In an organizational leadership class, our instructor brought up cultures within the organization. She was therefore forced to discuss racial differences. The tier within the provided curriculum has the whites at the top, the mixed or passing (for white) in the middle tier and the blacks, Hispanics and natives Americans, amongst others at the bottom. In exactly 5 seconds, she had changed the entire mood of the class. Just by showing that one slide.
Then began the tense arguments that roughly said:
The white males: It's all bullshit. The whites are not on top of anyone. Power is mixed and evenly distributed.
The instructor: (Mixed race). In what sense? Think about who's running corporations, who's the leader of this nation...
Another white male: The governor of California is not white.
Instructor: Think about these things, Who has the ultimate purchasing power, the 6 figure jobs, in what ratios. That's the power. So who has the power?
Black female: Oh, we know!
all the above interjected with terse silences.
Finally, one black male, very senior position in a government establishment.
Black male: I notice that when we get to these topics, the white people get defensive and stop talking about it. We're all in graduate school, we should be able to discuss this, whether we agree or not.
White male: I would be fired for discrimination, My company does not allow this...
instructor: It's not about you. It's the general society.
This argument goes back and forth and involves several people.
I'm observing, literally from the farthest point of a V shaped class. And I watch them all start to bleed out. Silence and pain. Tangible. I'm still reeling in shock at how terribly the deeds from years past can haunt people in the present day. I knew but had never had a chance to feel, to really experience the tension that ensues in these instances.
It made me wonder about Rwanda 20 years from today. The hutus and Tutsis in the same classes. And if there was a way to intercept that pain and make it better and easier for the incoming generations to deal with the genocide after effects.
Because honestly, everyone in that class is a victim of slavery. The whites are descendants of the slave drivers and that's all most of them have ever done wrong to a black person. While the blacks are still angry about being brought up in a society that told them they were second class when it mattered the most in their growth years. Only I, and I suspect one other African native in that class were outsiders to that issue. We saw and understood what was intended by the author.
It's absolutely strange that a white man would argue about who has power in America when put in tiers as it was presented to us. I mean seriously, don't antagonize the black by pretending they too have the power in places where it matters.
But as you listen to the white, especially males, you realize they are protecting themselves. The white males is always a villain in these debates. Even if he's poor and struggling like the rest of the folk, he's still a white male. And that's the dorminant position. What's a man who has never experienced power to any significant degree, nor wealth for that matter, supposed to feel when injected in as a dorminant and perhaps oppressive party in a pie chart? What do you mean when you say to him the white male has power? Unless you're suggesting that he's not a white male he doesn't get what the F you're talking about. Or does he?
And the less he understands, the more the black man gets pissed.
The black man just needs this white male to accept that positions of power are held by people of white color, mostly males.
Are we all just walking around with curtains on our eyelids? Just protecting ourselves from the perceptions or accepted norms of society. So much that we cannot see the bare naked truth? To the point where we have become stumbling blocks? Are we so victimized by our own societies that we have become defensive of our positions and become blind to our realities?
So I thought about the general "I hate Kikuyus" sentiments that are all over Kenya. And tried to equate them to this. And came up with an apples to oranges situation. The similarities only lie in cultural differences. Or do they? Didn't the Kikuyus get better education sooner because the white man settled in and around Kikuyu neighborhoods? Didn't they therefore get better opportunities sooner? Did this lead them to become entrepreneurs when the country was just growing, giving them a chance to prosper? Even if the answer to all these questions is yes, aren't the differences obvious. In that Kikuyus did not oppress the other communities. They just benefited from geographical locations and got better opportunities. Including that they have fertile lands, and this is Africa, agriculture is the order of the day. At the end of the day, isn't the enemy the colonialist in this case? Basically, can I equate this to the racism debate I experienced without flawing logic and meaning? I personally don't think so. Still there was a lot to be learnt from it all.