Americans Were never Racist
My son had a really close Asian friend named Chris. One day, a bunch of white kids decided to start a fight with Chris and my son. Chris took a martial arts pose. The trouble-making kids got nervous and left. After those kids left, Chris and my son came home and told me the story. I asked Chris what martial arts he knew. Chris started laughing and said that he does not know any martial arts, never took a lesson and is the most clumsy person in his family. He went on to tell me that he is failing math and that he hates math.
The kids who fell for Chris’ kung fu pose knew no Asians who knew martial arts. In fact, there were so few Asians at my son’s school, it was unlikely any of them had Asian friends. So, where did they get their ideas from? Not from their parents. Parents are not likely to sit their children down to teach that Asians know kung fu. Instead, that knowledge came from the media. Influential people in media create stories that lead to stereotypes.
In the South, about 5% of Whites owned slaves. Therefore, it is improbable that most Southern Whites ever had direct interaction with a Black person, free or slave. So, where did they get their opinions of Blacks? You guessed it. They got their view of Blacks from the media of their day. Prejudice among Whites was never organic. Racism is not a natural instinct in humans. In the slave past, Whites were simply doing what so many of us do today. They accepted what they were taught.
The mental disorder Drapetomania was listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This book is the official guide that lists all mental illnesses, diagnoses, and treatments. White Americans were taught that the inferiority of the Black man was a matter of settled science. Drapetomania was considered a mental illness that, in 1851, American physician Samuel A. Cartwright hypothesized as the cause of enslaved Africans fleeing captivity. During this time, scientists told Americans not to feel guilty about slavery because blacks were evolved to serve Whites. But many Whites wondered if this were true because so many slaves tried to escape. The explanation was that those slaves contracted a mental illness. Cartwright stated that the disorder resulted from masters who “made themselves too familiar with [slaves], treating them as equals.” Cartwright wrote, “In the case of slaves “sulky and dissatisfied without cause”–a warning sign of imminent flight–Cartwright recommended “whipping the devil out of them” as a “preventative measure.” The fact is that whipping slaves was believed to be a medical procedure endorsed by medical professionals.
We face the same drive of the powerful to use race to divide us. In everyday life, racism is not an issue for the vast majority of Americans. Race only becomes a problem where money and politics are involved. We are in a post-racial America. Racism has always been a political tool.