Sunday, March 23, 2008

Our Nation in Black & Wright

Selective perception is the idea that not all people see and interpret an environmental stimuli or act of communication in the same way. What a person sees and how he or she interprets it is based on his or her own individual beliefs and life experiences. Because no two people are exactly alike, it can never be taken for granted that any two people will perceive something in exactly the same way. The assertion that individual’s perceptions are based on their personal experiences is reinforced by standpoint theories. Standpoint theories are based on the idea that the world looks different based on your social standing. These vantage or standpoints are the result of a person’s field experiences as defined by social group membership. Interracial communication scholars suggest people often see life drastically different based on the social standing of their racial or ethnic group membership and that different racial standpoints potentially generate contrasting perceptions of reality and reasoning. Further, they suggest that standpoints affect how people communicate as well as perceive the communication of others and understanding of differing racial standpoints could enhance interracial communication consequently improve race relations dialogue in the United States.

Since the arrival of the first person of African descent to the North American continent in the late 1500’s to the institution of slavery, to Jim Crow laws, to the Civil Rights Movement to the Los Angeles, California riots of 1992 to the riots in Cincinnati, Ohio in 2001, people of African descent and those of European have traditionally had a tumultuous and very unique history living with each other. Because of their vastly different histories it is no wonder they often share different vantage points.

Throughout the history of the United States African Americans have developed views on domestic and foreign policy that have been in contrast to the mainstream. Among the policy issues that have generated differing standpoints are the United States government’s role in military action abroad and their reasoning to initiate or support such actions, particularly on nations where the majority of the population is people of color.

Because different standpoints have often been taken by African Americans on issues foreign policy issues involving military involvement questions concerning the loyalty and patriotism of African Americans have risen in past. Some have argued African Americans are sometimes not patriotic because they don’t support United States military action. Is this the case?

In 1919 following the first World War, W.E.B. Du Bois wrote in The Crisis:

“By the God of Heaven, we are cowards and jackasses if now that the war is over, we do not marshal every ounce …to fight a… more unbending battle against the forces of hell in our land.”

After returning from World War I racial discrimination still blatantly existed through out America and the continuance of the practice of lynching experienced a dramatic increase.

During World War II many African Americans adopted the concept of the “double V”. The “double V” concept was that the war must end with two victories, both abroad and at home. With not enough progress in racial justice by the close of World War II and immediately following, the window by which African Americans viewed domestic and foreign policy as they relate to each other had been built and would be set precedent for future United States military involvement.

During the 1967 antiwar march in Central Park many Blacks carried signs that said “NO VIETNAMESE EVER CALLED ME NIGGER.”

In 2001, Cornel West shared with an audience that African Americans had been victims of “institutional forms of terrorism” for many years before September 11 and eluded that the compensation given to victims of the families of the September 11 tragedies resembled reparations and African Americans still haven’t received any from more than 200 years of slavery.

Surely the dialogue on race and its implications in the United States has a long way to go. While I may not agree with everything he said, however in some instances, Jeremiah may have been right.