This is a speech that I wrote for a local event. I thought I’d post it on Medium because it might help explain some context to white people. ~ John Metta
Recently, I was the only person of color in a discussion group about race.
Always fun for us. During the first meeting, I introduced myself by saying that talks about race are emotional.
“I speak with a lot of emotion,” I said, “and sometimes that emotion is anger. That should be allowed, because anger is a valid response to oppression. I’m not angry at you as an individual, but at a system of injustice.”
Sometime later, a man said that he hoped we could “rise above emotions.” He wanted an “intellectual discussion” using logic so we could “really get to heart of the matter” without getting “derailed by emotions.”
Now there is a heck of a lot of subtext there, and I really want you to understand it. But I need to lay a bit of foundation. So we’re going to step back in time a bit so I can explain how a guy beating up his cousin a thousand years ago still affects how we act differently in the dining room.
A long time ago, there was this French cat named William.
One day, he jumped in a boat with a few hundred of his buddies and crossed the English Channel to pick a fight. That was when Norman France conquered Anglo-Saxon England.
Now when you conquer a people, you gotta make damn sure they know you’re in charge. One of the best ways to do that is to make them speak your language. So French became the official language in England. Royalty spoke it, lawmakers spoke it. English was even outlawed in some areas. The French said their language was refined, proper, and that Anglo-Saxon was a crude, vulgar language of the unwashed rabble.
Total scam, of course. Anglo-Saxon English was just as refined, as beautiful, and it was hella poetic. But Billy and his boys had to convince “those people” that the French were “better.” After awhile, the people started believing him.
Here’s the crazy thing: We still do.
A damn lot of our words in English come from this period, and pretty much all of them seem… more refined, proper. This is why we “dine” at a fine restaurant but “eat” at a Barbecue. This is why we “drink” a beer, but might “imbibe” a 30-year-old bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
You need this to sink in: A dude makes up a bunch of crap about his cousin’s language to justify three generations of oppression, and a thousand years later we still believe him.
We still believe William the Conquerer due to a remarkable thing called culture.
Culture is how we pass information about our world across generations. It’s why our children speak our language, it’s how they learn from us. Culture is why some humans eat with a fork, and some eat with chopsticks. Culture explains why someone standing really close while they talk to you might feel threatening to a European, but comforting to a West African. Culture defines what acceptable volumes are when speaking, and how women are expected to act in social situations.
Culture defines all of our social expectations, but also our social prejudices. Every single thing we do and say, we do and say in the context of our culture.
Now, making a culture normative — that is, it defines what is “normal” — is quite useful. The French used it well in England. Another time it was used was when West Africans were brought to this country as chattel slaves.
The society here in America needed a way to justify the enslavement of a people for no other reason than they looked a bit different. Like the Normans, they used culture to do it. Slaves were made to speak English but were forbidden to read and write. In fact, the myth was promoted that they were slow and couldn’t even be taught.
White people saw slaves as animals, apes or at best, “lesser humans.” They expected slaves to work like animals too — long, hard, and without complaint. Naturally, slaves rebelled, slowing work or feigning sickness. Blacks were seen by everyone as inherently lazy, and lazy Blacks were beaten or killed.
White people expected slaves to be subservient — a particularly useful tactic since less than a quarter of whites actually owned slaves. Slaves had to do whatever any white person told them to do. This made all whites “better” than slaves, and supportive of the system.
And there were the sexual controls. White men objectified and raped Black women at will, while promoting the myth that white women’s purity was threatened merely by the gaze of a Black man. This was particularly useful as a means to control both Black men and white women.
All of these prejudices still reside in white culture.
Antonin Scalia said that Blacks “should go to slower schools.” This is a US Supreme Court Justice, folks.
Donald Trump said he believed that “Laziness is a trait in blacks.” This is a man running for president!
A vegan activist Twitter account posted a picture comparing slaughtered pigs to lynched Black people. Leslie Jones rocked the Ghostbusters reboot and was immediately compared to an ape by racist trolls. Meanwhile Lena Dunham weaponized her white body against an innocent Black man because she felt insecure.
And apparently countless Black men would not have gotten shot in the back if they had “just done what they were told to do.”
article by John Metta
September 18, 2016
|Abandoned place in Fredericksburg, Virginia.|
|Police and their fear of|