Racism and the Fear of Sameness

As Black Americans celebrate Black History Month by reminding the rest of America that we have always been in this country and remain integral to its existence and its success, white Americans are being reminded that…Black Americans have always been in this country and remain integral to its existence and its success.

The sameness of the preceding sentence is purposeful to highlight that in America, the “sameness” of Black and white America is ubiquitous is small and large ways. The sameness is also what fuels white supremacy, white nationalism, and systemic racism.

Black and white people are the same. Despite statistical differences in every category white scientists study, the overriding conclusive fact is that Black and white people are the same in the same way that all humans are the same.

That is not to say that our cultures are the same, or our likes and dislikes, but rather that as humans there are no real differences between us.

And even if we move away from the scientific definitions and explanations of who we all are, Black and white Americans remain remarkably similar.

The sameness is integrated into our consumption of culture – the culture Black people drive from music, the arts, sports, comedy, dance, design, and clothing. And that culture is consumed by white people as much as it is by its Black creators.

Similarly, white culture is consumed by Black Americans all day every day at work, in public, in schools, through social and mass media, and of course through technology. And of course white culture is consumed by Black Americans in how we shop and what we buy, how we vote, what we protest, and all the way to where we eat and what we teach our kids.

While it may at first seem superficial to equate American’s sameness by citing movies, dance, clothing, or the structure of businesses and work, the obviousness of the sameness of our lives is what fuels the historical and continuing white nationalism rejection of the same.

Our sameness fuels white fear that is expressed in white supremacy and white nationalism.

White supremacy seeks to deny the sameness of white and Black and it works nonstop to ensure the sameness never takes hold, is never accepted, and is attacked through law, policy and, failing those, violence.

White supremacists have always told itself that white people are the highest achievement of evolution and by god. There can be no equal to whiteness or else whiteness isn’t special or unique to god or evolution.

The founding white fathers codified white supremacy into law and handed their descendants an inheritance fulls of lies that continue to permeate every facet of American society. What today’s white Americans have inherited in addition to the lie of white supremacy, are the tools and mechanisms to reinforce and continue to spread the lie, and the infrastructure to ensure that any attempted change or even challenge to the lie will be met with the world’s greatest bureaucracy, most violent law enforcement, and most angry white citizens.

When Black and white sameness is apparent, white supremacy shows up to beat it back and reset thinking, laws, neighborhoods, voting, hiring practices, police actions, and legal precedent.

From emancipation, reconstruction, Jim Crow, unions, serving in the military, and Civil Rights, to discrimination laws, Black Lives Matter protests, and the first Black President and Vice President, white supremacy is guaranteed to rear its ugly head when reminded that white and Black Americans are the same.

The most obvious violent actions of white supremacy fighting against accepting the sameness of Black and white Americans was shown January 6th when white insurrectionists tried to destroy American democracy, again, because Black voters exercised our right to vote and beat white candidates fair and square. Fair and square to everyone except those white candidates and their constituents who see any win by Black people as “cheating.”

But there are other white supremacist actions by white people who do not appear to be white supremacists but whose actions are just as violent to Black people in their application and outcome. Actions by the “good” white people who charge us high rent, prevent us from living where they live, won’t place grocery stores in our neighborhoods, won’t vote to fully fund our schools, who vote in “tough on crime” judges and prosecutors, who won’t hire us, who pay us less when they do hire us, and who often fire us first when the going gets tough.

The good whites are the teachers who demoralize us, suspend us, and harshly grade us. The professors who scorn us, the administrators who ignore us, and the doctors who fail to listen to us and treat us.

Systemic racism is cleaner and more palatable to the white masses because it does not seem violent, but it is aptly represented by the harrowing scenes of the white unhinged masses who stormed the United States Capitol because systemic racism allowed it to happen.

But while the fear of sameness fuels so much hate, anger, and violence, America has continued to merge its people in small and large ways. American citizens live, consume, spend, marry, raise kids and care for extended family, work and play, in much the same way.

We all care for our kids, we want safety and security, good paying jobs, and a functioning government. We laugh at and with each other, we pay to watch each other on streaming services, we buy each other’s music, and we share the same holidays and similar food – even when prepared and seasoned differently. See? That made you laugh, regardless of your race because you understand what that means.

We root for the same sports teams and athletes. I recall being at an Oakland Raider game and seeing tough looking Black, Mexican, White, Latino, Asian men, women, and children all partying and celebrating in the parking lot before the game. Sharing food, drinks, weed, and laughs.

As tough as any crowd could look and there was nothing but friendship, camaraderie, pictures, and fun. It was the same once inside the stadium and even to fans of the other team. There was hardcore profanity as the game ebbed and flowed, but the energy remained positive and friendly, the weed was being shared, and the diverse peoples continued enjoying themselves.

Later after the game, nothing had changed. There were high-fives, and celebratory hugs as the fans celebrated a home team victory. As I meandered through the crowd striking up conversations, I heard talk of work the next day. Machinists, lawyers, coders, bus drivers, professors, marketing folk, private business and, yes, weed sellers.. all discussing the game, life, work, family.

The scene plays out around the country every day and not only at sporting events. You can witness it at work or school, out shopping, standing in lines, or at big events (pre-covid).

I was at a high school football game and the crowd was California multiracial- Black, Hmong, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, white, Mexican, South and Central American, and more. There were typical teen actions like excessive hugging, picture taking and filming, and current pop lingo. And you know what else? Every kid of every race, was comfortably using the the N-word.

The adults showed discomfort on their faces but the kids – all 14-18 – paid none of us any attention.

I observed the camaraderie and the openness of language that caused me to just pause and observe. They were in their own world and comfortable with one another. This is not to say that what they were saying is okay- we know the danger, harm, and trauma the word represents – but it is to say that there will be changes as the sameness continues to grow and spread.

The sameness will one day permeate all of American society no matter what anyone tries to do to stop it. It will happen.

Oh, it will come with struggle and stress, and there may certainly be more insurrections and more internal struggles within government and the apparatus of American life.

It will come with violence and death.

But if we can make it to that unknown point in time, the sameness will eventually win the day.

We just have to make it to that day.

© 2021 by Myron J. Clifton. All Rights Reserved.

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