• Carmen Milligan

Wednesday Word: diaspora (and a RANT alert)

diaspora

[dīˈaspərə]

NOUN

  1. the dispersion of the Jews beyond Israel. synonyms: relocation · resettling · population movement · transhumance · moving · moving abroad · emigration · expatriation · posting · exodus · departure · hegira · defection · trek · Völkerwanderung

  • Jews living outside Israel.

  • the dispersion of any people from their original homeland. "the diaspora of boat people from Asia"

  • the people so dispersed.

This definition is specific to the Jewish people, however, I have seen it more and more when talking about African Americans. February is Black History Month, and there is a definite need for more education about why America is so racially divided.

First of all, no black person alive today was a slave. No living person has experienced slavery. Or, have they? Aren't many currently living as slaves? The working poor, making too much to qualify for welfare, but not enough to live. Going to school in woefully underfunded public schools. Unable to afford college or trade school. No access to affordable healthcare, and certainly no preventive care. So, there are babies that are born into this cycle of first-world-slavery and it just continues.


No black person alive today has been forced to wear shackles, subjected to whippings and lynching. Or, are they? Aren't handcuffs shackles? Would I have been thrown on the ground with a policeman's knee on my neck if I tried to use a counterfeit $20? Would I have been dragged out of my car if I, at 7 months pregnant, was sitting in my car in the corner of a parking lot, eating an ice cream cone?


Slavery is alive and well, and just because it is more prevalent in black American communities, white people like to think that it's because they themselves can't rise out of the impoverished circumstances in which they find themselves. Yes, some do make it out. A very small percentage rise from the ashes left of our white privilege fires. Don't forget who built the south, as you fight for the right to fly the confederate flag because it's part of your history. Yes, it's part of your history because you were on the right side of it. It's part of black history, too. But they were on the other side of it. The working side. The sacrificing side. The side that sees it now and feels the slight tug of a rope, the sting of water cannons, and the nips of police dogs.


Let us all remember this, white people: None of us, save the Native American, are FROM here. And that's why they are called "NATIVE" Americans. Because they were here first. Then white people became what we always seem to become: restless and discontent with what we have, wanting more. So, our ancestors made their way to the Americas and did another thing we always seem to do: kill indigenous peoples to claim what was theirs as our own.


When Columbus landed the first time, he found the Tainos people. Within fifty years, the Tainos had ceased to exist as a distinct race of people. A few Taino words survive today in Spanish and even in English, including hammock, canoe, hurricane, savannah, barbecue, and cannibal. I guess our ancestors figured that it was the least we could do, to keep some of their language.


And so it still goes. Our ancestors trapped, enslaved, transported, and forced into backbreaking work men from another country. A country in which they were satisfied, free, and more than likely living at peace. White Europeans came here to conquer, overtake, and steal. In turn, they initiated a gross injustice in order to build the lives for themselves they would hand down to generations of European Americans: the diaspora of Africans.


No one named Rockefeller actually worked an oil rig. No one related to Andrew Carnegie actually forged steel. And no Vanderbilt ever laid a rail. Nope, we, privileged whites, always had indentured servants for that.


And what about the native people? The ones who were here when "we" got here? Oh, we slaughtered them. And now we celebrate the days to commemorate our besting of them: Columbus Day, when the European invasion began; and, Thanksgiving, when we got crafty and started giving the indigenous people small pox, so we didn't actually have to get our hands dirty.


And didn't we at least try to have some sort of peace? Of course! Once we had the land we wanted, we just told them, "You just move to the south, okay? Those hot and humid states are yours." BUT, then we found gold in them there lands. Plus, we figured out that the land they were on was better for certain crops that we wanted to plant. Yep. So President Andrew Jackson passed the Indian Removal Act. We needed that land for whites! The US Supreme Court told him not to move forward, but he was convinced of the need to "relocate" about 100,000 natives west of the Mississippi. Hence, the Trail of Tears. What did we do to Jackson? Put him on the $20 bill, of course!


And this is where I will try to wind down. The point is this: This is NOT "our" country. It's not "my" country. This is a land that was forcibly stripped from its rightful owners by people who were not invited, built up and made to prosper by others who were stolen from their lands, again, against their will, and forced into slavery. The next time you see minorities getting violent because they are not respected and treated like white people are treated, just know that is it only right, and waaaaay past time, for them to be PISSED.


And I am NOT saying that there are no white people who are in hopeless, impoverished, unequal situations. But I AM saying that history has borne out that there is an inherent deference to whites. Give a counterfeit $20 bill to a white man and one to a black man, and let's see what happens. Have a white man tell a white woman to leash her dog in Central Park, and have a black man do the same, and let's see what happens. Have an elderly Indian man walk in a neighborhood, and have an elderly white man walk the same sidewalk, and let's see what happens.

It's time for anger. I understand the anger, but I don't feel it. I understand the frustration, but I don't feel it. I understand the fear, but I don't feel it. Jane Elliot addressed an auditorium full of whites, and said this, "If you would like to be treated the same as black citizens are in today's society, please stand." No one stood. "That says very plainly that you know what's happening, you know you don't want it for you." Think on that. Think.


However, until we are ALL pissed about the lack of rights, respect, and true equality for ALL PEOPLE, nothing will change.


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