Skip to main content

Race in America (A Comment)

I am privileged to have a group of colleagues who like a bit of intellectual debate over ideas and current events. A month ago we found ourselves discussing the inequality of incomes in the United States in the context of Ferguson. We were curious to know the disparity of household incomes across blacks, Hispanics and White Americans.

In the course of that discussion we found that black people only make up 13% of the population, third behind Latinos (15%) and whites (72%). There was collective bewilderment. Apparently I am not the only one who was ignorant of this basic fact. I had always thought blanks represented something like 40-45%. That discovery led me to draw the following conclusions, as an African looking in from the outside.


First, the African American experience of being disadvantaged is not unique globally. In any country where a particular group is an extreme miniority they will be disadvantaged. We might even say their position is better. African Americas are not like black Africans in South Africa today or even many Black Africans in their own countries. In many parts of Africa black people are the majority and they find themselves in poverty compared to non-Africa elites.

Secondly, the selection of Obama was even more significant than I thought. When we consider the electoral mathematics it is impossible to have a black president unless white Americans collectively decide to have one. From the outside looking in, things may look politically bleak for African Americans. The election of Obama was really a huge statement that White America sent to Black America (and Latinos) that they are accepted as equal.

The question is whether Obama has done enough to make it politically easier or harder for the next African America or non-white person who may want to stand as president. Only time will tell! From the outside looking in, Obama appears to have been a rather divisive figure domestically, and abysmally inept internationally. But then again sometimes Americans seem to choose the party before the president. If that is the case, this point may contradict the second point above, though at the same time offering hope.

Thirdly, change cannot happen by force, black Americans must learn to persuade. This largely follows from the first point. When you are in a minority persuasion is the best course of action in bringing about change. Much of the approaches by the African American community, from the outside looking in, seems characterised by direct confrontation as we have seen in Ferguson. It is understandable given the history of slavery and discrimination. But if the African Americans are to have a lasting impact they must make intellectual investment. Again from the outside looking in the black intellectuals don't seem prominent.

Finally, black people are more noisier in the wrong areas which distorts their representation. This builds on the third point. The role models appear to be largely in sports, music, television and pentecostal televangelists. I am sure this is not in fact the case. However, representatives from these areas appear more noisy and socially influential. Perhaps they are more in touch with the the African American grassroots. The power of music, sport and film of course remains unrivalled.

And it is shocking that Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson seems to be the dominant black voices. Surely there must be a plurality of voices. More variety of voices will help them deal with the political challenge of fighting to reduce large income inequalities and deal with some of the violence taking place on their community.

Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2013

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Christian and Technology, A Review

The central argument of John Fresko’s  The Christian  and Technology  is that technology is a double-edged sword that requires cautious and intentional use. Continuous uncritical use of technology erodes hunger for the Word of God, makes us self-centred and turns our useful devices into idols. The book intends to promote proper use of technology by encouraging us to dig into our hearts to see whether Christ so fills us that nothing can drag us away from him. Fresko believes there is no need for us to flee from technology or become Luddites because technology is value neutral. It is not in of itself good or bad. Instead, we must focus on carefully evaluating how we think about and use technology. This necessarily requires us  not only to understand the relevant technology, but also understand ourselves. A key part of this is recognising that we struggle with technology because we lack contentment in Christ. The book explores explores six different technologies. I think the most fascina

I am what I am by Gloria Gaynor

Beverly Knight closed the opening ceremony of the Paralympics with what has been dubbed the signature tune of the Paralympics. I had no idea Ms Knight is still in the singing business. And clearly going by the raving reviews she will continue to be around. One media source says her performance was so electric that "there wasn’t a dry eye to be seen as she sang the lyrics to the song and people even watching at home felt the passion in her words" . The song was Gloria Gaynor's I am what I am . Clearly not written by Gloria Gaynor but certainly musically owned and popularized by her. It opens triumphantly: I am what I am / I am my own special creation / So come take a look / Give me the hook or the ovation / It's my world that I want to have a little pride in / My world and it's not a place I have to hide in / Life's not worth a damn till you can say I am what I am The words “I am what I am” echo over ten times in the song. A bold declaration that she

Today I Learned

The puritan John Miles (1621-1683)   founded the first Baptist Church in Wales. He then emigrated to America shortly after the Act of Uniformity (1662) when 2,000 ministers were ejected from the Established Church. With a large proportion of his church, Miles settled at a new Swansea, about ten miles from Providence in Rhode Island. The church grew in face of persistent opposition.   Once, when Miles was brought before the  magistrates on some charge, he asked for a Bible. He then quoted Job 19:28 - Ye should say, Why persecute we him, seeing the root of the matter is found in me ? (KJV). He stopped there and sat down. The court was so convicted by the content and context of the passage that their cruelty gave way to kindness. ( Source : An Introduction to the Baptists, Erroll Hulse)