I am plain sicker and ‘tireder’ than Mother Fannie Lou Hamer was of being sick and tired of those in the so-called “anti-racist” or “conscious community” and their “experts” who continue to misrepresent (to put it mildly) the nature, essence, and ongoing manifestations of the tripartite beast and illness of racism!
These people continue to hinder, rather than helping to advance progress. Whether they mean well or not, ultimately, their blatant mischaracterizations, distortions, and convolution regarding the old, super-entrenched, systemic issue and problem is counter-productive. The objective truth of the matter is that many such persons are merely mess-makers.
An exemplary sample of mess-making is contained in a recent opinion piece that appeared in Monroe County’s widely-circulated, only daily newspaper: Rubin, Hank (December 21, 2018) “Rochester must face hard truth to move forward” (https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/opinion/guest-column/2018/12/24/rochester-must-face-hard-truth-move-forward/38792211/).
Frequently, such efforts are in fact problematic relative to causing, and/or deepening confusion and fabricated, illusionary, superficial mysteriousness—when actually, there is no mystery at all. We can sum this reality up in a single word, Miseducation.
Based on deep, serious, extensive study and life experiences, some of us do possess authentic, broad-based, knowledge and understanding, or that which some refer to as “expertise”.
However, many others who THINK THEY KNOW AND UNDERSTAND, obviously do not. They are people who should stop trying to lead, and instead humble themselves, and in many cases, calm their hegemonic drives to be out front. They need to come to grips with the fact that they are not equipped to take the lead regarding one of the nation’s oldest, most complex, entrenched, potentially volatile and explosive socioeconomic, sociopolitical, and sociocultural problems—period.
Some will say and have said that the position articulated here is overly critical and “cynical.” With regard to highlighting the fallacy of the latter idea, let’s examine the main flaws contained in the above referenced article:
1) If the article is about racism, and it is, then why is it important or necessary for the author to add “sexism, anti-Semitism, or homophobia” to the discussion? We already know what generally happens when racism gets placed on the list of other “isms,” e.g. it almost ALWAYS devolves to the bottom relative to order of importance and redress.
2) What is the meaning and essence of super-hyper-rhetorical references, such as “our national reconstruction?” Is that type of shallow, symbolic, as opposed to substantive, rhetoric designed to suggest that there was a time when “our” nation was fairly or justly “constructed?” If not, then what, in this particular regard, does so-called “reconstruction” imply, or mean and/or entail? Is this merely a matter of pure rhetoric, or is the author actually pining for return to a specific, earlier time period?
3) The following goes beyond nonsensical, super-hyper-rhetoric and miseducation, and enters into the realm of abstract, misleading, offensive, racist, garbage: “… we must find the tools, courage and patience to look the bigot in the eye, to see the person, and to build relationships sufficient to unravel their bigotry.” WHAT??? If we buy into this type of chronic, unrealistic, foolishness it would mean that we must accept the stupendous premise that effectively addressing and reducing (in significant, concrete, measurable ways, not to mention eliminating) the tripartite beast and illness, hinges on “building relationships [with] bigots,” as opposed to literally DECONSTRUCTING the socioeconomic, sociopolitical, and sociocultural SYSTEM of individual, institutional, and structural racism, the latter of which always has and continues to uphold, perpetuate, and reinforce thoroughly racist, white-supremacist-based policies, practices, procedures, rules, regulations and laws.
To be clear, this is not merely about individual “bigots.” On the contrary, it is about one of, if not the most effective SYSTEM of racism that the modern world has ever known.
4) Many of us love Mr. (Frederick) Douglass intensely—not only symbolically, but by way of doing our best to continue the type of vitally important work that he did here in Rochester. Yet, how could it possibly be that it took “desecration of his statue to lay bare an honest expression of racism at the crudest level?” WHAT? So racism “at the crudest level” had not been “laid bare” by decades, of overall conditions that have existed in the Rochester City School District, as well as hundreds, if not thousands of other, overwhelmingly, predominantly Black, urban school districts throughout this thoroughly racist, white-supremacist-based nation-state (in every direction — North, East, South, and West) vis-à-vis overall conditions in hundreds, if not thousands of overwhelmingly, predominantly lily-white, suburban school districts?
And while we’re on the topic of Mr. Douglass’s work, the following represents a very interesting anti-racist, historical tidbit:
Rochester’s public schools would not admit black students so Douglass enrolled his oldest child, Rosetta, into a private school. However, even there Rosetta was segregated from white students, and Douglass finally hired a woman to teach his children at home. Never one to let racial discrimination go unchallenged, Douglass campaigned to end segregation in Rochester’s school system, and in 1857 his efforts succeeded” (http://www.fdfi.org/fd4.html). As it relates to “laying bare an honest expression of racism at the crudest level” — in addition to the question above regarding education, we could ask the same question about employment, housing, healthcare, criminal justice, and/or any other major area of life.
Lastly, the author of the above referenced article really can’t possibly be serious about the fundamentally flawed idea that it took desecration of Mr. Douglass’ statue to “prompt intense soul-searching conversations across the city,” which can somehow, magically “move [people] towards action.” WHAT? Please. If anyone should know better than this, it certainly is him. After all, he played a key role in developing the last, big, local, so-called “anti-racist” TALKATHON (https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2017/05/17/unite-rochester-racism-activism-community-social-change/101793318/), which literally lasted for over four(4) years, and produced what?
The bottom line is that its way past time for people, such as those mentioned and/or pictured via the article at the latter link, to stop engaging in mess-making by attempting to lead anti-racist efforts, which most of them just do not have the required knowledge-base to effectively address.
Additionally, for the most part, the relatively few among them who do possess the knowledge, clearly do not have the intestinal fortitude to stand strong in opposition to massive resistance and push-back, which will surely come, even from among some of their hard-core, white, so-called allies. So, the informed group usually just goes-along-to-get-along, and are also usually awarded a few pieces of ‘silver and gold’ for doing so, and for helping to “validate” and maintain the old, tired, worn-out mantra of ‘we didn’t get to where we are overnight—so it’s gonna take us another few hundred years to solve the problem. Meanwhile, the masses of Black folks continue to suffer, and many die (literally) as a result of the beast.
I am unequivocally convinced that Mr. Douglass would have said none of those described above are equipped to lead, and should either follow, or get completely out of the way.
P.S. Anyone who is really ready for anti-racist ACTION, as opposed to just more infectious TALK, should feel free to join us on January 8th and beyond: https://www.facebook.com/events/2270882269814847/
Howard Eagle is a longtime educator and local anti-racism advocate, known for his campaigns for the Rochester school board and prolific political and social commentary. Eagle taught social studies in the RCSD for 23 years, before retiring in 2010, and is now an adjunct professor in the Department of African American Studies at SUNY Brockport.
(The views expressed on our opinion pages are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or viewpoint of the Minority Reporter.)