This is how we got here. Now how do we get out?

The two articles had an interesting relationship with one exploring how we got here and the other trying to find how we get past here.

Michelle Alexander traced the history of race in America from a time where black and white men worked as equals, to where an increasing need for labor caused black people to be targeted as lesser so as to make slavery permissible.  I thought it was important she spoke about this thoughtful act of taking a section of the population and making them subhuman – 3/5th a person.  Even today I think many white people want to forget this, but it is important that we do not. Then from slavery to Jim Crow.  I remembered the first time I learned how this change had been for the worse for so many former slaves.  They were worked just as hard, except for now they had to afford housing and food, etc. on a pitiful wage.  Then Alexander examined how society saw the death of Jim Crow, but the rise of mass incarceration.

The second article by Tavia Nyong’o looked the place of racist kitsch in today’s society.  Some images and stereotypes that have carried over and others that have been erased.

What I found most interesting is the story of another author who recounted the story of his son’s indifference to the images of racist kitsch.  This author (Manthia Diawara) says “[his son’s reaction] is challenging me to stop being the custodian of these stereotypes, to distance myself from them, and begin enjoying the humor in them.”  However I wonder if it is possible to do that once you already have a negative response?  Or is society’s only hope at progress the next generation’s indifference to yesterday’s racism, because they have not experienced?

I am highly unqualified to respond to this, but I do hope that it is.  In this front change comes far too slowly, but there is hope that each successive generation will pick away at the injustice of the current system.  History shows that the frightened racist individuals will quickly implement a new system, but we can hope and work hard that this one will also be “less total, less capable of encompassing and controlling the entire race.”

Katelyn Kiner – Hope College – 2017


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