Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

May 28, 2013

WE THE PEOPLE: ‘Red and yellow, black and white...’

By Mary deWolf
Chronicle contributor

CROSSVILLE — “...They are precious in His sight.” At least, so goes the hymn.

But White America’s historical relationship with people of color is disgusting. Our revered founders left slavery in place — sanctioning an abhorrent practice that treated people with “black” skin as sub-human. The Three-Fifths Compromise detailed how sub-human they were — only worth 3/5 that of a white person. The Emancipation Proclamation and 14th Amendment made some strides, but Jim Crow laws were a slap in the face that stung until the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

United States military units in the 1800s forcibly removed “red” Americans from their homelands and marched them to isolation on reservations, if they didn’t die along the way. Or they mass murdered them in land grabs.

Those with “yellow” skin who helped link our country with railroads were considered such a threat (“yellow peril”) in the late 19th century that Congress officially restricted their numbers. During World War II, Asian Americans were targeted for imprisonment in internment camps.

Today? In New York City, studies found black job applicants, with other factors being equal, half as likely to get a job. In that same city, this year, Forest Whitaker, a black Academy Award-winning actor, was falsely accused of stealing at a local deli, detained and frisked. Would that have happened to Daniel Day-Louis? Even 48% of white New Yorkers agree that police bias favors whites.

Nationally, black people with college degrees are half as likely as white people to be employed. Latino and Asian American college grads are 40% more likely to be jobless than whites. One in three American Indian women will be raped during her lifetime. In 86 percent of these cases, the rapist will not be an Indian. 

Before the recent economic meltdown, typical white families enjoyed a net worth 12 times that of black families and 8 times higher than Latino families. Since the recession those numbers have grown to 20 and 18 respectively. The recent cut to Pell Grants which had particularly helped black, brown and red families will only exacerbate the situation.

Consider more subtle discrimination. Recent studies found that people who support voter ID laws, including those who lean Democratic, yes, Democratic, were more likely to hold racial resentments. Surveys and psychological experiments reveal prevalent stereotypes of black people as more lazy, violent and stupid than white people. Racially motivated hate groups number over 1000 now, compared to 700 ten years ago.

Blaming people who are not white for their situation denies centuries of courage by folks who have faced whippings, hangings, drowning and murder just to learn to read or move to a better economic climate.

Hats off to the teenagers at Wilcox County (Georgia) High School, who were fed up with parent sponsored “white only” proms and held their first integrated prom this spring. Segregated proms are becoming a thing of the past in the South. Good riddance.

Discrimination and segregation only diminish us all. In our state the Memphis Rock ’n Soul Museum reverberates with the sweet sound produced when “field hollers, work songs, blues, country and gospel of the sharecroppers” combined against racial and cultural restrictions. It’s a music we could all play and enjoy.

• • •

This column represents alternative thoughts to other published columns in the Crossville Chronicle. “We the People” is published each Wednesday. Opinions expressed in “We the People” columns are not necessarily those of the Crossville Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. For more information, contact John Wund, editor, at jwund@frontiernet.net.