darwinism, which then metastasized into Eugenics a huge tent that offers cover for a variety of the not-so-subtle racist incarnations of today.
This photo from 2018 shows James F. Hennessey Award recipients Kamal H. Ali, left, and John Bracey, right, with their wives, Ayesha Ali and Ingrid Bracey, at the Greater Springfield NAACP Centennial Freedom Fund Banquet. The Hennessey award is the highest honor given by the organization and recognizes individuals for their efforts in eliminating racial discrimination and promoting civil right.The Republican file
The corrupting strands of racism and racial supremacy, bigotry and intolerance braided into American law and governance, public and private policies and practices before and since our nations inception, must be targeted, isolated and done away with. How else can our national home be a comfortable home, an equitable home, a loving home to everyone living there?
The historical complicity of the U.S. Supreme Court and lower courts in the establishment and maintenance of slavery, segregation, voter suppression; the Congressional denial of Black and brown folk access to Social Security, and Black veterans to G.I. Bill grants supporting housing and education; the banks red-lining of urban neighborhoods while exposing Blacks to predatory mortgage practices; the criminal justice systems collusion with state courts to unleash the scourge of mass incarceration on urban poor communities, then deny released inmates civil and legal status: these malevolent practices, among a litany of other abridgments of colored folks human rights are reprehensible. So, too, are the innumerable racist affronts to the ability of Black, white, yellow and brown people to enjoy, with dignity, the full array of opportunities that are integral to the America their labor and extreme sacrifice has produced.
We can and must do better. And, I suggest we do it sooner rather than later. The barbarians arent at the gate, theyre in our House!
Kamal H. Ali, who grew up in Springfield, retired in 2016 from Westfield State University, where he holds the position of professor emeritus in the Department of Ethnic and Gender Studies. He is the former director of the universitys Office of Minority Affairs and the universitys Urban Education and Student Support Services programs. Ali is also a founder and trustee of the Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts and an imam-chaplain for Muslim inmates at the Hampden County House of Correction.
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