I had a interesting conversation the other day with hip hop artist Thi’sl. He is an American Christian hip hop producer and songwriter from St. Louis and appears to have significantly darker skin than I do. Bear with me because this will take a bit of context. I happened on this Twitter post:
Just found the slave Master that bought my 3rd Great grandmother at 9 years old from Africa. Sobering. pic.twitter.com/BSxWvFI8xQ
— Lecrae (@lecrae) August 11, 2019
Sobering indeed. By which I mean “things like this that happened 120 years ago were considered normal and proper. I’m sure glad we don’t do this any longer!”
What I found interesting, although not surprising to be quite honest with you, were replies such as:
Only white people see it that way. Sorry! No part of it was a “blessing.”
— Hart Ramsey (@hartramsey) August 11, 2019
This is, I think, starting to get at the crux of things for those of us of the white skinned persuasion. As I noted a few months ago, my sister uncovered that some distant relatives owned slaves. What I found interesting wasn’t that I had relatives that owned slaves but rather that they owned part of a slave since they were too poor to own one of their own. It just occurred to me how sophisticated slave ownership actually was.
It actually took longer to write the thought than it took for me to think it and let it pass. It has no interesting affect on my life one way or another. It’s just history.
Since Mr. Thi’sl was on the thread, I asked him how things that are this old can still have a direct affect on one’s life?
You answer your own question it doesn’t affected your life because “you’re an old white guy.” Your Family wasn’t broken up, your history that you know of doesn’t start with your family living on a plantation, being owned by other humans, beaten, killed and raped.
— KING THI’SL (@Thisl) August 11, 2019
Here’s the thing: he’s right in two different ways —
- My history is rather boring going back a number of generations
- I don’t have an extended “Family” that includes all people born in Czechoslovakia for me to have any insight or caring about how they might have been treated.
What this means, Mr. Thi’sl, is that there’s no way for me to empathize with the fact that one of your ancestors was a slave in any deep way. I dislike it but there’s much of history that I might dislike but I don’t worry over since I simply can’t change it. We can only go forward.
I have a very good friend who is of Croatian ancestry. He was born in this country. His parents spoke both English and Croatian and he learned both languages and every few years goes on vacation in Croatia.
We were chatting the other day and I was surprised by how much visceral hate he has for Serbians. There was a lot of bad stuff going on between these two so I understand it at an intellectual level. I also understand that emotionally seeing where your parents and grandparents lived and any atrocities that might have been committed near or to them could be jarring, emotionally unsettling, and damn maddening. But at the end of the day, whether someone in this country has Serbian relatives is immaterial to him.
Not only that BUT IT MUST BE for us to have a civilized society built on immigration and assimilation (Native Americans excepted although I think they’re missing out!)
And then it occurred to me how much the Irish Protestants hate Irish Catholics going all the way back to 1609. Now that’s a grudge!
Here’s my little bit of insight for today: should we call this hatred racist? Why not?
In fact, we don’t really have a word other than “conflict” to describe the hated of one group of the same race with another group of the same race.
Hatred of another group of people is actually perfectly OK to do if you like as long as you have the same skin color, but you can’t dislike people of another race because that would be racist. It’s actually kind of weird!
So, Mr. Thi’sl, I have no ability to dislike people because of their race. It’s simply not in me because I wasn’t raised that way. All the interactions I’ve had with Americans with dark skin have been positive and if there were any negative ones, it wouldn’t have been because of their skin. How you feel and react to your ancestors is your cross to bear.
I guess I should also add that it’s obvious that there are white people who think they’re ethnically better than black people. There are certainly other people of various races in this country who believe they are ethnically better than other races. My personal view is that this is bravo sierra. However, just like Irish Catholics can hate Irish Protestants and my friend can hate Serbians, and various groups can hate Jews, they are all welcome to do so up until the point they break the law by planning or causing violence. At that point I say that we all get medieval on their asses because I’m not f’ing well putting up with it in OUR COUNTRY.