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Forget Northam; Focus on Real Healing

Robin Alexander

Posted on February 7, 2019 16:39

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Me to co-worker: In 2 weeks I’m covering an event called Diner en Blanc – in cities all over the world people are taken to an undisclosed outdoor spot for dinner; everyone wears all white; the table cloths and dinnerware are white; everything has to be white. Co-worker’s cheeky remark: Are black people allowed to attend? Me to co-worker: Only in whiteface. (I couldn’t help it).

In 1984 white privileged Ralphie Northam was an immature medical student (too old to be so immature), and a willing participant in an obviously racist social circle (too educated to be so racist), who didn’t see the harm in a blackface/KKK photo op (and neither did his school – oy vay).

None of us wants to be held accountable for the juvenile racist/sexist/homophobic things we did 35 years ago.

But more importantly, outrage over individual incidents such as Ralphie’s, or the horror of Charleston, doesn’t accomplish what we drastically need  –  the eradication of systemic racism and real national healing.

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We owe a debt to a population shattered by a horrifyingly brutal culture that still operates. Not only must we dismantle that culture, institutional compensation is required.

LBJ: “You don’t take a man who, for years, has been hobbled by chains, liberate him, bring him to the starting line of a race saying ‘You’re free to compete’ and believe you’ve been completely fair.”

Unfortunately, affirmative action has been replaced by diversity: “Pick one who won’t rock the boat, and we’re good.” Mediocre representation by a few in places of power is a pitiful payoff.

Chris Hedges: “Diversity in the hands of white power elites—political and corporate … doesn’t promote justice; it simply bestows absolution on white liberals who don’t want to appear racist.” (So much for periodic outrage).

After the election of the new Mississippi Senator, Cindy Hyde-Smith I wrote, “This is a state that hasn’t come to terms with its demons, let alone taken responsibility, let alone made amends.” Such is the case for the South. Cancel that. Such is the case for the country. And we are collectively responsible.

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How so? “I didn’t own slaves,” you’re thinking. “My family didn’t own slaves. We didn’t even arrive until 1922.” Here’s how. When we adopted this country as our own, we happily claimed bragging rights for American ingenuity, the Constitution’s political innovations, and any number of things.

When a country’s history is transplanted into our spirit, we must accept what’s rotten, as well as what’s golden.

The South in particular lives in denial, perpetuating a fantasy that replaces rape, humiliation, torture, and murder with Confederate courage and virtue. We revise reality in an attempt to hide our crimes. This is our deepest shame and our deepest sickness, for which we pay a moral price.

Two weeks ago I pointed out that history is baggage – for those who packed it and for those who carry it around. We must confront the past together and we must make amends.

As Chris Hedges so eloquently writes, “Reparations for African Americans are not only just, they are the only way we can construct a shared history based on truth, atone for the crimes of the nation and reverse the legacies of white supremacy.”

I propose massive job training and educational programs; and while we’re at it, let’s include ALL underprivileged populations. I’d much rather fund that, than military bases around the world.

Robin Alexander

Posted on February 7, 2019 16:39

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