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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 2/3/19

America is White, Isn't It?

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Dr. Lenore Daniels
Message Dr. Lenore Daniels

In light of the foregoing evidence, Thomas Jefferson was either lying or deluding himself when he told Congress in his Sixth Annual Message in 1806 that Indians were placing their interests under the patronage of the United States because they were inspired by 'our justice and in the sincere concern we feel for their welfare.'

Robert J. Miller, Native America, Discovered and Conquered: Thomas Jefferson, Lewis and Clark, and Manifest Destiny

They do not know how their slaves endured, nor how they endure, nor do they know what their slaves know about them--they do not dare to know it: and what they dare not know about Little Black Sambo is precisely what they do not dare to know about the world by which they are surrounded.

James Baldwin, "Chapter Two," The Devil Finds Work

Many years ago, in one of my English-composition classes, I taught chapters from Barbara Ehrenreich's Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy, the work she co-wrote with Arlie Russell Hochschild. Of course I read the bestseller, Nicked and Dimed. In fact, I've tried to keep up with any and everything this author has written.

So Ehrenreich's Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer is a bit of a depart for me. But not quite. Ehrenreich is a cancer survivor, and I have cancer. Ehrenreich is a straight shooter, and I don't read self-help books. And Natural Causes, for the most part, is informative. But while reading the next-to-the-last chapter, "The Invention of the Self," I found myself suddenly pushed off to the side of the book in hand. A seismic shift, for sure. Here were passages no longer as gripping as previous passages on macrophages. (Ehrenreich holds a PhD in immunology.)

Macrophages, Ehrenreich argues, were thought to be our friends, thought to be the ones helping to save our lives. Until they were found out: discovered to be working with the enemy within, actually "encouraging the growth and spread of tumors." Ultimately becoming the "frontline killers in autoimmune diseases." Macrophages betrayed us, in other words.

But then the discussion turns to death. Humans, animals, plants, everything dies. So when an individual thinks of death, writes Ehrenreich, she thinks of a world without her. In fairness, Ehrenreich quotes philosopher Robert C. Solomon, who writes, "we approach death with the self-indulgent thought that my death is a bad thing because it deprives the universe of me. " Wow. Well, I'm thrown back to many hours I have spent suffering through philosophical texts written mostly by males, white males, whose "we" usually looks like them and the Founding Fathers whose "we" also looked like them: racialized and gendered. White and male.

Deprives the universe of me! My death!

Ehrenreich writes that 55 million die yearly and the world continues on. "Quite nicely," she adds.

But I still needed to pausing in the reading. Where am I, now? Does Ehrenreich see me and the majority of the world--people of color--who are so various. We don't all think about death or any subject as do white Westerners.

And in the end, I don't want to space out on psychedelic drugs either. With all that is happening, people of color around the world, need to be alert. Eyes wide open. See it all.

In the meantime, so many white Americans prefer blindspots.

A few months ago, National Public Radio (NPR) Scott Simon asks Americans if they still believe America is what Ronald Reagan called "a shining city on a hill." Some of us could answer this question, rather bluntly, but Simon's not asking us. I'll catch the news at NPR; however, I know I'm not a preferred audience member. The audience Simon's question identifies as faithful listeners--those who identify with Reagan without being troubled by where and why he announced his candidacy for president in Philadelphia, Mississippi--probably miss the "great" man today. His "law and order" agenda was good for American. And that's what made him "great." Apparently.

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Activist, writer, American Modern Literature, Cultural Theory, PhD.

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