The Cop, The Professor and The President

Friday, 31 July 2009 12:37 Mossa Barandao

A "teachable moment" we are told is to be the expected from the fortunate incident of the arrest of the renowned African American Studies Professor, Henry Louis Gate and the subsequent "summit" of the cop, the professor and the president. 

I write the word fortunate with purpose. Everyday, many people of color -blacks and Hispanics, are disproportionately profiled and stopped for the reasons of having violated some law, when in fact the pretext is their race. In 1999, a survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice found that " blacks were [more] likely than whites [-or even Hispanics -] to report being stopped by the police". Sadly, many of these race based law enforcement go unnoticed.

Had the incident of July 16th, happened to someone of a different stature then that of Dr. Gate, the passionate debate we have been witnessing would not be taking place. For this reason, it is fortunate that Dr. Gate is at the center of this social epidemic.

In recent days, we have heard many prominent persons recount their experiences with such ill cultural assumption. Colin Powell, Eric Holder and even the President alluded to having had similar experiences with the nation's de jure authority of public safety.

Dr. Gate, a man who has spent his life studying and teaching the black experience in America, in a way, through this arrest, is furthering his studies and teachings of the black experience in America. Perhaps, this is the "teachable moment" The President has alluded to.

Alas, there is more to this incident than such "teachable moment". The incident has sparked an intense debate and divisions for the simple fact that Dr. Gate viewed the circumstance as racially driven. While, the cop and those who believe we are in an age of post racism argue that race was not at play. The facts are overwhelmingly against the latter view point.

The preceding is a very short list of occurrences in comparison to the innumerable cultural assumptions made against many blacks and Hispanics.

Yes, we as a society have somewhat evolve --from the perspective of overt expressions! Yes, America now has a president who is black! Yes, very soon, the United States Supreme Court will welcome its first Latina on its bench! However, our society at the core is still driven by two psychological phenomena: White privilege and black disadvantage.

The black disadvantage is a psychological phenomenon that took root many centuries ago, when the first Europeans first stepped into the African continent and saw "those dark skin, uncivilized creatures" who they [the whites] believed to be inferior to them. At such moment, concurrently, the phenomenon of white privilege was either being birth or being exhibited. Simply put, black disadvantage is the outcome of the psychological tyranny created by those first Europeans and promoted by them and their offspring as an attempt to give credence to the total subjugation of blacks.

This psychological tyranny has fostered a stigmatization of blacks; whereas, ignorance, laziness, anger, criminal mentality, violence, incompetence, ugliness and many other stereotypical social ills are directly associated with those of the black race. It is rightly what I call one of the greatest psychological tyrannies in human history.  This is the black disadvantage. Its effect on the black psych is near indelible.

On the other hand, we have the white privilege which at its very core is the principle of superiority. This Principle holds as true that If you are white, you are by the virtue of your whiteness the total opposite of the social ills associated with one who is black - though your person, the content of your character may in fact be of a social ill.

Such being as it is, your whiteness provides you the privilege of exemption from the ill cultural assumption that many nonwhites experience. By the virtue of your whiteness, your are not stigmatized as one who is likely to be: ignorant, angry, violent and so on. You are less likely to be profiled by the nation's authority of public safety as a potential threat to society. Furthermore, by the virtue of your whiteness you are more likely to be picked up on the street by a taxi cab and more likely to be hired for a job.

This is a privilege; not a privilege endowed to one who is white by his creator, but by his or her forebears of the past as they sought to subjugate and psychologically "gangsterized" those who do not look like them.

It is hubris of those who hold the view that America is no longer a racial country or that we are in the age of "post racism". America is indeed a racial country, and the age of post racism is only fragment of our dreams for the future. At the core of the American experience lies the aforementioned phenomena -White privilege and black disadvantage. Just because we have seen some exceptional black figures rise up to positions of prominence does not justify the fact that an entire black citizenry is still marginalized and dwells in the devices of dehumanization created by the majority. The disparities are too great to foster an equilibrium. Fifty years of mediocre recognition does not equates to 400 years of an attempted destruction of a group of people. 

So, it was indeed a fortunate incident on that July 16th afternoon, for it sheds light on the black experience. If those few blacks who have risen to some position of prominence are subjected to such ill cultural assumption, one can only imagine what the rest of us, the regulars -those of us without the presidential contacts- are (or can be) subjected to.  

Last Updated ( Saturday, 06 April 2013 14:36 )  
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