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Est. April 5, 2002
October 20, 2016 - Issue 671

"White America"
Must Break Its Immoral Silence
About Racism

By Dr. Carlos Russell, PhD

"Sadly, in America today, collective and thunderous
'white voices' are being raised and hurled, via social
and national media, in demonization, anger, and
defiance at all those who dare to protest against
racism and economic injustice. Clearly, systemic
racism in America is alive and well!"

When, in 1968, America’s national anthem was being played at the Olympics in Mexico City John Carlos and Tommy Smith, victorious African-American athletes, raised their black-gloved clenched fists protesting the suppression of the rights of African people; “white America” hollered “unpatriotic”.

When Colin Kaepernick knelt as the national anthem was being played, in support of the struggle for civil rights and justice for Black Americans; “white America” hollored and is still hollering “unpatriotic”.

As Black men are being shot by American men and women hired to “serve and to protect and “Black Lives Matters”- owing to these atrocities - is born; true to past form, “white America” hollers “un-patriotic and “All lives matter”.

Sadly, In America today, collective and thunderous “white voices” are being raised and hurled, via social and national media, in demonization, anger, and defiance at all those who dare to protest against racism and economic injustice. Clearly, systemic racism in America is alive and well!

Back in the 1960’s Nina Simone in her iconic rendition of “Mississippi Goddamn” condeming Southern racism and reflecting the anger and grief it fomented in her and on Black people angrily asked the nation “Can’t you see it… can’t you feel it … it’s all in the air….? “ Taken by her grief and exasperated, she continued, “Can’t take this pressure no longer … Somebody say a prayer.”

Black people have been awaiting an answer to their/our grief. Apparentlly, no one said a prayer. Nothing much seems to have changed!

For over 400 years the voices of the “white european” population of this nation has either been “essentially” silent on the issue of their “collective responsibility and/or have been stoically and steadfastly unresponsive and unmoved by the implication of the question and thus, in a state of perpetual deniability; most often they offer platitudes of “plausable” deniability of their individual involvement in the tragic and abhorrent enslavement of Africans. Also, for the concomitant dehumanization process which ensued therefrom. Their historical social mantra, in my view, has been, “ Get over it! …That was yesterday... This is today!... We are all Americans!… Let’s move on!”

What self assurance? What arrogance? What unmitigated and shameless gall? Truthfully, one should not be surprised! … Theirs’ is a well known strategy and an old tactic. It was once used by the German people, after W.W. II, to deny and absolve themselves from being accused of complicity in the attempted extermination of six million Jews. So, why would it not be employed by white America? In reality, at least to me, such behaviour is but another immoral form of the old non-thinking “super patriotic” clamor practiced by the ignorant: “My country right or wrong… my country”. If one replaces “country” with “white people” the analogy is clear.

Anticipating the response of some who will attempt to deny the objectivity of the above statements by suggesting that in comparing what was done in Hitler’s Germany to what has and is being been done in America I am ipso facto accusing the American nation ofgenocide”; thus, therefore, I am being “unpatriotic”. Again, another sleight of hand pseudo-intelectual maneuver, to provide a “spin” -- a pathetic attempt at evasion and misdirection by those who at all cost must deny responsibility of their collective actions.

With that in mind I will attempt to put that Ill conceived argument to rest.

What was done in Germany WAS indeed attemped genocide by Hitler with, in general, the tacit support of the German people – the purposefull EXTERMINATION of a people by another, with the designed intention to ethnically cleanse” and “purify” the nation.

The same has NOT been and is NOT the case in America! The overt national attempt has never been extermination! And why not? Free Black labor was an essential and indispensable vehicle for the development and growth of industrial America. Genocide would have been unproductive.

The American historical reality, in my view, is much different and can be divided into three (3) phases though not always necessarily distinct. Succinctly:

  1. ENSLAVEMENT – the placing of Africans in bondage and servitude to white America originally conceived to be in perpetuity and designed to derive material and social benefit from their labor and service. (A fundamental difference from extermination)

  2. DOMESTICATION – the forceful dehumanization and transformation of Africans into beasts of burden by the use of force BOTH physical (whiplash, branding irons etc.) AND psychological (the use of terror, legal and illegal —fear of maiming and death)

  1. PACIFICATION AND CONTROL – the use of the nation’s institutions (educational, religious, social and military/police); its structural and societal ordinances to guarantee that Africans and their offspring peacefully adhere to the position imposed upon them by the racially superior people of the nation.

Lerone Bennett, African American author of “The Shaping of America” explains just how this process was used:

The oppressor can use diametrically opposed methods to accomplish the same end. He can forcibly deny the Oppressed Education , thereby limiting their social and economic possibilities, or he can forcibly “educate” the oppressed, thereby giving them his values and making them instruments for his purpose.”

(I would strongly suggest that the increasing contemporary call for “law and order” could be viewed as a contemporary extension of this phase—keeping the oppressed in their places.)

Hopefully, the anticipated accusations and attacks I expect from the “priviliged” can perhaps be removed from theIr unlimited arsenal of defense and denials! I am not certain that it will.

Let me quickly add before I am purposefully misinterpreted to justify or, for their purposes, give credence to views like those expressed by Congressman Robert Pittinger (R.NC), who said of the protesters in Charlotte “ they hate white people because we are successful and they are not”. (He has since apologized).

Given that mind-set it is clear that it behooves me to unequivocally and unapologetically state to all those who may choose to mis-read this piece that : “ I DO NOT HATE WHITE PEOPLE OR HOLD ANY ANIMOUS TOWARDS THEM!.” One cannot erase history one can only try to change its course.

I am also convinced that one cannot change human behaviour with hate. Hate consumes and destroys the soul and the human spirit. It is never a redemptive force! (Here I have paraphrased Dr. King.)

Nonetheless, let me also add : Logically, my personal exculpation does not ipso facto mean that what I have said regarding “not hating white people” should be taken at face value. Only my present and future behaviour AND, of course, time, in the long run, will substantiate my assertion. In addition, not hating white people – and I truthfully do not -- does not, in any way or form, again, collectively speaking, exhonorate “white” America of their responsability or exorcise the demons of institutional and collective racism from their psyche and from the nation --- its existential original sin. Neither does it solve or reduce the stench of its existing contemporary racist practices. Had this been so the nation, as a “just nation and exceptional” would not still be carrying the spurs in its uterus.

The question of whether or not “Black Lives Matters” would today be mute and not submerged and subsumed within the universal proposition that ALL LIVES MATTER – an undeniable truth-- and JUSTICE would be the law of the land!

The physical and psychological shackles imposed on Africans by this nation and kept in place by its well oiled and organized social machinery – a SYSTEM of “institutional racism” that gave birth to much of what the nation has defined as “deviant” and “antisocial” by African people, is an almost, objectively speaking, an undeniable truism; one that is, to me, irrefutable by anyone seriously desirous of truth.

(Permit me to remind readers that Dr. Joy DeGruy, a reknown Social Scientist and Researcher, has theoretically described this socially unacceptable behavior as the result of a “Post Enslavement Traumatic Syndrome Disorder” affecting segments of Black America.)

In spite of the above, it would be irrational and immoral for me to “hate white people” especially in light of the history of the involvement of so many young and old courageous “white” people who sacrificed and placed their lives and limbs in jeopardy in pursuit of justice for African people and for the America of which Dr. King spoke--- namely a “Beloved CommunitY.” However, they are the exceptions… people whose hearts were touched by the Creator!

In spite of this, white America, (to be kind), seemingly suffering from an acute collective ethnic malaise of “selective amnesia”, have vigorously persisted in attempting to suggest to Black America and themselves that they – the “priviliged class” -- are NOT responsible for the nation’s problems of race and justice. Societaly, they “ Just Blame The Victims.“ How ludicrous and obscene! How disingenuos!

I find it morally difficult to comprehend the behavioral denials of a people who constantly and unabashedly proclaim their morality to the world while eschewing, for example, the struggles in which “Black Lives Matter” are engaged. Yes, all lives—ALL lives-- morally matters, but, if BLACK LIVES have been historically excluded from the “ALL” in the nation, --as it has been—and from the above proposition by “white people”, then Black people, as Malcolm preached, must, “by any means necessary”, vouchsafe its inclusion in the “ALL” of the major premise. I offer the following as an “aide- de-memoir for those who may want to contend that in America “Black Lives” has mattered.

The denial of the full humanity of Africans (“3/5ths of a man”) through the plethora of violence i.e. (lynchings, segregation, jim-crowism, the limitations placed on education, access to justice and economic viability and now the random shooting of unarmed young Black men) heaped upon the enslaved speaks for itself and are self evident truths of the exclusion from the ALL and the culpability and ultimate responsability, collectively speaking, of a nation whose wealth and priviliges were derived from the sweat and blood of enslaved Africans and has been inherited by their great and great-great grandchildren.

James Baldwin in his much celebrated book “The Fire Next Time” (1963) clinically addresses the issue of the dehumanization of Black people by the country that enslaved them. He writes: “ The crime of which I accuse my country and my countrymen and for which neither I , nor time nor history will ever forgive them, is that they have destroyed and are destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and do not know it or want to know it. But it is not permissible that the authors of such destruction should also be innocent. It is the innocence that constitutes the crime.”

Baldwin was not alone in his poignant and acerbic assesment of the country. His was but another voice in the long history of Black resentment and opposition to the conditions imposed upon them indicating a clear comprehension of the inhuman functional space they occupied within the structure of the nation.

While not as unforgiven as Baldwin but equally cutting and explicit in his criticism Frederick Douglass in 1852 , speaking to abolitionists in Rochester N.Y., rhetorically asked “What to the Negro is your 4th of July?; answering his own question he added : “… a day that reveals to him …the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him your celebration is a sham: your boasted liberty an unholy license ; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence. Your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery! Your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy – a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. …”

Those remarks, I underscore, were made in 1852! Has Justice Ginsberg read that text? It would seem not! Had she, her visceral reaction to Kaepernick might have been different.

In this the year 2016 a growing number of African Americans are asking similar questions, for example, of the National anthem and the flag. What do they really mean? Granted the shackles are absent, so too are the visible scars of the flesh ripping whiplash and many of the other indications of the enslavement of yesterday but the state of the Black race in a nation of affluence and alleged “justice” and “morality” remains essentially the same.

The fact that an African American was elected president has not fundamentally altered the conditions of Blacks, Brown, and Red people – all people of color. Why not? Because a nation of powerful white people, have politically opposed it… His Presidency threatened their perception of self and hubris. White males, in general, continue to view themselves as the center of the universe!

Franz Fanon, the African-Martinican/French psychiatrist, in his book “Black Skins White Masks” wrote:

There is a fact: white men consider

Themselves superior to Black men.

There is another fact: Black men

Want to prove to white men at all

Costs, the richness of their

Thoughts, the equal value of their


Marvin Gaye once sang “Change is gonna come.” Sadly, for the nation, “ it ain’t come yet.” This too is a fact! ... Perhaps the major domestic dilemma confronting facing contemporary America… there is an ever growing sentiment across the nation of “NO JUSTICE NO PEACE.”

From my perspective “white” America must “man-up” in the same manner that Pope Francis did when he gave his “mea culpas” for “crimes” committed by his Church against the people of Latin America. He humbly begged forgiveness and began on a mission to atone for the sins of his Church. So too must white America. She cannot continue to deny her prime culpability in the enslavement of a people and continue to function as if Africans -- still suffering from her initial actions -- swam to these shores, placed chains around their ankles and necks, changed their names, volunteered to work the fields and mines for free and gave white men permission to bed their women. Not on your cotton picking life!

I have, if you will, attempted to diagnose the root cause of what, if left pragmatically unattended, could be a contributing factor in the demise of America. Hyperbole? I think not! I do not believe that white America really fathoms the depth of anger, resentment and rage, harbored and kept in check by African Americans. If they did, they could not remain silent. This is not a nation of fools!

The poet Langston Hughes in his “Lenox Avenue Mural” asked the question:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up

Like a raisin in the Sun?

Or fester like a sore

And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over --

Like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags

Like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

The thought of an ensuing racial explosion in America is totally terrifying and unacceptable. However, to deny that possibility in today’s America is to be disingenuous. I speak not of winners or losers or its rationality. In every war there are “winners and losers.” This would just be another. The operative word is “possibility.” There is no reasonable manner in which to negate the continued existence of Black rage. I was taught that an “exploding” volcano is much more devastating and destructive than an “erupting” one. The “differed dream” is also present.

Recently, when police officers in Baltimore who were acquitted of all charges in the death of Freddy Gray, Charles M. Blow, an op-ed columnist for the New York Times wrote that on learning of the verdict he was “incandescent with rage.” So too was I! Fortunately for me, and I believe also for Mr. Blow, we did not explode; instead our tablets and voices became our weapons of choice. At my age—82, I cannot and would not shoulder an AR-50. Even if I could, I would not!

Psychiatrists Drs. William H. Grier and Price M. Cobbs in their seminal work “Black Rage” published in 1968 – after the Black revolt of the era —explained the existing rage the wrote:

Black people continue to revolt against laws and customs that are deadly and humiliating. The voice of Black America has been heard in the explosions of Watts, Newark, and Detroit. Aggression leap from wounds inflicted and ambitions spiked. It grows out of oppression and capricious cruelty… People bear all they can and, if required, bear even more. But if they are Black, in present-day America, they have been asked to shoulder too much. They have had all they can stand. They will be harried no more. Turning from their tormentors, they are filled with rage.”

Were the shooting of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, for example, an overt expression of that rage? Were the alleged perpetrators subconsciously pursuing Claude Mckay’s , the Jamaican poet’s, exhortation :

If we must die – let it not be like hogs

Hunted and penned to an inglorious


While round us bark the mad and

Hungry dogs

Making their mock at our accursed


Oh Kinsmen we must meet the

Common foe

Though far outnumbered let us show

Us brave …

Like men we will face the murderous

Cowardly pack,

Pressed to the wall, dying, but

Fighting back?

Did the shooters have more than they could stand? Only they and God really know!

Rightfully incensed “White people” and folks like me—filled with rage but abhorring violence and revenge-- will, in unison, decry and deplore the assassination of the officers but, alas, for different reasons. White people and the officers are members of the priviliged class and as such the officers who perished – innocent as they were--, were defending the status quo which, ironically, included the lives of the oppressed class. They were mourned by white people for paying the supreme price for doing what was expected of them. Therein lies the insanity of the nation’s continued trekking on the road of racism, avarice and greed.

Black folks like myself also mourn the loss of the officers --they were fellow human beings --as we mourn the loss of the unarmed Africans who have died at the hands of their “protectors”. I am cognizant however, that white people, in generality, do not share my pain. Instead we hear from them questions as to the motivations of the unarmed victims. The collective “innocence” of “white people” somehow always seems to surface.

Once again it is Baldwin who makes the critical diagnosis. He writes:

White people, cannot, in generality,

be taken as models as how to live.

Rather, the white man himself, is in

some need of new standards which

will release him from his confusion

and place him, once again, in fruitful

communion with his own being.”

Lamentable, as we listen to the trumpets of Donald J. Trump and his Legion of “trumpeters” who boisterously proclaim that the country is divided but offer no healing balm or comforting salve… only more toxins and venom, their seems to be little hope of moving forward unscathingly. Sadly, “We”, as a nation -- to paraphrase the poet Robert Frost in speaking of himself-- still “have miles to go before we sleep”-- especially in a bed of justice and peace . That too is another uncomfortable truism, which I believe, we face. Pessimism? Perhaps! I want to be wrong! I ask however, that you listen to the cacophony of the “Trumpeters” and the persistent silence of the lambs.

I have learned to abhor violence in all of its forms whether it be by individuals or by the State. Where once, as a young man, I subscribed to the notion that “Power comes from the barrel of a gun” and to the exigencies of wars of “National Liberation” and walked with the “Little Red Book” in my back pocket; age has endowed me with a modicum of wisdom. I am now committed to the philosophy of non-violence as the ultimate instrument for social, political and economic transformation. Violence begets violence. It constitutes an unending, anti-human, vicious cycle. Humanity must condemn violence in all its forms… including the death penalty and all wars.

The transformation I envision will only occur when those who believe in Justice and Peace together demand it. President Obama recently said “ Change happens typically not because somebody on high decides it is going to happen, but rather at the grassroots level when enough people come together that the force the system to change. “ Obama echoed Frederick Douglass who told us that “Power concedes nothing without a demand… it never has and it never will.” Demands need not be violent. Ask Ghandi. Ask Dr. King. Violence dehumanizes the perpetrators and the victim.

As a corollary to the above, In my view, it is hypocritical for religious institutions to support a violation of their commandments under the guise of praying for the soul and giving comfort to the soon to be executed then watching as he breaths his or her last! They too are conscious participants in an act of violence. Similarly, It is equally hypocritical and morally indefensible – my view—for a Justice of the U.S, Supreme Court -- the nation’s highest arbiter of Justice for “ALL” its people -- to publically describe as “dumb” an action which , constitutionally, is neither prohibited or illegal simply because the chosen method of protestation is percieved as an insult to the sensibilities of SOME members of the nation; especially by the perpetrators of the act being protested.

It is much more insulting for me that a member of an ethnic group that suffered so much would decry peaceful and legitimate protestations in defense of a flag or a anthem. For me, it is always, “people before things”.

The position expressed by the jurist describes the profundity of the fault lines in the nation. It is more so when one considers the nature of the grievance and it’s seemingly interminable lifespan.

Colin Kaepernick’s--the lighting rod for the Justices’ vitriolic commentary-- was quoted in the NY Times responding to the criticism of his as “DUMB”. Hopefully It will compel a revisiting by the judge of her comments. He said:

As I was reading different articles, I came across one that was talking about scientific discussion of pathology and how white critique on Black protests has always been used to try to delegitimize it by calling it “idiotic, dumb, moronic or stupid,” things of that nature hoping to sidestep the real issue.”

(At the time of this writing the Judge had not yet apologized for her comments. Since then she has by stating:

Barely aware of the incident or its

purpose, my comments were

inappropriately dismissive an harsh.

I should have declined to respond.”

Given my commitment to the sanctity of life, and my fear and repulsion of the possibility that the rising tide of Blacks rage long repressed within the souls of Black folks, and the increasing level of white fear. may one day, in the not too distant future, God forbid, break the dam that has repressed both rage and fear. Conscious of this dire possibility I believe, without being “messianic”, that it is my moral responsibility to offer a non-violent potentially preventative curative prescription… if that is at all still possible. Why the question? Because I am not certain if the bulls are still in their stalls.

In the opening paragraphs of his historic speech deploring the war in Vietnam in which he voiced his opposition of it, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded those congregated at the hallowed halls of Riverside church of the opening statement in the letter of invitation sent by the “Concerned Clergy and Laity”. “There comes a time when silence is betrayal…” On that night -- April 4th 1967-- Dr. King refused to be silent any longer. To do so would be betrayal!

Trembling with emotion he proceeded to articulate to the world within and beyond that “ magnificent house of worship” the reason for his presence at the pulpit. I paraphrase: “it is a time to break silence for all those who believe that “the moral arc of the universe is tilted towards justice”. He broke his silence . Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. practiced what he preached. He “would study war no more!” White America should study racism and Injustice no more.

I have no personal illusions of who I am, real or imagined, nor do I remotely pretend to have either the spiritual, moral, or physical attributes of Dr. King. Men and women like he are few. They are called by the Creator to iluminate our lives with universal existential truths. I have not been so chosen! Nonetheless, given the crisis I foresee, feel and sense for “it’s all in the air” - trepidatingly - I hasten to call upon “white America” to break it’s historical silence; to raise, in a harmonious chorus of concerned human beings its collective voice in unison against the Anti-black, anti-poor bigotry, and the injustices, the avarice, and the greed which has Impregnated and continues to permeate the entire fabric of the nation. Some may query “Why white people and not “BLACK folks too?” My answer is straight forward. “White people” have been the enslavers; the possesors of the power and control of the nation. THEY ARE THE ONES WHO DETERMINE THE ULTIMATE DIRECTION OF AMERICA.

In my view, for white people today to repeat to Black America, what LBJ said to those who were protesting the war in Vietnam, would be tantamount to a non committment to the radical exorcism that we so desperately need. It would be another attempt at denying responsibility as was president Johnson’s. His was, in my view, a ruse to include the “Anti-war and the “Freedom Now” demonstrators in a dialogue with his administration aimed at defusing the existing anger that consumed the nation.

LBJ quoted the prophet Isiah by reading ”Come let us reason together… though your sins be red as scarlett … they shall be white as snow …”

Astutely, he did not read the entire lesson. It reads: “ ... if you are willing and obedient you will eat the good things of the land… but if you resist and rebel you will be devoured by the sword” (Isiah 1:18 – 20). Then, as today, the key required ingredients are “obedience” and “non rebellion or resistance. Shades of Trump’s center piece in race relations … LAW AND ORDER. Whose “law?” Whose “order?”

It is my contention that The responsibility of morally fumigating of America rests with folks. Black folks must see that they do or we will ALL perish.

There is a decisive juncture in a nations quest for greatness which, if not taken, propels that nation into an abyss of darkness and self destruction. In my view this is that moment. White America must choose NOW!

As I see it, there is not much light at the head of the tunel.

That segment of white America -- those who truly adhere to the sacred principles of Justce, of Peace, of Equality, of Love of humankind, and who, in my judgment, are morally obligated to save the nation from itself must now, without any equivocation, step front and center and break their silence as Dr. King did. In unison, they must raise their voices bellowing for the world to hear… “Racism and Injustice in All of its forms is UNAMERICAN and MUST AND WILL BE ERADICATED … SO HELP US GOD!

Words alone however; will not suffice! Their MUST be CONSCIOUS ACTION FOR CHANGE…. WHITE AMERICA MUST STAND IN SOLIDARITY WITH “BLACK People ” that is, if they sincerely believe that “ALL” lives matter. One symbolic way of so doing could be that on Sunday, November 6th ---the day before Black Solidarity Day (November 7th) every church sermon state as its major theme That WHITE America stands in Solidarity with BLACK America ; Church bells, at an agreed upon time, nationally, should ring or chime announcing the beginning of the collective battle to end racism ; to make the national anthem, the flag, and the Constitution be what they ought to be.

Specifically, white people must pressure the nation to follow the example of Georgetown University’s compensatory action towards its sold slaves and to accept the United Nations recommendation on REPARATIONS. This would be an unequivocal indication of its committment to a new America. The continued use of the difficult question of how reparations should be provided and administered—a maneuver to disregard the recommendation -- will not suffice. Human beings were able to reach the moon and return ergo human beings can device a pragmatic and viable solution to the existing difficulty.

White America must say to the world through its deeds that there will be heretofore….but ONE America. America must confront the face it sees in the mirror!

Naive? Perhaps! Impossible? I think not. Considering the alternative, I am hopeful that “white” America gives it a try! Guest Commentator, Dr. Carlos E. Russell, PhD is Professor Emeritus C.U.N.Y. - Brooklyn College. In the sixties, he served as an Associate Editor of the Liberator magazine. As such, he was one of the first to interview Malcolm X after he left the Nation. He is best remembered as the founder of Black Solidarity Day in New York in 1969 and as the Chair of the Black Caucus of the Conference on New Politics in 1967. In addition, he was a consultant to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the planning for the Poor Peoples March. Excerpts of his participation can be seen in Citizen King and Eyes on the Prize (PBS Mini Series Boxed Set). Born in the Republic of Panama, he has served as that country’s representative to the U.N and the O.A.S. with the rank of Ambassador. He has also served as the nightly host of “Thinking it Through” a talk show that was aired on WLIB in New York. He is a playwright and poet as well. Contact Dr.Russell.




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