This isn’t autism related, but it is empathy related, and I just felt it needed saying. Thank you for reading.
Trigger warning: Racism, violence.
This has been rolling around in my head for a few days, and with the help of a friend to make sure I checked my privilege at the door, I put it down in writing. As a white person, I honestly have no real clue about the trauma of slavery and its ongoing impact on our American culture. But I like to think I have at least a sliver of empathy, so that’s how I’m approaching this issue. I’m probably grasping at straws thinking that those who need to think about this issue would read this, but what the heck – if only one person does, that’s the first domino to fall.
So some “students” at Texas A&M (who have a lot to learn apparently) harassed visiting students of color recently, shouting “go back to Africa” at them, among other things.
Let’s unpack that, shall we?
Picture, if you will, yourself, hanging out with your family and friends one day. Suddenly, an armed crowd comes upon you and kidnaps the young and healthy of your group. Maybe they leave you and the rest of your family/friends alive, maybe they don’t. Maybe they only injure some of you. Regardless, you’re unarmed, or underarmed, and you lose.
You lose your family, your children, your friends. They are kidnapped by armed strangers and taken away.
Now, put yourself in your child’s place. Maybe you survive the trip across the ocean where you were taken. Maybe not. Either way, it’s a shitty experience of starvation at the very least, and emotional/physical/psychological abuse that you can’t imagine on your worst day.
Now you arrive at your new “home”. You’re put to work. Hard, physical work. And training is beating. You have nothing of home. You are stripped of everything familiar. Your new owners don’t speak your language, and you’re not allowed to either. Work, eat, sleep. that’s it.
Now, it costs money to go get more slaves. Imagine how new ones are made. Do I need to go there for you? Write it out? I’ll use the word “breed”. You are “bred” to another slave – whether you want to or not, you don’t have a choice. And if you have a child, it’s not yours. Perhaps your owner likes to “sample the merchandise” – a “no” answer isn’t an option here, either.
So the next generation is born. And over and over and over it goes. Languages and culture are lost, mixed together, watered down. Family ties are erased, memories are destroyed.
And then one day, either through the law or social change, your great-great-grandchildren are freed – with no education, perhaps the clothes on their backs, no money, and a society that looks at them like they are less than nothing. Staying where they are, they will be treated like crap, may get killed or at the least beat up for looking at someone wrong. Even if they leave, they’ll probably run into that attitude elsewhere. Fighting for basic rights is a battle for a few more generations. And it still is a battle in some places, even a hundred years after “freedom” was achieved.
And then some jerk looks at your great-great-great-grandchild, ripped away from his/her family a few hundred years ago, and tells them to “go home”?
It’s truly embarrassing to be part of a culture that thinks this kind of crap is OK; that thinks the multi-generational trauma of slavery – for all of society – was magically disappeared when the Emancipation Proclamation was read and signed.
No, I didn’t own slaves, and my family didn’t either. But that doesn’t mean I can’t acknowledge the massive amount of wrong that was done, has been done, and continues to be done.
We white people don’t need to be “embarrassed” about our past. Shame leads to denial, and making excuses, and evasion. It changes nothing.
I’d rather be disgusted and try to figure out how to repair the damage past generations inflicted and endured.
Life is not a “zero sum game”. Making things better for others, empathizing with others, doesn’t mean you lose. It means you win.