The Evolution and Expressions of Racism
A Blogs@Baruch site
What’s so jarring is how prescient Booker T. Washington is, not that that was his intention, but how so much is still the same, the same, as you refer to in today’s lecture, issues of class and of course, what we’re here for, racism, this systemic injustice of categorizing human beings, creating obstacles and barriers for anyone that is not white. That the rise, or rather the existence of White Supremacy was so prevalent, —you could say, yes, that Plantation owners, those who owned slaves, are the OG of the White Supremacists, who fed the furthering of a divided nation, of a Heil and of a K and a K and a K.
I agree with you as well, that the term POC is annoying. It is as you say a lazy way to categorize a world of people. Like, oh, you’re not white, so you’re…POC.
Also, that you say, “The thing about America is that it’s fundamentally racist.” I agree. And again, it’s how do we dismantle that racism? Will it be possible? What does the blue print look like? How do we create a world to live in where a Black man can jog with out worrying for his life? When a mother doesn’t have to track her child on Find My Phone, once he leaves her home? This class, and the readings we are assigned to, plus the recent protests, are a perfect storm of a need for answers, more questions, more answers.
Thank you! more than him being prescient it’s history repeating itself in new forms I believe. And it’s important to recognize there is no easy way out of this. it is a very long struggle in which you have to keep failing time and again before making a crack in the wall.
An interesting concept and running theme I have found within the text is the potential found within laborious duties. Early on, Booker T. Washington made the distinction that labor was frowned upon in that it was the duty of the enslaved because they were seen as less worthy than their white owners. Yet through his work with Mrs. Ruffner, Washington develops a knack for an immaculate attention to detail which ultimately gains him admission to Hampton as a janitor due to his work ethic displayed through sweeping a room thoroughly. Moreover, when Washington sees Ms. Mackie, a white woman of status, partake in laborious duties such as cleaning, the stigma towards labor is shifted and become something of achievement rather than a badge of lowly status. After the Emancipation Proclamation passed, ex-slaves were much more well adjusted to find work due to their ability to perform certain chores whereas, the white people in the south had not learned trades or everyday duties to be able to easily perform them, themselves. This work ethic that Washington has acquired is extremely apparent in the many ways in which he attempts to gain money to attend school. Namely, he works at Fortress Monroe during summer vacation in order to pay back the debt that he owes Hampton and shies away from trying to take the easy way out such as pocketing a $10 bill that he finds on the ground. This learned discipline allows Washington to remain extremely focused on his schooling while also understanding that hard-work will always be necessary along the way. That concept is magnified as Washington states that during the Reconstruction Period people needed to be mindful that attaining any amount of education would not certify that they would no longer need manual labor. I find interesting that Washington can see beyond an over-arching thought of simply allowing any and all people of color into office. He realizes that black people had less education and were likely to make more mistakes in office and that those elected into politics regardless of their race should be well equipped to handle their responsibilities. Seemingly what Washington touches upon is this idea that black people were almost being used as pawns being put into office by the North in order to unsettle the white Southerners. In the same breath, white Southerners could use the mistakes of the black people during this time in office as verification that they weren’t fit to be in office in the future.
– Simran Sharda
Thank you! thorough comment. he definitely does appreciate all the skills he learned through what you call ‘laborious duties’. the issue people took was that this way of framing slavery is whitewashing it. after all, those learned skills didn’t help many slaves, since they were whipped to death or so crushed over years that they had no motivation for life after emancipation.
I understand the whitewashing argument, and I agree with its validity. However, as an optimist myself, it would be difficult – especially for Washington as he is looking back on his own life, not to try and find the silver lining. These are his memories, and he should be able to view them in whatever way makes him live a better life. Of course, he knows his life was cruel and unjust. I wish the grief behind his history, and the history of all slaves, would not be lost just because he has moments where he focuses on the silver lining.
I ask you, professor, how do we express our own needs or feelings about our past while balancing the responsibility of educating others when you decide to tell that story? And, how much of the responsibility lies in Washington not to downplay the cruelty of slavery, and how much responsibility is on the reader to thoughtfully dissect the text?
That’s a very good question, and I have to say it’s getting increasingly difficult to do so. because of the social media and the fast overwhelming pace of daily news people tend to lose perspective. the present time is so intensely present now that it’s hard for people to actually travel to the past and see the world through eyes of someone who lived a century ago.but I totally agree with your point: we are all products of our historical circumstances and there’s no way we can morally judge people’s decision who came before us, except in egregiously evil cases. so, no, I am not in the position to blame Washington for anything, and I think no one is. we are just trying to have a discussion about our present moment through his writing.
I think Booker’s attitude towards what’s around him is more of acceptance rather than compromise. Booker acknowledges the fact that he lived an unfair life, and I believe that he also figured out at some point in his life that there’s nothing that he could do about what already happened; the past is the past, so he choose to look forward and enrich himself than constantly looking back hating and wish harm to those who inflict pain.
Another reason why I think the reason why Booker is very sympathetic to those who are unfortunate is that he understands that no one was really having a good time around his time period; some people suffer, and some people suffer more. Even though the majority of white people were racist, there were definitely moments where Bookers felt sorry for them in some way.
thank you! I agree with you about acceptance, the problem is it is too unconditional and forward-looking in his worldview, and many people with similar experiences wouldn’t approve of that.
In this text reconstruction it’s an attracting word, Booker Washington was trying to reconstruct the race identity and build the African America’s confident by knowing that developing in education it’s important. Even though he was trying to spread this theme of education. People with color live at the land but the real processing for this still not that easy. One point was mentioned that black people should not trust and giving hope to the central government. For the central government, even now under Trump’s administration we can clearly see the biased still existing now in the society. People on the world all colored except white, so what? POC also attribute to this land as well. From Booker Washington, there was not much nationalism spread out; in reverse, he was not describing the tragic life of black slaves, but instead says that slavery is a “school”, and black people who graduated from this school can continue to develop their willpower and skills.
I liked your conversation on the elusiveness of knowing a language like greek or latin. Today, being multilingual is almost like a commodity in wealthy communities and seen as a status symbol when it is something that is learned via lessons/school. I’m sure back then the white people would not have even thought that a black person was even capable of learning a second language and seeing it for themselves could alter their perception of what black people or capable of. This reminds me of a scene in Quentin Tarantinos Django Unchained (although not very historically accurate) when Django was riding a horse through a village, the white people watched in awe because they have never seen a black person ride a horse before.
By the way, if you are using a microphone can you please speak closer to it. Some parts were hard to hear even at full volume.
Thank you! and sorry about the voice quality! I don’t have a mic but I’ll be a little louder for the next lecture!
ok thank you!
I am a proud Black man. 400 years of slavery means 400 years of racist ideologies. That is beyond generational; it is deeply embedded. It is simply culture for some. Trump being elected is proof that these groups are much more prominent then many thought.
Black America has to rid itself of the belief that reform and equality will happen overnight. Though I am only 26 years old, it already seems somethings never change. I sympathize for older Black Americans, such as my parents, who have seen this wave of racism come upon shore numerous times now. Could you imagine going back in time to the Civil Rights Movement era and talking about whats happening in 2020? Im sure some of them would feel they are marching simply to the beat of their own drum, all for no reason. I wish I knew what the answer was to get everyone on the same page.
I’m also glad you brought up the point about class being an undertone to whats currently happening. This is indeed equally a class issue. Wealth knows no color. It is the reason why there are two different rulebooks in justice system.
It is weirdly sobering to read older texts that describe in detail what Black Americans may need to do to prosper because it is still (almost word for word) described today. We’ve had many prominent voices in our community rise up just to be silenced or tuned out.
Thank you Kent! all great points. glad to have you on board.
I thought this was very important given the current climate. Many Americans like to think that we live in a post-racial society and often use Obama’s election as proof that America is no longer racist. But, as you mentioned, obstacles have been put in place to disadvantage blacks in the U.S. and to the advantage of the wealthy. You make a good point regarding the term “POC.” It negates the individual experience and tries to turn people away from intersectionality. In regards to Americans wanting to view the U.S. as a classless society, I feel like it was the original intent but when you have a system that is founded on discriminatory beliefs, the inequality just becomes more apparent as time goes on. While income inequality has been a problem in the U.S. for a long time, since the 1980s we have had an exponential increase as the ordinary middle class is vanishing. If America stops regarding itself as a “classless” society, it can begin to realize the necessary changes.
Thank you! I can’t overemphasis how important class is, in my view. it’s true that people don’t believe in that as much as before, but don’t underestimate the power of myths. Still many migrate here, under the false impression they get from Hollywood or some stupid shows, believing that American streets are blanketed with money, you just need to know how to pick them up.
As you mentioned, lands were given to some of the newly freed slaves. But that probably did not help much because as Washington mentioned in his book, most of the newly freed were suffering from poverty and it makes sense because if we think practically, having land isn’t sufficient for starting a new life. The most obvious use of land at the time would be to build a house or even a farm. Even for that, one would need other resources other than just land. And given that most of them didn’t have much or any money at all, the lands given to them served very little in terms of being able to settle into a new life.
That’s very true. but even then, they indeed managed to built settlements and thriving communities. after long centuries of hardship they knew how to take the opportunities as they came up, and their work on the land had given them versatility and dexterity in dealing with those challenges. They even went as far as building places like Tulsa, a self-sufficient, prosperous black town, which white supremacists bombed.
After the lecture I decided to do some research about the reconstruction process which began at the end of the Civil War. I found it interesting learning about the Freedman’s Bureau and their mission to provide aid to former slaves, such as negotiating contracts, settling labor disputes, building schools and legalizing marriages. They were basically working as social workers. At the same time, the bureau faced a strong opposition, often they were victims of violence and threats from southern communities and white supremacist groups such as the KKK. Indeed, the main form of resistance came from the successor of President Lincoln, Andrew Johnson who tried to prevent the extension of the agency, which eventually was dismissed.
(P.S. I recommend everyone check the reconstruction period during the Freedman’s Bureau. There is a lot of interesting material which gives you a brighter picture of how and why things were shaped in such a way in the following years)
Furthermore, the story of guy travelling from Morocco who risked being lynched because people assumed that he was African American. I still see similar prejudice manifesting today in a different form in my native country, Italy. By many of my fellow citizens (especially older generations), black people are looked upon differently based upon their nationality. For instance, if you are a black American, people would approach you differently, with respect, and proper manners; especially considering the fact that you are from one of the most forefront nations in the world. Whereas, if you are an African immigrant/refugee either from the Northern Part of the continent or the Sub-Saharan part, people tend to look down on you spitefully, especially in many regions of the country where citizens are more conservative and tend to wrongfully point the finger at immigrants for everything that is wrong with Italy.
Thank you for the recommendation! such a great point about comparison between Europe and US. This goes back a long time, with Jazz musicians or authors like James Baldwin and Richard Wright moving to France to avoid racism in the US. there’s the Middle Eastern perspective too, which I’m going to discuss when we talk about Martin Luther King.
I do not deny the significance of Washington’s commitment to teaching blacks knowledge and skills. But then I remembered a movie I had seen called the Green Book. The black pianist in the film was well known among whites for his excellent playing skills, but the whites who hired him did not give him the respect he deserved. The mastery of knowledge and skills is undoubtedly of vital importance to a person, because it is a necessary condition for a person to survive. But just surviving in this world is not enough. Black people need to be respected, treated equally and even loved. So I don’t think Washington has gone far enough.
absolutely! you don’t have to over-achieve to prove your worth to the world just because your skin color is different from folks in power. Washington believed that knowledge and skill will generate wealth in black community, and wealth automatically leads to respect and power.
I want to briefly mention when Washinton’s success at Hampton leads to an invitation to head a new school in Alabama. Once Washington reaches Tuskegee, Alabama, he finds eager students but no proper building in which to hold a school. For the first few months, Washington holds the school in a shanty located near a church. Eventually, Washington purchases an old plantation for the school. Washington, alongside his students, labors to repair the buildings to make them suitable as classrooms. He also has the students plant crops to make Tuskegee self-sustaining. These early experiments in student labor become part of the foundational curriculum at Tuskegee, each student has to learn a trade or industry alongside more traditional academic subjects.
This was a great lecture given everything that is happening right now and it made me think even deeper how America is just fundamentally racist. race has been and stays an amazing arranging highlight of American public activity. Racial classifications both reflect and strengthen differences in access to monetary, political, and social assets. I think the origin of the problem is evident. Although the United States has ended the slavery and segregation laws that have been present throughout the history of the country, little has been done to change the mentality of many people, formed from the racist notions on which they are based. they settled those structures, but again, this is very thing to d
Whites in the United States interpreted Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 as the start of a new post-racial era. According to this logic, if a black man could hold the highest public office in the country, the blacks of the United States could achieve any challenge they set themselves.
Obviously, this post-racial logic does not take into account the structural and institutional disadvantages that black Americans must deal with when they want to access a home, improve their economic status or study, and it also ignores the emergence of what for many is a new type. of “less obvious and more skillful” racism.
Comments are closed.