I really hesitated to publish the excellent paper signed by one of my favorite contemporary authors, Prof. Renford Reese. He is my guest star here and his papers are always insightful, open to all his fellow cosmo people and refreshing in his very specific approach like none I know of!

So in these conditions, why hesitate? Well, simply because I have vowed never to publish a paper that might even indirectly promote some racist theories or any other kinds of lack of respect towards a specific brand of people due to their origin, religion and complexion. Reese by even writing about this problem might lead some to follow the trend he precisely denounces.

Needless to say, this spirit of respect should be universal yet I find that more often than not, even among my most open-minded friends (and they are all open-minded or wouldn’t have tolerated me…), there is always a derisive fragment of intolerance towards the others.

Some groups, such as barbaric Boko Haram (and Haram they really are, who condemn those who promote education and literacy!) and their likes do a great job at giving exactly the image we would have thought a) never existed, b) if it ever existed is eradicated.

Should they be an excuse for us to lower ourselves to even debate and discuss about them? I would have liked to answer no. I would have liked to keep ignoring them and be in my politically correct network.

However, it seems more obvious everyday that people are increasingly driven mad against all others because despite working full time they cannot manage to cope with the end of their months or even the middle of their months. It then becomes easy to blame their next door neighbour who might indeed be a nasty guy but is in no way representative of anything else than him-or-herself!

These people who resent all newcomers forget that no matter their personal history, they have also at some stage been a newcomer, be it into our brave new world…

Nothing I’m ever going to write will make populists less popular, that’s their part to scratch us where it hurts and it’s human, too human to blame the other rather than our precious self.

However, in this current anti-european, mediocre, communautarian and sectarian day and age, I feel it’s my responsibility to share Renford’s denunciation of blatant racism in key public figures who have every reason to be the most tolerant and tireless promoters of a spirit of peaceful coexistence with our humankind. Since I belong to a People who is notorious for ruling the world (and has spent the better 99% of its existence struggling simply to survive leaving the better half of its likes evaporate in indecent fumes), let me make that rule clear, No Blaming Others prior to thinking what went wrong and how YOU can make it right.  Food for thought? Click here to join the out-of-the-box thinkers in education.

Los Angeles Daily News
Guest Columnist: Renford Reese, Ph.D.
April 28, 2014

Donald Sterling Incident: Racism and Elitism

Los Angeles Clippers’ owner, Donald Sterling was recently recorded telling his girlfriend not to bring black people to his games.  He admonished her for being associated with blacks in public.  Sterling has a track record of making racially insensitive remarks and embracing discriminatory housing practices.

Magic Johnson said that he was friends with Sterling up until his latest statements. The NAACP was due to give Sterling a second “Lifetime Achievement Award” on May 15, which it canceled.  Why would Magic be friends with someone who has a history of racial intolerance and why would the biggest and most influential civil rights organization give an award to him?

The problem is that Americans tolerate elite deviance, which is invisible.  We are complicit in giving elites endless chances to do wrong when others are held accountable.  Sterling is a white elitist with paradoxical thoughts about blacks in America.  He harbors the same feelings that many white elites harbor toward African Americans.

Renford Reese, professor of political science and director of the Colorful Flags program at Cal Poly Pomona
Renford Reese, professor of political science and director of the Colorful Flags program at Cal Poly Pomona

Does white elitism equal racism? If so, there is plenty of racism in corporate boardrooms and political chambers throughout America.  Congressman Paul Ryan, former GOP candidate for Vice President recently stated, “We have got this tailspin of culture in our inner cities, in particular, of men not working, and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value of the culture of work.”

Just a week ago, Nevada rancher, Cliven Bundy stated in an interview, “I’ve often wondered, are they [poor blacks] better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy?” Bundy has many supporters in Congress.

When Sterling told his girlfriend he did not want blacks coming to his games, many of us inherently knew what he meant. There was a time when America was mostly a black and white nation. The 1896 Supreme Court case of Plessy v. Ferguson legally segregated these populations for 58 years.  During this period, blacks understood their place.  Few challenged the status quo.  It was the Civil Rights Movement that empowered and inspired blacks in America.  This sense of empowerment alienated many whites.

“Knowing One’s Place” was at the root of black and white relations for decades.  Because blacks were not allowed to assimilate into white society, they rebelled against “whiteness” and created their own cultural traditions.  In the context of music, fashion, language, and behavior blacks have created their own unique style.  This loud, animated, verbose, hyper-confident and flamboyant style runs counter to the “Knowing One’s Place” tradition in America.  This phenomenon has caused a major personality chasm between blacks and whites.  Other ethnic minorities are caught between this dichotomy–but feel its weight.

The black-white personality cleavage is the primary reason why schools and residential communities are still largely segregated.  It is the reason why there is little social intermingling.  Many whites do not want to be around blacks because “they don’t know how to act.”  Many blacks do not want to be around whites because they have transcended “knowing their place.”

At the heart of these assumptions is white entitlement and black humility. Some whites, like Sterling, feel entitled to be loud, animated, verbose, and hyper-confident while American society expects the African American to be humble and gracious to a fault.  It will only tolerate mild bravado on athletic fields and the entertainment sector. Any other types of bravado are met with the full force of Old America–e.g., scorn, ostracism, and criminal justice.

Many prominent blacks in the sporting world were dismayed by Sterling’s comments.  President Obama weighed in on this controversy, calling Sterling’s statements offensive.  Indeed, his comments stand out in their tone, condescension, arrogance, and hypocrisy.

The problem is that there are too many callous elites in America that camouflage their racial bias without being checked.  Imagine if every politician and CEO who thought and behaved like Sterling could be outed and held accountable.

Mitigating racial discrimination calls for an increased consciousness among all Americans.  Donald Sterling is not responsible for the staggering income gaps in America, the poor schools in the inner cities, and our racially biased criminal justice system. But, someone is.  We should find out who these people are and focus the same amount attention and energy on them as we have Sterling.  It is only when we begin to make elite deviance visible that our society will truly be transformed.

Renford Reese, Ph.D. is a political science professor at Cal Poly Pomona. He is the author of five books and the founder/director of the Prison Education Project: www.PrisonEducationProject.org

One thought on “On racism and other kinds of lack of respect

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