The IUSB Vision Weblog

The way to crush the middle class is to grind them between the millstones of taxation and inflation. – Vladimir Lenin

Hate: The Past That Refuses to Die

Posted by iusbvision on February 20, 2008

You would think that perhaps those to whom no one listens to any longer would simply get the message and just go away. Perhaps they would even die off so that the rest of us could move on without the weight of them slowing us down as a nation. 

Recently we found that it just isn’t going to work out that way. I speak of the racist and hateful legacy that America wants to forget, the legacy we are tired of hearing about: the hate mongers among us. These are the haters who recently set fire to a mosque in Tennessee. According to the Associated Press, the fire was set in a mosque in Columbia, Tennessee at nearly 5:00 a.m. 

When the fire was finally put under control, it became clear that this was no ordinary electrical or accidental fire that simply happens without notice. According to the president of the center, the graffiti included the words “white power” and “we run the world”.

While on the one hand the incident in Tennessee is easy to see as another holdover from the racist past, on quite another level it speaks to who we are as a nation, and what we must do to continue moving forward against the legacy of hate. For if we do nothing, we all suffer; not just people of color.

The white supremacy movement in America has a long and checkered history, especially here in Indiana. The modern Ku Klux Klan was actually reborn at the time of World War I, and became so powerful that by the early 1920s, it was essentially impossible to be elected to public office in the State of Indiana if you were not a member of the Klan. What changed all of that was a major scandal involving the Governor. Once the scandal broke, of course, within a few short years the Klan in Indiana had nearly ceased to exist.

They are now all but defunct with just a few local members, and even now, as a national movement, they only number at most a few thousand. And that’s being liberal; the fact of the matter is that the Klan and the white supremacy movement are essentially dead. They do still have rallies on occasion, and they do network extensively with other white supremacy groups, such as the Aryan Nations, White Aryan Resistance, etc, but white supremacy as a movement is basically a cultural enigma.

So why, pray tell, are they still around? Didn’t the loonies get the cultural memo? Well, yes they did; they just decided to ignore it, that’s all. And therein lies the problem with cultural movements that are so deeply rooted. They sometimes take on a different life of their own when they die out, staying around when everyone else has abandoned the movement.

We are talking about prejudice, after all, not just another bad idea. And prejudices are hard to break because of where they come from. All of us have a sense of ourselves and people who look like us and talk like us. Let’s face it: we all like being around others who think the way we do. So when we are around others who are not like us, we notice. They are the ‘other’ in sociological terms; they are not part of the group that we feel most comfortable with. In Social Psychology, we refer to it as our Social Identity: the identity of the group we belong to.

With white supremacy, of course, it is the ultimate identity group because race is so easily identifiable. Mix in a history of slavery and civil war with a given social identity and you have a mix that is not easily forgotten. People just don’t give in to popular notions so easily when something is so personal.

So where do we go from here with an issue that is so enduring? You probably guessed it. We move forward, we move beyond race, and we find ways to think of the ‘other’ as someone who is just like us. We move forward with ideas that don’t reference the old ideas that tear us apart along racial lines. We simply keep going. Sometimes we will make our mistakes, sometimes we will even become angry with others who are not part of our group, but we still keep going and becoming ever more vigilant against hate. Our children and grandchildren will figure it out better perhaps, but just keep moving. We owe it to them, and they will thank us for it.

Gerry Rough

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