Monday, October 08, 2012

Blessings Don't Come With Disguises

Being a minority in America isn't easy. There's a fine line to be walked. On one hand, it's easy to point fingers and bandy blame about while not taking any responsibility for various self-inflicted ills. On the other hand, there's statements like the ones made by John Hubbard recently in his self-published book, which read, in part, "the institution of slavery that the black race has long believed to be an abomination upon its people may actually have been a blessing in disguise".

First, let me say that before I even begin to refute this statement, I'd like to point out an interesting rhetorical choice made by Mr. Hubbard (who coincidentally is running for a public office in Arkansas).  In the statement, "the black race has long believed" Mr. Hubbard does two interesting things rhetorically. He lumps all of the black race into one entity and then proceeds to take a superior stance in knowing more about the plight of that one said monolith. This leaves me, as a black man in a weird place. Let me elaborate.

I honestly believe that each person has a unique standpoint or view of the world. That unique viewpoint may have some similarities to others who have the same similarities, but ultimately, since we're all unique, each of our viewpoints are unique. As such, there's no real way to truly completely understand someone else's plight (Standpoint Theory) So while I don't really completely understand someone else's plight, such as what it's like to be a frustrated white American male, I refuse to believe that someone who has so little in common with me can understand anything that me or my race have ever gone through. 

Secondly, Mr. Hubbard implies that black Americans are better off than they would have been had they not been taken forcefully from Africa. On what is he basing this assumption? Who knows what might have happened if slavery had been seen as unethical and contemptuous? What if instead of treating blacks as property to be used and disposed of, black immigrants had been embraced as coworkers and cofounders of this country? What if, instead of providing hundreds of years of free labor, black Americans were paid honest wages for their work and had the same opportunities as their European counterparts?

What did slaves really gain with their hard work? Many of them struggled to survive in a country that for decades refused to offer them the same brand of justice that their counterparts enjoyed.  In fact, over 3500 black Americans were lynched between 1882 and 1968, and that number is likely much higher, since for many archivists of that time period, the loss of a black life didn't even merit the use of paper and ink. 

But life got better after 1968, correct? Black people are 13% of the American population, yet somehow they make up 33% of the prison population.  Fifty-five percent of black Americans go to college, but of that percentage only 42% actually graduate. While the standard of living may be higher here than in some parts of Africa, it's abundantly clear that if this is what black slaves gave their freedom for, they severely overpaid.

What really bothers me the most about this statement is that it's allowed to be made with no real repercussions. Clearly, this statement was made with the intention of being divisive, inflammatory and offensive. I'm not disparaging the idea of freedom of speech or of the press, but the lack of outrage concerns me. Many people probably just wrote this off as merely just being another ploy to gain notoriety. This type of language isn't okay, and I personally think that the only thing that would make this write is to remove the speech from the public eye (i.e. edit the book to be politically correct) and a public apology.

Finally, I would like to say to Mr. Hubbard, that in the future, when thinking about speaking about the plight of black people and how it makes him feel, please, stop and THINK next time. 

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