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Polarize = Paralyze


I once asked a black friend what he thought
was the most famous incident of slavery in history.
He immediately replied ‘the blacks in the civil war

I said “ what about the story of Moses in the

My friend’s eyes lit with wonder, and a little
embarrassment. ‘Oh, yeah !’ he blurted out.
‘You’re right. I never thought about it that way.’

What followed was a fascinating hour-long
discussion of racism through the ages. We began
searching for examples to cite. With no formal
historical training, just two guys trying to remember
our elementary and high school educations, (and
every historical book or movie we could remember)
we were able to find at least one incident of slavery
or racism by every race and on every continent.
Try it yourself. We’ve all been exposed to this same
information, as my friend and I proved. How you choose
to perceive the information- that’s the key.

The Hebrews are a textbook case for the
examination of racism and slavery through history.
We start with a nomadic race in a desert
environment. Right away, we have established some
basic necessities for this culture. They must be
particularly good at farming, weaving and animal
husbandry, being limited in themselves.They must
be very frugal about all of their goods and
properties. Finally, they must be skilled traders as
well. All these skills are needed to survive in the
desert. Regardless of race, these are prime reasons
for a conquering nation to enslave their victims.
Many societies have enslaved other communities of
their own race for these reasons. Europeans, the
Mayan, even Africans enslaved those they defeated
in battle, reaping the benefits of any skills or wealth
they could take.

Race, however, offers a much more attractive
package to the invading force. It’s much easier to
sell the population and the soldiers on slavery or
abuse if you have an obvious difference in the
appearance of your enemy. This variance can be
portrayed as inferiority, reducing the fear of
soldiers’ empathy for the enemy, or the publics’
reluctance to back the war. The skills and
knowledge of the ‘enemy’ can be portrayed as
threatening to the wealth and well-being of the
community. Now, you have righteous indignation on
the attackers’ side.

Ever wonder how Hitler was able to convince an
entire population to hate one segment of itself ? To
convince scientists and soldiers alike to carry out
‘the final solution’?

The ‘Aryan Race’ vs. the ‘Chosen People’.

Hitler used the bible as a reference tool. It told
him everything about the Jews that he needed to
know to turn public sentiment against them. He
desperately needed a catalyst to complete his vision
of racial purity and military domination. The Jews
were an easy target. All those desert-born skills and
customs inherent in Hebrew tradition and history
were now presented as a threat to the German
economy. The racial issue made the task of vilifying
the Jews easier. The rest is history. But, what did we
learn ?

So far, it seems, very little. We still don’t
regard racism as a symptom of ignorance and fear.
It is the crime itself now. It is actionable and
punishable and not getting better in any way
whatsoever. All of everybody's’ rights are now at
risk to charges of racism. No issue is safe from
being swayed by racism. Murder, sexual abuse,
political endeavors, government programs, media,
music, the arts, theater- everything is affected by

One example of how racism affects daily life is
the notorious “N-word.”

I assume you all know what I mean. I am
white, so saying or printing the ‘n-word’ in public is
a legally actionable case of libel against blacks, and
I can be sued by any offended black person. Classic
books like ‘Huck Finn’ can’t be assigned reading.
Rap lyrics, black-oriented publications and films,
even black people themselves use this term with
impunity, but it is crime against their civil rights for
me to say it. Yet, anyone can say ‘honky’ or
‘redneck’ to anyone anytime. The terms are equally
derogatory to me, and equally insignificant. They
only wield the intent of the deliverer- they have no
weight of their own. I simply choose to perceive them
all to mean ‘bigot’, and that is the term I prefer

Language is the vehicle for public persuasion,
and racism can be gas in the tank. It fuels the drive
to control society, but it is only an aspect of the
problem. The big problem will always be the control
of populations by selfish interests. Racism will
always be a tool for those who seek control. “Divide
and conquer” is still seen as the most effective
political strategy by many. Motives will always, I
fear, include that dark side- seeking to use
destruction as a tool. Those races conquered by
others inevitably hate their oppressors for the same
racial reasons, so the cycle is continued. The power
structure remains unchanged, so long as either side
sees only the differences between them.

For those who seek to control others, polarize =

For the rest of us, POLARIZE = PARALYZE.

So, what can we do about it ? Well, for starters,
why don’t we take another look at the Declaration
of Independence. We’ve had over 200 years to get
used to it, to think about it, to interpret it, discuss
it, even fight and die for it. Do we all agree on what
it means, though? It says, as we all know, all men
are created equal. Well, it’s true, our ancestors still
had a lot to learn about equality, but even though
they didn’t quite get it, the words are still the same.
We can choose not to see it their way. We can
choose, instead, the biblical or archaeological use of
‘men’ -to mean all human life.

Profound statements are bigger than the writer,
bigger than all of us. The depth and scope of the
document signed in 1776 was far greater than the
perception of anyone in the room. Indeed, above the
perception of many Americans throughout time.
Applying the idea has been a slow process, and has a
long way to go. We are learning, slowly, but surely.
We still have a quite serious black/white schism to
deal with. Sometimes racism is portrayed as strictly
a black/white issue. Certainly, it seems at times
that people believe so.

We still call the natives of North America
‘Indians’, for pete’s sake! Don’t kid yourself.
Racism is a world-wide issue! It encompasses every
race and continent. Every color that human
beings come in. It’s encouraged by the idea of
restitution and revenge. It is perpetuated by the the
ideal situation it creates for those trying to hold on
to power or profit.

This is the very thing the founders were trying
to avoid. We must see past their actions and hear
the words. The words mean what they say. They
apply to everyone on the planet or they don’t mean
anything. We must regard all nations and races (and
of course, both sexes) by the greater meaning of the
Declaration- all humans are created equal.

Which brings up the trickier and less popular
flip side. If we all have these rights, then we all
have the responsibility not to endanger or limit
anyone else’s rights. Regardless of sex, race, color or
creed. The founders, even with their limited scope,
had relied almost entirely on the Ten
Commandments to furnish those responsibilities.
After all, the freedom of religion they sought was
mostly to practice their own brand of Judeo/
Christian faith, and all agreed on the laws brought
down by Moses. Ironically, the Bill Of Rights gives
all of us the freedom not to believe in these same
religious laws. This presents a problem when
someone decides that their rights include
Machiavellian methods. The end does not justify the
means in our society. All of our government
documents echo this. We all must protect each
others rights, or no one has any.

A nation built on the concept that all are created
equal, yet deserving of the right to try to achieve as
individuals, must ensure an equal level justice and
freedom for all of its citizens. Let no one fall
through the cracks. In a democracy, the people are
in control of solving these problems. Or at least,
they should be.

We have abdicated that authority to special
interest groups, large corporations and anyone else
able to find an angle for a scam. The only way to
stop them is to start looking at them real hard.
Everybody. Look down on these sad people using
racism, sexism and lies to sway us and rip us off.
They can’t get away with it if we’re watching. If we
all hold ourselves and our government to words of
the Declaration of Independence and the
Constitution (and I mean literally), we can change
things for the better. To do so, we must all actually
believe it.



copyright 2000 Pegwood Arts all rights reserved

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