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Colloquy on 'Critical Race Theory' [the racists' substitute term for their own racism] with Rohn Kenyatta

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"Either this nation shall kill racism, or racism shall kill this nation." (S. Jonas, August, 2018)

Racistcampaignposter1. Gosh.  Doesn't this just ring a bell? Perfect for those Republo-fascists who speak at conventions of White Supremacists.
Racistcampaignposter1. Gosh. Doesn't this just ring a bell? Perfect for those Republo-fascists who speak at conventions of White Supremacists.
(Image by Wikipedia (commons.wikimedia.org), Author: Unknown authorUnknown author)
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Introduction: On Feb. 8, 2022 in this space my (that is Steven Jonas's) good friend Rohn Kenyatta published a column entitled: "Lady Liberty Speaks The "Truth" About Critical Race Theory." I found it to be most intriguing and most informative. I sent Rohn a comment on it, he replied, and then I sent him another comment. In this column I am sharing with our readers, elements of that exchange. I hope that you will find it to be enlightening.

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By Rohn Kenyatta

Excerpts:

"Currently, conversations regarding Critical Race Theory abound. I think it much ado about nothing by people that are about nothing, and it is of little import to me in and of itself. What is important is the truth, which all humans should seek because to not know the truth is to live a lie. Perhaps there exists an intersection between Critical Race Theory and the truth, or are they distinctively different paths leading to different places? One need look no further than "America's" most iconic symbol, the Statue of Liberty, to ponder the potential quandary. . . .

"In Ralph Ellison's classic novel Invisible Man the narrator says, "I am not complaining, nor am I protesting either." When Black People in the United States present the facts about their existence in the United States, they are often categorized as complaining or protesting. Any mildly intelligent Black Person in the United States should well know that complaints and, especially, protests are both half-witted and fruitless; for the evidence of history does not lie, though history itself may. I am not one given to fool's errands, so my mission is neither that of complainant nor protestant. My mission, just as was that of the Invisible Man, is to find my identity. The only way to do that, is to find the truth. As a finder of fact, if that truth is buried under centuries of ruin and rubble, I must exhume it; no matter the sickly-sweet stench of rot presented resultant of its excavation. . . .

"I was taught of 'Lady Liberty' from the time of my earliest academic memories. I am certain that by the time I reached second grade that I knew the poem The New Colossus by rote, and that it was intrinsically tied to the statue. Its most poignant passage being "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" These words are emblazoned upon the bronze plaque located in the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. Dispensing with the fact that those very words, by definition, exclude my ancestors (both African and Original American) and, thusly, me and my descendants, there is another story the pedestal tells that is not so well known. That imposed, and willful, ignorance is not an accident any more than is its concealment.

"The robed Roman goddess known as the Statue of Liberty holds a torch above her head with her right hand. In her left hand, she holds a tablet inscribed with the date of July 4, 1776 (the date of the U.S. Declaration of Independence). I learned these things as a child. However, I would be well into my 30s, married and had children myself before I learned that the French sculptor of the statue (Bartholdi) initially designed the Roman goddess holding chains in her left hand. The chains represented the enslavement and alleged 'emancipation' of Black People in the United States.

"Apparently, there was quite a row between the artist and his U.S. financiers that demanded that the chains be removed from the left hand of the Roman goddess. Bartholdi was forced to acquiesce to their demands and, thusly, we have the version we have today. But, Bartholdi did not completely capitulate because the chains are still there. They simply were buried, like the history of Black People in the United States, at the base of the statue and the only way to see them is from an aerial view of the statue. The chains, like Black People in the United States, are invisible; unless one looks real hard from a helicopter.

"Black Children in the United States are often stereotyped and equated with substandard academic performance. Not only European-Americans, but Asian-Americans, Latino-Americans, Arab-Americans and, yes, other Black People in the United States, are stunned when they encounter a well-performing black student. If I ask the average person in the United States to name a famous Black Person in the United States, I am willing to bet diamonds to doughnuts that they name an athlete or entertainer; no one in an academic or intellectual realm. The only exceptions to this might be Martin Luther King or Barack Obama. The world's first university was located in Africa; I was never taught that, hoity-toity education notwithstanding. I was a grown man before I became aware of that fact. . . .

"Black People in the United States were officially equated with animals; something no other ethnic group has experienced in the history of the United States. Black Women in the United States were referenced as a 'Niggress' on the auction-block (think Tigress or Lioness). Black men in the United States were referenced as a 'Buck.' A Buck is a zoological term meaning the male of a horned animal. This was never taught to me as a child and, akin to the previous examples, I was a grown man before I learned these stark facts and cannot help but muse about how I would have felt differently about myself if these facts had been taught to me, especially in my formative, most impressionable years. All the greater, I wonder how my European-American counterparts would have felt not only about me, but themselves. The information is readily available; would such a disclosure, especially in the formative years, been Critical Race Theory, the truth, or both?"

Steven Jonas, letter to RK, 2/13/22

"My understanding of Critical Race Theory is that it is the study of the history of the United States and its predecessors through the lens of racism and the enormous impact that that the concept of "race" has had on that history since 1619 (which of course is why so many racists are so riled up about Prof. Jones' great work). I know well (and have done since I was raised in a left-wing household in the 1930s-50s) that "Race" is of course an artificial construct. It was originally developed by the Portuguese in 16th cent. Brazil as they introduced groups of humans physically owned by other groups of humans into the society and the economy. The owned group would be working for their owners without compensation and without any controls over their own lives and livelihoods, to be treated as property like any other kind of animate property (or inanimate property, for that matter).

"Of course, as you know well (but I just want you, Rohn, to know that I know it too), the Doctrine of White Supremacy has underlain the political economy of the colonies and the United States since that time. . . . As it happens, for example, I have frequently used the famous quote from Alexander Stephens , the first Vice-President of the Confederacy, justifying slavery on the basis of white supremacy in discussions of various aspects of US political economy over time.

"Many governments have been founded upon the principle of the subordination and serfdom of certain classes of the same race. Such were, and are in violation of the laws of nature. Our system commits no such violation of nature's law. With us, all of the white race, however high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the eye of the law. Not so with the Negro. Subordination is his place. He, by nature, or by the curse against Cain, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system. Our new government is founded on the opposite idea of the equality of the races. Its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the Negro is not equal to the White man; that slavery --- subordination to the superior race --- is his natural condition."

"Any use of CRT to help understand and analyze the history of the United States and predecessors would, in my understanding, introduce the historical facts as you describe them. That, of course, is why CRT, only now coming into public view even though it has been present in academic circles for about 50 years, and ordinarily used only at the university/college level, is putting the racists into such a tizzy. To my understanding, CRT tears off the carefully constructed covers over the role of the concept of "race" and its mode of political and economic implementation to justify the controls that the ruling class in this country have used over the centuries to maintain their control politically and to benefit from it economically.

"As you know, I begin every one of my columns with the dictum: "Either this country will kill racism, or racism will kill this country" (and have done so since Aug., 2018). But my understating of race and racism comes from my political upbringing from childhood and is, for example, the over-riding politico-economic ideology that in my book 'How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022' (originally published in 1996) the political successor to the Republican Party, the 'American Christian Nation Party,' uses it to establish the apartheid state 'The New American Republics.'

"But talking about my childhood, [this section being edited/added-to further on Feb, 23, 2022] even growing up in a left-wing household, certain myths about U.S. history were maintained, either without knowledge or without thinking. For example, now at age 85 I was totally unaware that originally in Bartholdi's sculpture in the left-hand of 'Lady Liberty' was a clutch of chains, which the statue's sponsors caused the sculptor to figuratively "drop" to the statue's base, where it would be virtually impossible to see them (except from the sky).

"What a metaphor for what has happened over the centuries to both the history and contemporary understanding of both the institution of slavery and its various forms subjugation, prejudice, and deprivation, which without the institution of racism --- and it is an institution --- could not be maintained (and of course vice-versa). Indeed, symbolizing by what happened to the placement of the chains on the statue's person, is what I say, as noted above, at the beginning of every column that I have written over the last 3+ years."

RK reply, 2-13-22

". . . [w]e do arrive at the same town via different roads regarding the issue of 'race.' However, I will maintain the validity of my, albeit ancillary, observation that even within the artificial 'race' construct, that Black People in the United States have been subjected to a most intense and vile racism that has lasted centuries. I have often heard white supremacists say things like: 'well slavery was everywhere.' Even if that were true, what is it about the European that made him/her want to brutalize the so-called slave? Lynched, burned, boiled (for medical experiments), experimented on, raped, name taken, religion taken, language taken, etc. In fact, there were societies were being a 'servant' was a 'position' and the servants were like members of the family often bequeathed assets subsequent to the master's death.

"The ultimate question is: what is the European actually afraid of? Why did, and does, he want me not to learn? What is it that he does not want me to know and why? I know the answers to these questions and only mention them as intellectual query and rhetoric."

SJ. further reply: (2-13-22)

"Further on your comment, yes, slavery had existed for thousands of years, for example very prominently in Rome, before and after the establishment of the Empire. Why were/are the especial cruelties exerted on Black People in this country and its predecessors down to this very day remains to be explained. Perhaps it is the use of hate, pure and simple and heavily promoted, that is thought by the slave-holders and their modern successors in the political economy of the nation, as necessary for the fiction of 'difference' that is used to justify modern racism to continue to be further-maintained/exploited. I think that the question of what was/is the 'European' afraid of, then and now, should be explored.

"As I think you know by now, I take a 'political-economic' position for the maintenance of slavery/racism/second-class citizenship. As you know, in the early 17th century, plantation owners also used white workers brought over from England. But they were in a different category: "indentured servants". Although at the beginnings of their tenures they earned nothing, the value of their work was eventually totted up and they were eventually granted their freedom. Thus, the fiction that Black African slaves and their descendants were somehow 'different' could be maintained, expanded and exploited. In the Civil War, as you know, the Southern ruling class used racism as the principal means for getting hundreds of thousands of poor (non-slave-holding) whites to fight and die to protect the institution of slavery, just as an important political-economic sector of the US ruling class uses it now to maintain a political power that always works against the best interests of the white working class.

"Going back almost a century, the US ruling class was fine with the AFL, white, craft unions. They hated the CIO unions, industrial, integrated, some Communist-led, and went after it with a vengeance, as soon as they could after the end of the War, with the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act which, as you may well know, outlawed Communist leadership for any union. And of course, now we have a racist leading party, starting even earlier than with Nikon's Southern Strategy (see Goldwater's refusal to support the establishment of a national holiday for Dr. King), ending up with Trump and Abbott, using racism for political purposes. And of course, what the Republicans, a minority party, are now doing with voting and voting rights in order to remain in power as the population segment they represent, centered on the petit bourgeoisie which is so prominent in the Trumpian Movement (as at Jan. 6), become more and more an ethnic minority, is very well known and understood. It's 'The 15% Solution' (which goes back to Ralph Reed and the 'Christian Coalition' in 1989) as in the original title of my book: 'The 15% Solution'."

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SJ addendum: And so, "CRT," an academic system for studying the role, function, and outcomes of the use(s) of racism in the United States of America and its predecessor colonies, has been transformed into a battle cry, not for freedom of the slaves of the Confederacy, but for the further imposition and reimposition of racism and its outcomes on the Black population of the current United States, ironically mobilized into battle for that purpose by the present most ugly version of the Party that led the battle to Free the Slaves, way back then.

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Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at StonyBrookMedicine (NY). As well as having been a regular political columnist on several national websites for over 20 years, he is the author/co-author/editor/co-editor of 37 books Currently, on the columns side, in addition to his position on OpEdNews as a Trusted Author, he is a regular contributor to From The G-Man.  In the past he has been a contributor to, among other publications, The Greanville PostThe Planetary Movement, and Buzzflash.com.  He was also a triathlete for 37 seasons, doing over 250 multi-sport races.  Among his 37 books (from the late 1970s, mainly in the health, sports, and health care organization fields) are, on politics: The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022; A Futuristic Novel (originally published 1996; the 3rd version was published by Trepper & Katz Impact Books, Punto Press Publishing, 2013, Brewster, NY, sadly beginning to come true, advertised on OpEdNews and available on  (more...)
 

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