Why forget the past?

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  • #3917

    Why do many white people seem to want to sweep hundreds of years of racism under the carpet and forget about it? Why is it OK, for example, for Jewish people to remember the Holocaust every year, but if you want to talk about reparations for black slaves and black people today, white people will say “You are being bitter,” “That was hundreds of years ago,” “It doesn’t have anything to do with me,” “I never owned slaves,” etc., when in fact they benefited most from slavery because of all the free labor that built the United States?

    User Detail :  

    Name : Bigchocolateman, Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : Black/African American, Age : 29, City : Detroit, State : MI Country : United States, Education level : Technical School, Social class : Middle class, 
    #44110

    M-Kemper22538
    Participant

    Slavery in the United States is something that needs to be remembered and never repeated. But there is a difference between remembering and making reparations. In order for reparations to be made, there needs to be a clear victim and clear perpetrator. In the case of Japenese-Americans who were interned during World War II, there were clear victims (those who were interned and their living descendants) and a clear perpetrator (the U.S. government). In the case of the Holocaust, individuals could be identified who gave the orders to confiscate property from, to imprison and to kill the particular victims.

    In the case of African-Americans, there are victims and perpetrators; about this there is no question. But for reparations to be paid, I would ask you the following questions: 1) Many African-Americans are descended from slaves brought to the West Indies. Those of Jamaican descent are one example. Should those descendants, who had no ancestors who were slaves in the United States, be paid reparations? How about African-Americans who immigrated to the United States directly from Africa within the last few decades? Should they be paid reparations? 2) Should the U.S. government be made to pay reparations? Yes, the law allowing slaves to be brought came into being with the ratification of the Constitution, but it ran out around 1820. Should those people who are descended from slaves brought over before 1820 get reparations from the U.S. government? What about those descended from slaves brought over illegally after 1820? 3) Slavery was not legal in all states. Slavery was banned in the United States before many of the Western states became states at all. Should the governments of individual “slave” states be held responsible? 4) I am descended from immigrants who never (to my knowledge) owned slaves. Should I have to pay reparations? 5) What about those people who came to this country within the last few years? Should they be made to pay reparations? They had nothing to do with slavery in this country. 6) Yes, a good portion of this country was built on slave laber, especially in the South. But it was also built by immigrant labor, quite often for nothing more than room and board. 7) What about those descended from voluntary mixed marriages (African-American with non-African-American)? Should they get a full portion of reparations, or would they get a percentage? I am sure there are counter-arguments to all of these questions, but they are still legitimate questions in my mind.

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    Name : M-Kemper22538, Gender : F, Race : White/Caucasian, Age : 31, City : Temple Terrace, State : FL Country : United States, 
    #18287

    Staci
    Participant

    I am one of the white people who thinks reparation is not necessary for what happened hundreds of years ago. I don’t think we should forget any of the past, but I honestly cannot justify having a generation of white Americans pay for something their ancestors may or may not have done. There are participants in the Holocaust still alive. I don’t know what they deserve for their pain and suffering, or what those who had a hand in the violence deserve. I only know there is a lesson to be learned from both so I cannot forget it. I don’t know that I should be one of those paying for it – that to me is just a reminder that money is a very powerful force for us.

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    Name : Staci, Gender : F, City : Madison, State : WI Country : United States, 
    #22568

    Richard
    Member

    I don’t feel that most whites are interested in devaluing slavery’s impact or “sweeping it under the rug,” but instead are focused on the present. As a white person, I feel proud that my country fought a tremendously costly war in order to free the slaves. It is very healthy to know your history, but not to live in the past. I suggest the next time you feel resentment toward whites for the crime of slavery, remember that your ancestors were sold or captured to be sold by other Africans.

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    Name : Richard, Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Catholic, Age : 21, City : Corsini, State : FL Country : United States, Occupation : Student, Education level : 2 Years of College, Social class : Middle class, 
    #39932

    Shawn D.
    Member

    Perhaps this does seem insensitive, but in my mind, there is a big difference between the Holocaust (which was quite recent) and slavery. For instance, there are still many Holocaust survivors who are still alive and have to live with the painful memories of their friends and loved ones being slain. Again, this may be insensitivity on my part, but when I hear Jewish people speaking about the Holocaust, I am much more sympathetic than when I listen to people of African descent speak of slavery because in my opinion, too many people have tried to sensationalize this event, which took place more than a century ago. I don’t mean to trivialize or justify slavery, but I feel that while racism still exists, Caucasion people in general should not automatically feel guilty for the sins of their ancestors, nor should all Germans today feel guilty for the heinous crimes of the Nazis.

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    Name : Shawn D., Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Gay, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Episcopalian, Age : 24, City : Fort Worth, State : TX Country : United States, Occupation : Aviation, Education level : Technical School, Social class : Lower middle class, 
    #15711

    Sam
    Member

    “Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.” I don’t know where that saying came from, but I agree with it. I don’t think reparations are feasible. Nor is a massive acceptance of white guilt. More importantly, though, I believe those two things are well beside the point. We live in a society that is very class-based, and one in which minorities, most notably blacks, have been consigned to representing a disproportionate segment of the underclass. Higher rates of violent crime, police brutality, economic and social inequity, etc. all plague the black community. Yes, they have their roots in racial slavery, and in the racist ideology that was contrived to justify slavery. This ideology is alive and kicking today, largely because this country has never owned up to its savagely unequal origins. Hatred cannot be rationalized or swept under the carpet, as it is a force that cannot be contained by social constructs. I would consider the recent shootings (racially motivated or not) in Chicago, Colorado, Atlanta and Alabama to be evidence that we are beginning to pay a much higher price for ignoring our past. The chickens (of hatred) are indeed coming home to roost.

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    Name : Sam, Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : Black/African American, Age : 31, City : Chicago, State : IL Country : United States, Occupation : Firefighter, Education level : High School Diploma, Social class : Lower middle class, 
    #16813

    Kim H.
    Participant

    I think America really hasn’t come to terms with its own history. It is hard for a country to admit committing genocide (Native Americans) or instituting laws that restricted the making of families (Asians/Chinese) or enslaving a race of people purely for economic reasons (African- Americans). It’s hard for white Americans today to admit what happened, and even though an apology to black Americans just might, after all these years, actually start the process of healing, few white Americans understand this: If you weren’t the slave owner, perhaps you were the “the slave owner’s wife.” In other word, even though your ancestors might not have owned slaves, you have still benefited from the system that instituted discrimination against and enslaved blacks. It’s hard to admit to something that you are still in denial about – consciously or unconsciously. I think white Americans have to understand and learn their own history, here and in Europe. Prejudice and discrimination and how it was institutionalized was brought over here from Europe. It’s deeply engrained and nobody seems to want to take responsibility for it, or even their own behavior in regards to it. The folks that trivialize it are almost always of a group that has enjoyed the priviledge of not being discriminated against in the way that Blacks have. So, I’m always surprised when others ‘get-it.’ It will be a wonderous day when whites in America stand up and give an apology to People of Color and all the things that we have had to endure for centuries….and continue to experience—yes it will be wonderous indeed! And perhaps we could start to exhibit some new behavior on all sides. But right now— with no formal apology—it is like America is saying to us once again—‘You are not worthy nor do you have value enough for me to care about what I have done to you.’ So, what does one do with that? Tread water and keep telling yourself that you are worthy and a valueable human-being…and pray a lot and try to teach your children that they are somebody—even though American doesn’t really support your idea.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Kim H., Gender : F, Race : Black/African American, Religion : Humanist, Age : 43, City : Minneapolis, State : MN Country : United States, Occupation : Actress, Playwright and Director, Education level : Over 4 Years of College, Social class : Middle class, 
    #26899

    Rhiannon
    Member

    I think Bigchocolateman is right. No, we as individuals aren’t to “blame” for slavery (my ancestors weren’t even here yet), but this country as a whole owes African Americans a great deal, not just because of the atrocities of slavery and lynching and Jim Crow laws and other forms of inhumane discrimination, but because problems linger in the African-American community because of these historical atrocities. It’s only been about 30 years since African Americans became the legal equals of whites in all parts of the United States. As a direct result of years of legalized discrimination and racism, while many African Americans are doing very well, other African Americans remain in poverty. Why do some Americans think you can get rid of years of systemwide discrimination and that all of the people who suffered this discrimination will suddenly pull themselves up from their bootstraps and succeed masterfully? In my opinion, this country does not need to pay African Americans monetary restitution – that’s too impractical, since all former slaves are long dead – but this country should take the responsibility to clean up the mess it created and help African Americans who are not doing so well in 1999 to succeed. And no, that’s not “reverse racism” or giving African Americans an “unfair advantage.” It’s just undoing all the unfair disadvantages that have been created throughout this countries history.

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    Name : Rhiannon, Gender : F, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Jewish, Age : 28, City : Minneapolis, State : MN Country : United States, Occupation : Media studies graduate student, 
    #31646

    Thomas
    Member

    In response to Shawn D.’s message in which he states that he feels “too many people have tried to sensationalize this event,” referring to slavery, I’d like to say that it is my feeling that this is even more true of the Holocaust. The memory of the Holocaust is always kept alive, through study groups, college courses, movies, books, museums, etc. When I visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., I could not help but feel like the objective was to make me feel guilty for something I had nothing to do with. It seems to me (correct me if I’m wrong) that because the Jewish community is better off economically than the black community, they have better means of promoting their cause. As far as I’m concerned, it certainly seems true, as I am tired of hearing so much about the Holocaust, while slavery is a topic I seem to encounter every once in a while.

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    Name : Thomas, Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Age : 21, City : New York, State : NY Country : United States, Education level : 4 Years of College, Social class : Upper class, 
    #40158

    Dee
    Member

    To suggest that blacks simply disassociate themselves from slavery “because it happened so long ago” is shocking. Those held in captivity were not only slaves, they were and still are people, family members, human beings just like you and me. The government’s involvement, whether intentional or by default, in a system that was inhumane, brutal, toxic and criminal cannot be underscored. Personally, I would never take a penny offered for what was done to my forefathers. There isn’t a dollar amount that would satisfy such a void.

    Some of us maintain links to slavery because we know that we stand on the backs of giants. The irony of freedom is that people were set “free” into a system that was hostile and did not want them. For us, the slaves are more than simply political figures. They are a matter of the heart, and we revisit their memories and legacies with respect and adulation. Had they not made it, there would be no me. They were more than a faceless entity or victims of a greedy relationship between for-profit slave traders and African slave catchers. The Holocaust and other ethnic injustices are constant reminders of the importance of global civil rights and social justice. Rather than a political totem pole of “who was done worst, when and where,” perhaps we can begin to see all of these issues within the equal historical frameworks in which they rightfully belong. However, to ask blacks to “stop whining about it and get over it” would be the same as asking your future generations, 200 years from now, to never know that you or your family members existed. All they would know is that you were one day simply wiped out in a race riot loosely orchestrated by the government. Perhaps it wouldn’t matter to you, but it probably would to them. Like the slaves, you probably never anticipate the possibility that one day you may be completely forgotten: No name, no face, no identitity, no personality. Get over that.

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    Name : Dee, City : Cleveland, State : OH Country : United States, 
    #40830

    M. Early
    Member

    What is interesting to me is that whites are oblivious to the true impact of slavery and racism in America. True, the Holocaust was more recent in American history than the slave trade, but you ignore the contemporary ramifications. In fact, even more recent than the Holocaust was Jim Crow and segregation. The legacy of slavery and racism in this country has left most African Americans in positions of feeling helpless and devalued as human beings. We still live in the shadow of slavery.

    How many African-American doctors, lawyers, politicians, etc. would we presently have in this country if all descendents of slaves had been afforded the same educational opportunities as whites? How many African-American-owned businesses exist today if the property of our ancestors had not been stripped from them at the whim of ignorant, racist whites? How many brilliant scholars, scientists, writers, teachers, etc. has the world lost due to lynchings, hatred and bigotry? How many individuals living today are unable to succeed due to the pychological damage of being raised in a country that was built with the blood of their ancestors, but still must struggle in the violent grip of racism?

    I guess it is just as well that most whites choose not to acknowledge the legacy of slavery and the way it has damaged the African-American pysche and family beyond repair. Because if they did, and I was forced to think about it any more than I currently do, then I might truly become that “angry, violent nigger” that they already stereotype me as being.

    User Detail :  

    Name : M. Early, Gender : M, Race : Black/African American, Age : 28, City : Durham, State : NC Country : United States, Occupation : Director of IT, 
    #42994

    Sammuelle
    Participant

    I am an African-American female whose parents are from the South and have ancestors who were slaves. I feel that African Americans might as well forget about reparations, since this country was, is and will always be money-hungry. In other words, money is power, and he who has the most of it “wins.” There is no way America will give a large group of people of color any money for its sins; that would make people of color a bit more “powerful.” When you have racially based hate crimes against people of color committed by the “authority” – cops, for example – or “lynching style” crimes – the Jasper, Texas, dragging death – and blatant and subtle racist procedures installed in almost every crevice of society, in the year 1999 it really doesn’t matter that slavery happened so long ago. That is because the effects of it have shaped the structure of society and the minds of its victims. There will be no reparations; that would be too dangerous to the powers that be, and “they” know that.

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    Name : Sammuelle, Gender : F, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : Black/African American, Age : 34, City : Boston, State : MA Country : United States, Occupation : Artist/Illustrator, Education level : 2 Years of College, Social class : Middle class, 
    #43500

    Niko
    Participant

    The reason for Jewish people to remember the Holocaust is that it happened closer to our own history. There are people whose parents and even themselves were affected by the Holocaust. The United States is dealing with the past experience of slavery much better than any other modern civilization. For example, Turkey enslaved Greece for nearly 400 years, and there is still a lot of tension between these two countries. How I see it is that it’s better to forget the past to build a great future, but it’s extremely hard to forget the past, especially when your ancestors were affected.

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    Name : Niko, Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : Greek, Religion : Greek Orthodox, Age : 20, City : Denver, State : CO Country : United States, Occupation : Student, Education level : 4 Years of College, Social class : Upper class, 
    #45925

    K.J.
    Member

    Why do you assume there are “many white people” who want to sweep racism under the carpet? Isn’t it as wrong for you to make racial generalizations about white people as it is for white people to make generalizations about African Americans? I grew up in rural East Tennessee. Many people make many assumptions about me based on that one aspect of my life, and many of those assumptions are untrue. My great-grandfather operated a steam ship landing during the Civil War; he was ostracized in his community for refusing to service Confederate vessels. I am proud that he stood firm in his beliefs. I am also proud to be a Southerner and a Tennessean. Not all of us who are proud of our Southern heritage are racists or bigots.

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    Name : K.J., Gender : F, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Episcopalian, Age : 47, City : Burke, State : VA Country : United States, Occupation : Systems Analyst, Education level : 2 Years of College, Social class : Upper middle class, 
    #15441

    Mark
    Member

    One thing that most assume is that slavery is a black/white thing. This is not true. What people seem to forget is that Africans were guilty of slavery in vast numbers well before the white man ever arrived in Africa. This tells us that for whatever reasons, the “human” condition is to exploit anybody/anything that it sees as inferior, no matter how unjustified. This is still continuing in Africa today -Zulus/Tutsis/Hutus, etc. All guilty of genocide, as well as Slavery. Many more Africans have died at the hands of what we would consider their own race than were murdered in the Holocaust. One thing that history has taught us is that to forget it is to repeat its mistakes.

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    Name : Mark, Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Humanist, Age : 28, City : London, State : NA Country : United Kingdom, Occupation : IT, Education level : Over 4 Years of College, Social class : Middle class, 
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