You can’t get rid of a weed by simply cutting it off. You have to remove it by its roots. Racism is like a weed — a weed whose roots have gown for generations. As a result, its contusions on this nation will take more than mere years or decades to heal. We must get to the roots to expunge racism. To do this, we must eliminate both the slave-master mentality and the slave mentality.
The slave-master mentality starts with the idea that being created white makes some people superior to people of color, then moves to the idea that since people of color are not equal to white people, their rights and treatment should not be equal. This sense of superiority must be maintained by all means at all times.
This is compounded by the fear that one day the “slaves” will rise up and do to the slave masters what was done to them. It’s a fear that manifests itself in the Michael Brown incident in Ferguson, Missouri (#policelivesmatter vs. #blacklivesmatter), in opposition to President Obama’s use of executive orders, in divisiveness over immigration and health-care reform. Until we are willing to address the mostly subconscious slave-master mentality and fear of an “uprising,” racism will continue to spread its roots.
The slave mentality manifests itself in internalized racism, in the house slave (light-skinned blacks) vs. field slave (darker-skinned blacks) divide, in the belief that the value of black people is whatever their “master” appoints to them, and a longing to be accepted by their “masters.”
Understanding both of these mentalities is essential to lowering the emotional defenses that we put up when discussing racism. And once we understand them, all of us need to search ourselves for prejudices, hatred, lack of self-worth, fear and any other emotions that keep us from accepting that foundational belief of our Forefathers: “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Once these issues are identified, we must be willing to have the uncomfortable conversations with family, friends, co-workers and strangers. Only then will we be able to strangle the weeds of racism at the one place where they can be killed: the roots.
The greatness of this nation is not that we are perfect; it lies in fact that when we do misstep, we acknowledge, accept, correct and, most importantly. move forward. Let’s move forward.
Mauricus “Moe” Brown