In 1970, as a junior in high school, I enrolled in a new and controversial Black History class. Our teacher was a young, attractive Black woman—my very first Black teacher. The class focused mainly on the contributions of Black Americans such as Crispus Attucks, a dockworker of African and Native American descent. Attucks was the first American killed in the American Revolution.
One day our teacher began with the statement: “Jesus was not white.” She held up a picture of a swarthy, Arabic looking man, and said that’s what Jesus would have looked like. I was raised Catholic, surrounded by pictures and statues of a chalky white Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. In 1970, that image of a swarthy Jesus was shocking and disturbing.
Nowadays, though, it seems a no-brainer. Of course, Jesus would not have been white. And yet if you google images of Jesus, they will almost all be white. Practically every church in America still displays images and iconography portraying Jesus as white. Of course, our God and savior is white. That is one of many ways our culture promotes and maintains white supremacy.
In 2004, I enrolled in a sociology class at Western Kentucky University: Cultural Diversity in America. The teacher was a Nigerian-born American. The textbook was written by a Japanese-American. The teacher and the textbook downplayed or ignored altogether the racial injustice that has cursed our land since 1619, when the first African slaves were brought to North America.
When I challenged the teacher regarding his whitewashing of historical facts, he replied that focus on those issues does more harm than good. Blacks, he explained, should not feel like victims of slavery and racism, and whites should not feel guilty over slavery and racism that occurred before they were born.
Those are valid points, to an extent. Wikipedia defines victim mentality as “an acquired personality trait in which a person tends to recognize or consider themselves as a victim of the negative actions of others, and to behave as if this were the case in the face of contrary evidence of such circumstances. The term is also used in reference to the tendency for blaming one’s misfortunes on somebody else’s misdeeds, which is also referred to as victimism.”
For example, a young Black person might feel they cannot get a good job and be successful because of historic and systemic racial bias. Certainly, Blacks are sometimes if not oftentimes disadvantaged, but they should not believe that they cannot be successful.
Most whites should not feel guilty about slavery. (If you display the Confederate flag, and your phone’s ringtone plays “Dixie,” you might have some issues you should work on.)
While Black Americans have been their main target, the Ku Klux Klan also hates and persecutes Jews, immigrants, and Catholics. My German ancestors emigrated to America after the Civil War, and they were Roman Catholics. According to family folklore, the KKK once “rode on” the family farm in Oldham County, Kentucky. “Rode on” means armed men on horseback, possibly wearing robes and hoods, terrorized my ancestors.
I do not feel guilty, and most whites should not feel guilty, about America’s awful history of slavery and racism. And yet we should be mindful of the past. I am constantly amazed by what I did not learn in school.
According to Wikipedia: “The Tulsa race massacre (also called the Tulsa race riot, the Greenwood Massacre, or the Black Wall Street Massacre) took place on May 31 and June 1, 1921, when mobs of white residents, many of them deputized and given weapons by city officials, attacked black residents and businesses of the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It has been called ‘the single worst incident of racial violence in American history.’ The attack, carried out on the ground and from private aircraft, destroyed more than 35 square blocks of the district—at that time, the wealthiest black community in the United States, known as ‘Black Wall Street.’
“More than 800 people were admitted to hospitals and as many as 6,000 black residents were interned in large facilities; many of them were interned for several days. The Oklahoma Bureau of Vital Statistics officially recorded 36 dead. A 2001 state commission examination of events was able to confirm 36 dead, 26 black and 10 white, based on contemporary autopsy reports, death certificates and other records. The commission gave overall estimates from 75-100 to 150-300 dead.”
Tulsa’s Juneteenth Celebration has drawn national attention to the Tulsa race massacre. Other such massacres are much less well known.
According to Wikipedia: “The Elaine massacre occurred on September 30 — October 1, 1919, at Hoop Spur in the vicinity of Elaine in rural Phillips County, Arkansas. Some records of the time state that 11 black men and five white men were killed. More recent estimates of the number of black people killed during this violence are higher...ranging into the hundreds. The white mobs were aided by federal troops (requested by Arkansas governor Charles Brough) and vigilante militias like the Ku Klux Klan. According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, ‘the Elaine Massacre was by far the deadliest racial confrontation in Arkansas history and possibly the bloodiest racial conflict in the history of the United States.’
“After the massacre, state officials concocted an elaborate cover-up, falsely claiming that blacks were planning an insurrection. The cover-up was successful, as national newspapers repeated the falsehood that blacks in Arkansas were staging an insurrection. A New York Times headline read, ‘Planned Massacre of Whites Today,’ and the Arkansas Gazette (the leading newspaper in Arkansas) wrote that Elaine was ‘a zone of negro insurrection.’ ”
The four-part headline in the Arkansas Gazette (10/3/1919) read: NEGROES PLAN TO KILL ALL WHITES; SLAUGHTER WAS TO BEGIN WITH 21 PROMINENT MEN AS THE FIRST VICTIMS; “WE JUST BEGUN” PASSWORD; Blacks Had Armed Themselves and Planned to Kill Every White Person in Sight When Plot Was Exposed.
Now fast forward 100 years to the present: Again we see the demonization and persecution of activists seeking racial justice. Again we see federal troops attacking them and trampling on their constitutional rights.
According to a recent (7/27/2020) Fox News report by Talia Kaplan: “DHS’ Cuccinelli: Goal of ‘violent anarchists’ participating in riots is ‘destruction’ ”
“The goal of ‘violent anarchists’ who are participating in riots in cities across the country is ‘destruction,’ Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli told ‘Fox & Friends Weekend’ on Sunday. ‘These are not peaceful protesters, these are violent anarchists. That’s what we’re dealing with.’ ”
Yes, there are a few bad actors, but relatively few protesters are violent. The aggressive tactics of federal officers have made things worse. Most of us are inclined to push back when we are shoved.
Fox News’ Lou Dobbs recently began his show: “For more than six weeks now, the city of Portland has been under siege by radical leftist mobs who are intent on destroying everything America stands for.”
First, the city of Portland is not under siege—unless one is referring to the federal officers deployed there. Portland mayor Ted Wheeler has repeatedly demanded that the federal officers leave his city, accusing them of abusive tactics against protesters. “They [federal officers] are sharply escalating the situation,” Wheeler said.
(On July 29, Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced that the federal law enforcement agents would begin withdrawing soon. “We know where we are headed,” she said. “Complete withdrawal of federal troops from the city and the state.”)
Second, the protesters are not radical leftist mobs. We have seen the Wall of Moms, the Wall of Dads, and the Wall of Vets—a group of U.S. military veterans who formed a human wall to protect peaceful protesters. These folks are not radical or leftist, nor are they mobs.
Finally, the protesters are not intent on destroying everything America stands for. Unless Dobbs is referring to America’s longstanding culture of racial and social injustice. If so, then Dobbs is right.
Mark Heinz lives at Nolin Lake. He supports the cause of racial justice. Visit his website at amazon.com/author/markheinzbooks.