With growing confusion and much deliberation about the overpowering messages regarding “racism” in recent publications of the AFN, I am compelled to summarize:
Racism: noun, “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; prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed at someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior” (Oxford Dictionary, 2012); and alive and well in our own community.
The response that Neal Lester, Jeremy Brown-Gillett, Matthew Whitaker, and Rashaad Thomas directed to Linda Turley-Hansen was clearly defensive but necessary. Clearly her racist summary of all African-American shortcomings was very detailed and often inaccurate. For a full review of vital statistics, see Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2012 and Arizona Department of Health Services 2012. If you look at statistics regarding “unwed mothers” and resulting hardship for society, one must focus on the most important variable: SES (socio-economic status) and geographic location. Out of wedlock childbirth or race, for that matter, do not predicit “problem children” or criminal behavior. In fact, as a psychologist I have provided adoption agencies with evaluations, so single men or women can adopt a child; studies of children raised by one parent show that such children turn out just as capable as children of two-parent households; furthermore, I have seen my share of children out of two-parent households who present serious mental health issues. Minorities are continuously in need to defend their position, status and opinion because they have not reached “equal status” with the majority. That becomes even more obvious upon reading some of the recent responses.
As recent as a few decades ago, African-Americans had to use different rest rooms and water fountains, children had to attend separate schools. Just looking at a white woman was considered a crime and punished accordingly. Society is in its adolescent stage of “equal opportunity,” regardless of race; we must try much harder and stop judging by skin color. As my son remarks: “Humans are the only species or animal that discriminate based on skin color.” If there is such a thing as “white guilt” it should focus more on acceptance, stop blaming African-American heritage and remember how many cultures in Africa were destroyed when thousands of men, women and children were abducted from their families long ago, against their will, to be treated in the most sadistic ways imaginable.
The healing has begun and for the most part America’s sad history about slavery is forgiven but not forgotten; we have a long way to go, why can’t we begin right now and stop blaming minorities for society’s shortcomings, essentially our own.
• Dr. Astrid Heathcote is a longtime resident of Ahwatukee, mother of three, and psychologist in private practice.