Racism 101: How We Entered the Eye of the Storm

“Racism is not always conscious, explicit, or readily visible—often it is systemic and structural. Systemic and structural racism are forms of racism that are pervasively and deeply embedded in systems, laws, written or unwritten policies, and entrenched practices and beliefs that produce, condone, and perpetuate widespread unfair treatment and oppression of people of color, with adverse health consequences. Examples include residential segregation, unfair lending practices and other barriers to home ownership and accumulating wealth, schools’ dependence on local property taxes, environmental injustice, biased policing and sentencing of men and boys of color, and voter suppression policies.” (Copied from: Systemic And Structural Racism: Definitions, Examples, Health Damages, And Approaches To Dismantling, contributors Paula A. Braveman, Elaine Arkin, Dwayne Proctor, Tina Kauh, and Nicole Holm)

And the list goes on virtually undetected and thereby normalized by those unaffected by it and protected by their lighter complexions, AKA white privilege. Once established, it becomes self-perpetuating and destroys the health of the entire community.

With this definition in mind, it is imperative to note that systemic racism is an American reality deeply embedded in the DNA of American society and has been since 1681 when the term “white” was first introduced into legislation in reference to a group of people. This came just 4 years following Bacon’s rebellion 1676-1677, when impoverished people, regardless of color came together in part to fight against the elite power structure of wealthy European male landowners.

Race and racism have since been used as an extremely effective divide and conquer tactic used to maintain control of the masses who are not a part of the ruling and wealthy class. It has had over 400 years to metastasize and poison the body of American society. Once introduced into the bloodstream it has taken on a life of its own.

This is a pivotal point in American history. While the concept of “race” was being explored and developed in other European-controlled regions to justify the enslavement of Africans, this idea had yet to take root in what would become the United States of America in another hundred years. The irony exists in that once these original 13 British colonies gained their independence, they maintained the subjugation of Black people and went full force in creating a demonic stronghold of racism/white supremacy.

American University professor and author Ibram X Kendi goes even further back and traces the actual origins of race and racism (which Kendi states are inextricably connected), to Portuguese chronicler Gomes Eanes de Zurara, who is credited with writing the first “recorded history of anti-Black racist ideas” in The Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea, in 1453. This was the first European book on Africa and defended and justified the enslavement of Africans as an act of Godly duty in order to save “the lost” who were “living like beasts, without any custom of reasonable beings,”.

Zurara estimated that between 1434 and 1447 there were 927 enslaved Africans in Portugal. In light of “the mission of salvation” Catholic popes both approved and blessed the slave trade, deeming their enslavers as liberators of the indigenous people of the African continent. This, in spite of the fact that Christianity had entered Africa and had been established from its beginnings, and had taken root long before being embraced in Europe.

Christianity on the continent of Africa traces its roots to the Ethiopian Eunuch referenced in the Book of Acts and Matthew, one of the 12 disciples of Christ.

During that same period in Europe, Christians were being tortured and killed, becoming the first martyrs of the faith, until the conversion of Constantine in 312 CE.

Not to mention that DNA has proven that Africa is the home of the original Jewish people (many of whom can still be found in Ethiopia), while others migrated to other parts of the world.

This counters the false narrative of Christianity being the “white man’s religion” and that it was Africa’s saving grace introduced by European missionaries. It also counters the narrative that Africans enslaved in America collectively had no contact with Christianity previously.

Without giving any recognition to the vast variety of people groups on the continent of Africa, Zurara classified all Africans as a single group or “race” of inferior people, in an attempt to legitimize their enslavement.

Prior to the African slave trade’s rationalizations and justifications, people were distinguished by nationality, tribal affiliation, wealth, religious beliefs, etc.

It was not Zurara who first coined the term “race”; however, that was French poet Jacques de Brézé who used the term in the context of a poem in 1481.

Nearly 300 years later in 1735, another race and racism architect Carl Von Linnaeus invented a racial hierarchy of humans classifying them into 4 distinct categories: White, Yellow, Red, and Black, placing the latter on the bottom rung of the ladder.

Portland State University Professor and author of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, Dr. Joy DeGruy, suggests that cognitive dissonance is one of the culprits behind the why of Europeans’ need to deem Blacks as sub-human. This is the subconscious denial of and detachment from wrongdoing while at the same time accepting it.

“Race” was invented for the purpose of creating a structure of hierarchy, says Kendi, which ushers in the concept of racism. One does not exist without the other.

Dr. Frances Cress Welsing, in her book the Isis Papers, contends that racism is a product of fear originating from those categorized as “white” of becoming extinct, as the dominant gene in the pool of humanity is the “black” gene. Therefore, integration and so-called “race mixing” risk the eventual depopulation and eradication of the so-called “white race.”   

These trumped-up fears of becoming extinct or being “replaced” or being made to feel guilty due to the history of racism only become an issue to the degree that one’s identity is attached to the false narrative of race and whiteness. The system urges people to remain deaf, dumb, and blind to its realities. Yet when one identifies with the larger pool of humanity as one human race or species, these issues and fears fade away into the abyss and we become a healthier society.

By Tobias Houpe

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