Race and prejudice in the Americas

| May 31, 2020

Resident socio-political columnist, Dickson Igwe.

Racism and ethnic prejudice is best battled when humanity recognizes that racism and prejudice are inherent in flawed human personality.

Just after Barack Obama was elected first black president of the USA in 2008, this writer was friends with a lady- a Belonger- living in the territory, married to a Virgin Islander from a prominent family, with a socially popular son, who was also a friend.

However, after that historic vote, and the celebrations that followed in the Virgin Islands and the wider Caribbean, at the election of a black US President, the lady appeared to have become very bitter for some inexplicable reason.

The woman- shortly after that 2008 Presidential Election- began unfriending all the Barack Obama fans on a new social media platform called Facebook, who were on her friends list.

Then when this Old Boy – after he too was unfriended – met her in Road Town and asked her the reason, she gave some implausible assertion of her weariness of all the hype around a Barack Obama personality cult.

It was clear her reasons ran deeper, and to this day the lady has discarded the many friends she once had. Previously the woman was one of those animated and lively people it was always a pleasure to meet.

Trump opposition. Photo courtesy https://www.csmonitor.com/

Now this Old Boy has always believed that the best way to promote racial and ethnic harmony in any society is through social engagement with the dominant culture. The refusal by any ethnic or racial group to integrate with the dominant culture- which requires effort-will never lead to peace and harmony.

There is also the equal need for greater effort by the dominant culture to engage with migrant and minority cultures within a society.

And racial prejudice is natural. We all feel ‘’more comfortable’’ with our own. However, that is also the basis for conflict. Racism is a paradox. One should feel comfortable in one’s skin. However this comfort can easily become discomfort with a different race.

And it is not a stretch to state that it is easy for the dominant culture to treat other cultures with dislike and impunity. And that is why it is imperative we step outside our racial and ethnic comfort zones and engage with others of a different color and culture as the basis for good race relations.

In that endeavor most have failed; that is why there is racial and ethnic unease everywhere, much as that may be denied.

The USA for example has gone back to the 1960s in terms of its race relations. Donald Trump is a divisive figure who is adept at using the dog whistle to stir up racism and white supremacy as an election tool.

However the man has created a society where race hate is the norm. The murder of black youth and young men – even women- by white racist police has become a regular feature of US society. And the recent and gruesome murder of a young black man in May 2020 which as a result of digital technology was very vividly available for anyone with access to digital media, horrified millions of people everywhere.

What was head scratching was the clear readiness of the crowd surrounding the scene of the murder, to allow this very public lynching of a young black man. This was a brother, father, and son. It was further relayed that the murderer was a strong supporter of Donald Trump and was photographed smiling delightfully at a Trump Make America Great Again – MAGA- rally.

The USA has become increasingly segregated and racist since the election of Donald Trump.

However, there is also a growing awareness that black America is going to have to become a lot more aggressive in its own self-defense, if the racist murders continue.

There is talk of a black militia with armed black vigilantes patrolling black communities. That is clearly not the way to go. However, when young black men are being gunned down with impunity by racists, the anger that results is hard to eradicate.

The answer to stopping the ignorance and absurdity of racism is race and cultural engagement, leading to better integration into the dominant social and culture set.

Within borders, people of different races must come together and engage with each other in social, economic, and political engagement.

When that does not happen, the tendency of human nature to withdraw into a racial and ethnic comfort zone is all too easy.

The result is racial and ethnic separation that leads to misunderstanding, ignorance, and ultimately violence and conflict.

When people of different races, ethnicities, and cultures, make every effort to engage with one another, and work together for a better society, the result is peace and love, not war and hate.

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Category: African Caribbean, Culture & Society

About the Author (Author Profile)

Dickson Igwe is an education official in the Virgin Islands. He is also a national sea safety instructor. He writes a national column across media and has authored a story book on the Caribbean: ‘The Adventures of a West Indian Villager’. Dickson is focused on economics articles, and he believes economics holds the answer to the full economic and social development of the Caribbean. He is of both West African and Caribbean heritage. Dickson is married with one son.

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