Thursday, 12 November 2009

Black Americans should "get over it" ?

From time to time we are in semi-awe as we listen to a friend or a public speaker, whose family heritage reaches back to the settlement of Jamestown, or to the Mayflower, or perhaps to the Revolutionary War and the establishment of these United States. We are impressed with their lineage.

Or maybe we are “wowed” as we listen to an Irish/Polish/Italian American whose immigrant ancestors faced daunting hardship and poverty in the “old countries” and came to these United States only to face yet more hardship and anti-immigrant discrimination.

We are spellbound as we hear the tales of the Italian Great Grandmother who was widowed at a young age, yet managed to “put three kids through College”; or of the Irish-American ancestor who found that many jobs or apartments were off limits (“Irish may not apply”) yet still managed to “make it”. We think “what amazing stories!”

We rightly rejoice in the tales of the men who grew up in rural poverty during the 1930’s Great Depression, went off to fight in Europe or the Pacific leaving wives to work in war time heavy industry, and returned to get a College degree via the G.I. Bill.

These are all heritages, lineages, histories which we honour and celebrate.

But when an African-American tells tales of her family heritage of slavery, “Jim Crow” laws, lynching, segregation, discrimination, and the fight for full civil rights we respond: “That’s all in the past, get over  it”.

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