This is a very difficult subject and I’m probably out of my league discussing, because I’m a member of white middle class by birth. But maybe, that is what makes me the most qualified. I have lived the entitlements heaped upon my demographic. Yes, I have struggled, but not in any way shape or form, as have people of color. Racism is the deep seated Elephant in the room when it comes to making America “great.” Certainly, my assessment may rub a lot of people the wrong way, but here goes: There is a vortex of hopelessness, left by a ubiquitous legacy of cultural apartheid, systematically perpetrated upon African Americans and other people of color, which has left far too many African Americans with deep resentments and a completely justifiable anger. These feelings of hopelessness have led to a hatred of work, a dissatisfaction from the capitalist system and outrage and animosity towards all other groups, particularly the white middleclass system. This animosity is the direct result of a culture that has been broken through centuries of slavery, oppression, and second class citizenship.
I must note that, against all odds, most people of color have responded with stoic bravery and rose from the ashes to become exemplary citizens, done great things, and rison from the ashes to become a positive force in the world. Their culture and history is deeply rooted and magnificent by every measure possible. I have profound admiration for those who have overcome great obstacles and made something out of themselves, despite where, in what conditions and to whom they were born. We all must to some degree or another either embrace or throw out the cultural cultural backgrounds into which we are born in order to understand our unique purpose and place on this Earth. That is why I have focused on the people of Haiti or African Americans who somehow have pulled themselves up, who have struggled nobly and risen above their plight. The Quench Project is an exploration of the many ways people or all cultures express desire and the myriad ways we find to quench them. Indeed, there are those in every cultural milieu who exhibit fierce individuality, an innate sense of strength of purpose, who possess a hard-earned sense of integrity and character, who transcend race and cultural makeup. This shows up as success, monetary and other, in the lives of those brave individuals who manage to pull themselves up, no matter what struggles they have faced.
But the unspoken tragedy is that too many people of color have fallen into the cracks of a white only society, without the same opportunities to pull themselves up, who have given into hatred, mistrust and fear of everything white. There is no question as to the source of this animosity. There is plenty to justify both responses to the generational oppression handed down to people of color, particularly African Americans, through the centuries. White middle class society would rather simply turn its head on the continued suffering of their fellow humans. These callous many, describe themselves as “color blind,” while pretending to be surprised and outraged by all the riots and unrest happening “over there.” The white middle class is as sheltered and insulated from the experience of black America as people of color are insulated from the opportunities the privileged white middleclass take for granted.
When we encounter “stupid,” “lazy” or “angry” people of color, we must first understand why they are the way they are. We must also recognize our own cultural bias when we make such ignorant assertions. To be sure, it is not a personal character flaw or somehow the result of the color of their skin. There is nothing innate in anyone that would make them fail or rebel. It is only and always as a result of the environment, culturally, in the family they are raised, the schools they attend, the opportunities they have or don’t have, that determines a person’s outlook on life. In the case of people of color, they must contend with a multigenerational cultural war of oppression that is being perpetuated today in the form of segregated, terrible schools, inadequate community resources, a lack of adequate child care, a for profit prison system, bounty hunters, voter restrictions, redlining, unfair congressional districting, police bias and brutality, and countless laws and policies still on the books and many still being written today, targeting African Americans. Even those I mention above, people of color who are born, seemingly with an innate sense of integrity and self worth. If asked, they will tell you what they had to overcome, impossible obstacles middle class Americans will never know existed. It’s not that entitled white kids don’t overcome obstacles to make it in the world. There simply aren’t as many deeply rooted, societal, systemic impediments for white kids that impoverished people of color face every day.
In every case, where anyone has succeeded, there was something or someone somewhere in their background who helped them to believe in themselves. No one makes it on their own in this life. White people I know often say, “I had problems too, but I picked myself up and succeeded anyway.” When I ask further, there usually is someone in their past who influenced their choices, who modeled success for them, to empower them to become the person they wanted to be. There were people who looked like them, who succeeded and paved the way for them. In a culture that has been decimated against, to be brought up in a culture of oppression, where all they hear and see are negative messages, there is little chance to succeed. Yes, it happens. But without someone to show the way, the odds are they will perpetuate what they know. That is why we need to fight for equality and equity. We need to elect more people of color, we need to vote for and support programs and policies that give more opportunities to people of color. Call it what you will, “reverse racism” or “affirmative action.” It doesn’t matter. We need to create a truly just, equal society, so everyone will have the opportunity to succeed. Until we do, the Elephant in the room that prevents our “more perfect union” will continue to eat away at the fabric of society, whether or not we acknowledge it is there.