...HOLIER THAN THOU
I just completed an article about the Scottish independence moment. As I wrote the article, it dawned on me that the British royalty was by its very nature racist. Wiki's definition of racism is "generally understood as either belief that different racial groups are characterized by intrinsic characteristics or abilities and that some such groups are therefore naturally superior to others, or as practices that discriminate against members of particular racial groups, for example by perpetuating unequal access to resources between groups." The Oxford English Dictionary says that racism is the "belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races."
In America, we define racism as based upon skin color. However, this type of racism is relatively new in the 250k years of human history. Humans have discriminated over many millennia based on other things than merely skin color. We base racism upon nearly everything such as religion, captivity as a result of war, poverty, national/ethnic origins, etc.
I went to the University of Edinburgh, Scotland for a year after grad school here in the States. I never read anything about British royal racism while at Edinburgh. However, recently, I came across a column by Peter Tatchell of the British paper, The Guardian. He wrote his article on January 19, 2009, the day before Barack Obama's inauguration.
Tatchell commented on our election of the first black as president. I have some very strong and negative feelings about using the adjective black or African-American as a description of Obama, because we perpetuate racism by that very process. At one level, Obama is as white as he is black? So why call him black? If one has to label a person racially, for what reason I don't know, he is the first biracial president in US history.
At a deeper level and immensely more important level, all of our presidents can trace their family trees back to central Africa. Actually, all of the people of the world are descendents of those early humans who lived in what we call today Kenya. If we wish to label people, we are all Africans or descendents of Africans over our human history. There are in reality no whites, Hispanics, Asians, etc. We are all from Africa. Humans started their exit out of Africa ca. 60,000 years ago. Anthropologist can trace all humans back to several women who lived in Africa and where some of their descendents went out of Africa by tracing their mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA).
Now, having dealt with these two levels of racism, let us go back to Peter Tatchell's article. He clearly sees racism in the royal monarchy of Britain. He wrote: "The system of monarchy is, by default, racist…Whichever way the defenders of royalty try to spin it, there is no escaping the fact that non-white people are excluded from holding the title of British head of state."
While I understand and accept his insight, the issue of white as opposed to other races is a mute point, since we are all descendents of Africans. There is no white race, black race, Asian race, etc. The lightening of some skin color is not related to being better than another. The color of skin has to do with where on the earth you and your predecessors lived in relation to the angle of the sun to the part of the earth where you lived. If you lived a couple thousand miles north the equator, you will have evolved over many millennia to have lighter skin. Levels of melanin will determine your skin color. If you have a lot of direct sun light, your levels of melanin will be higher, and the further you are away from the direct sun light the lighter will be your skin color due to your body's need for vitamin D.
The issue of racism for me is not based upon the mistaken notion about our different races. It is based upon one group within a country viewing themselves as inherently better than the others via birth. In the States, many believed and some still do that being white means that they are superior to blacks.
Some in the UK believe erroneously that they are superior to others. This isn't based on skin color but based upon being born superior; they were born into royalty as opposed to all the rest who were born as mere commoners. And like skin color racism, it often determines the way people are treated both positively and negatively. Commoners cannot become a king or queen. Commoners are lesser people than the way royalty sees themselves.
While I see either the US or the UK forms of racism as absolutely inexcusable and ridiculous, what rattles me is that the disenfranchised groups in both countries often buy into their country's form of racism or merely go along with it. It is just the way things are, and it is accepted. In the States, especially prior to the Civil War, many blacks bought into white racism, which said that they were inferior to whites.
Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1851 and was published the next year. It was story of Southern slavery. She meet Lincoln in 1862 in Washington at which time he was reported to have said, "So you're the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war!" What Lincoln said to her precisely we will never know. However, we know that her character, Uncle Tom, who was good person who wouldn't betray two other slaves who wanted to escape slavery, which resulted in him being beaten to death. Nevertheless, the term Uncle Tom has become of divisive epithet for blacks who bought into notion of white superiority.
In South Africa, Steve Biko bought against apartheid and white oppression. He believed that blacks who bought into the apartheid assumption were enslaving themselves. "The most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed." It doesn't matter whether we are talking about slavery, segregation, or apartheid in America, South Africa, or anywhere else. The enslaving of the minds of one group by another group is still racism. It is a passive form of racism and not as obvious as outright slavery. Nevertheless, if you can convince one group that they aren't as good or as royal as you are, then you have enslaved that group without obvious chains. However, mental chains are even more enslaving. If someone accepts second-class status, they enslave themselves.
Queen Elizabeth said during her diamond jubilee, "I hope that the memories of this year's happy events will continue to brighten our lives for many years to come. I will continue to treasure and draw inspiration from the countless kindnesses shown to me in this country and throughout the Commonwealth.'' She has reinforced her British racism by thanking the commoners for their kindnesses shown to her.
Am I the only person that sees an intellectual disconnect between reason and royalty? The British monarchy has successfully made all commoners of what remains of the British Empire into an English version of a large group of Uncle Toms. The British royalty will open hospitals, schools, and other activities with a very small amount of money and in the process keep their vast fortune and wealth for themselves—because God made them better than the rest and much richer. And the rest buy into that notion. Biko, although not royalty, understood how the minds of millions are enslaved.
Scotland will have a choice in about a year and a half to decide whether to remain a part of the UK with very limited control of their country or to become free again. Time will tell, but Sean Connery and I want to haste ye back to Scotland…to the free land of Scotland.
PS If the reader wishes to broaden his or her understanding of racism and to avoid becoming Uncle Toms, that person needs to see the parallel between racism and sexism. Men have put women into a second-class category and enslaved them for the past 250k years of human history. We have done so within governments, society, workplace, and religions. That is tragic. However, what is more tragic is that women have bought into it. I don't see any difference between racism and sexism.