I've been reading a book titled: Birth of a Nation'hood: Gaze, Script and Spectacle in the O. J. Simpson Case which was co-edited by Toni Morrison. I remember the amazing brouhaha that went on in the media during that trial and I very well remember how African Americans (especially the jury members) were demonized and demeaned by the media (and the majority of white people) after the event.
Realize that the Simpson trial occurred only about 3 years after the debacle of the Rodney King trial where several white policemen were acquitted of beating Mr. King...even though their unwarranted and illegal assault was captured on video.
The book was published about 20 years ago and the various articles and essays in it are sad making.
Part of their power to depress me comes from the fact that the words we've used and the ways in which we white people have been avoiding accurately looking at ourselves and our behavior haven't much changed...and...they are (with updates to reflect contemporary vocabulary and linguistic expression) pretty much the same as they've been for over 500 years.
I've been looking at us...hard...for over two years now. Understand,
when I say we white people, I'm meaning the majority of white
people...there are exceptions (thank goodness) but they are few and they
are thoroughly marginalized and/or ignored.
I fully accept we white people here in the U.S. are thoroughly committed to the strange belief that somehow if we can find just the right way to say or express something, then we can make horror and/or harm be a good and acceptable and right thing.
We may deny that we believe this and we may sincerely believe that we do not think this way...but we do....and somewhere we vaguely know this to be true or at least suspect that it might be true. We white people may not "know" what's wrong with this country and ourselves...but we suspect something not good is going on. And we have no right to not know because the evidence is everywhere. I write this knowing full well that I avoided comprehending all this for decades...but I damn well knew something was wrong.
It's almost as if we have the belief that if we just want something to be a certain way hard enough...then the hard wanting/wishing will make it be that way. We couldn't be that detached from reality, could we? (you can insert your own examples here, there are plenty of them)
Do you remember thinking like that way when you were a little kid? I do. It is a potent desire. It took some repeated efforts for me accept the untruth of that enticing notion.
But...something like that...which is a task that is confusing and difficult for a child really shouldn't be an issue for an adult, should it?
People of color have been telling us (we white people) this for centuries. Again and again and again they tell us...and we ignore them, or attack them.
Towards the end of the 18th century or the beginning of the 19th century, a band leader of the Sauk Tribe (his name in English was Black Hawk) was quoted as saying:
"How smooth must be the language of the whites, when they can make right look like wrong, and wrong like right."
How smooth must be the language of we whites.
How powerful we must believe it (and ourselves) to be for us to embrace the notion that words change reality.
If you want, you can watch this brief video of Dr Charles Mills explaining white people's version of the history of North America.
If it sounds silly and childish to you...well...then go take a look at the American history book your elementary or high school aged child is using in her or his school and see if it isn't full of smooth words that mislead and deny. We lie to ourselves and we lie to our children. Smooth words intended to deceive others end up deceiving us too.
And we harm every living being (including ourselves) and mother Earth too.
Words so smooth are doing us all in. (except they aren't really smooth except to those who embrace them)