By Stacy M. Brown
Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. has long examined America’s hatred toward African Americans, recently noting a profound new rendering of the struggle by African Americans for equality after the Civil War and the violent counterrevolution that re-subjugated them, as seen through the prism of the war of images and ideas that have left an enduring stain on the American psyche.
“The story of the abolition of slavery in the aftermath of the Civil War is familiar, as is the Civil Rights revolution that transformed the nation after World War II,” Gates wrote in a white paper.
“But the century in between remains a mystery,” he noted. “If emancipation came in Lincoln’s America, why was it necessary to march in Martin Luther King Jr.’s America?”
Further, 54 years after King’s assassination, White supremacy remains on the rise with the merciless Tops supermarket murders of 10 African Americans and even the heartless killings of 19 predominantly Latino students at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
HIT Strategies, Washington, D.C.’s leading millennial and minority-owned public opinion research company, issued its latest survey of Black Americans, “Reducing Racism and Discrimination.”
The company said reducing racism and discrimination counts as the “number two” issue for Black voters, behind only inflation and, previously, COVID-19.
HIT officials noted that reducing racism consistently ranks among the top three priorities. Black voters want their elected leaders to address this.
“[The Topps Supermarket] shooting represented racism in its most violent and craven form,” added Terrance Woodbury, founding partner at HIT Strategies.
“However, Black voters have long recognized how the culture-war politics and its racist rhetoric fuels animus toward Black Americans. Black voters want their elected leaders to respond to racism head-on, not just in reaction to tragedies. This is a political and moral imperative.”
One African American male told HIT researchers that “underneath the insurrection, which was the actual event, it was just White backlash. This was the same as the burning of Tulsa. This was the same as all the things.”
An unidentified Black woman added: “I think with Donald Trump coming in and leaving, it woke up a lot of things that were buried, like racism, it’s still alive.”
Jeremy Clifford, founder and CEO of Router CTRL, a fast-growing website in the technology market, insisted that America’s hate problem remains deep-rooted and complex.
“Several factors contribute to it, including our history, culture and politics,” Clifford said. “America has a long history of hate. From the days of slavery to the Jim Crow era, from the Civil Rights Movement to today, America has seen its fair share of hate. And while we like to think that we’ve come a long way since then, the truth is that much of our history is still with us today.”
Clifford continued, noting that “we live in a culture that is built on competition and individualism. We are a nation of winners and losers, and we often see others as threats to our success. This can lead to fear and suspicion, which can turn into hate.
“Finally, our politics also contribute to our hate problem. Our political system is based on a winner-take-all. We are a country divided between red and blue, and we often see those on the other side as our enemies. This division can lead to anger and hate.”
TEDx speaker Milagros Phillips said she believes America repeatedly looks in the wrong areas to solve its hate history. “Whenever something racially charged happens, everyone turns to people of color to solve it. Racism is a problem for people of color. It is not the problem of people of color,” Phillips asserted.
“Hundreds of years of racial conditioning, through violence, scapegoating, and the dehumanization of Black and Brown people have led to the anger, hatred, and dysfunction we experience today,” she said, “but don’t be fooled. That hatred is not today. It is hundreds of years in the making and practice. Proof of that is the lynching and burnings that have continued.”
Author and human rights activist Tara Teng suggested that America has not solved its hate problem because the nation hasn’t learned how to reconnect with humanity.
“We crave power more than we crave connection to our fellow humans, and this same misalignment of priorities is what America was built upon,” Teng determined.
“It is our origin story. From colonization and genocide to slavery, segregation and Jim Crow, America has taken every opportunity to use the body as justification for oppression and cruelty.”
Teng continued: “In the name of power and supremacy, we look to ‘the good old days,’ an idealized past in which tradition and nostalgia were built on the backs of body-based oppression – legislating racism, ableism and homophobia against anyone who was not powerful and White.
“These power struggles are why Critical Race Theory is banned in schools, legislation is debated in the halls and bodies are targeted by gun violence in the streets. Our hate has become embodied within us and because some benefit from it, we refuse to spit the poison out of our mouths.”
What can America do to ease its fears?
Phillips, the TEDx speaker, said treating the trauma would help. “These horrific things happen to people of color, but no one moves in with the cadre of psychiatrists to treat the trauma,” Phillips said. “We should also treat for justice. White perpetrators of violence are treated differently than perpetrators of color. A White mass shooter can be captured alive and not even handcuffed. Soon after they are captured, the news quickly announces they have a mental health condition.
“Meanwhile, a perpetrator of color is more likely to end up shot dead in a confrontation, and rarely is their mental health part of their defense.”
Phillips concluded that self-care could help Black Americans in particular.
“Because there is very little treatment for Black people’s continual trauma, we will have to learn to self-care,” Phillips said.
“There are some wonderful exercises to help with anxiety, fear and coming down from trauma.”