As you said, you and I do agree on the major points, and this is one such point:
how on Earth can any accusations or allegations of that town’s black residents be equated with the racist acts (see above) perpetrated by the town’s white residents? There is no comparison. The blacks in your town had every reason to hold racist beliefs about the whites.
I strongly agree! What rational being could possibly blame them, especially given the effective perpetuation of white supremacy by the racists in the Deep South? But here’s the sticking point:
They can believe they were well-meaning people all they want, but believing didn’t make it so. It just made them flat-out delusional on a historic scale.
Actually, it’s not on a “historic scale”, but is much more in line with the overwhelming majority of human history. Such racism (or prejudice against ethnic or religious groups) was the norm throughout all human history. As I’ve written elsewhere, for almost all human history until the last three centuries, racism (and ethnic and religious prejudice) was seen as a survival trait. If one saw a group of men who looked/sounded/worshiped differently, one had to decide whether those men were the harbingers of an existential threat to everything one knew, of every person one loved.
It’s only within those last three hundred years that the major nations even began to see diversity as a benefit, or at least something not to be feared…but it was a long, tragic process nonetheless. Even as England finally banned the slave trade in 1807, it still allowed slavery to continue with “pre-existing stock” in its Caribbean colonies. On a side note, I’m not sure how much you’ve traveled in Asia, but racism there is generally much more accepted and even expected than in America. The great difference lay in the fact that here in America, it’s part of our national conversation; over there, however, it’s so normal that it rarely becomes news.
What’s almost as disturbing to me on a personal level is the “white privilege” that I experience overseas (in addition to here in America). You see so much white privilege here, but it’s often even more prevalent over there. There’s been many times that I’ve been given preference over the locals, and I’m certain that it’s because of my skin color. Sure, when they see my color, they expect that I have money (note: when in a third-world country, never tell them you don’t have enough money, for they will never believe you)…but it’s more than that. In the Philippines, they used to call whites in general (and white Americans in particular) “blusils”, pronounced “blue seals”, after the blue seal found on Marlboro cigarettes. It was considered a mark of quality. In contrast, on the entrance to a bar in Pattaya, Thailand, I saw a sign: “No Blacks or Arabs allowed”. That sign didn’t make the news. Why? Because it wasn’t unusual enough to make the news. That was my experience in third-world Asian countries. In Japan, of course, it’s different…but that’s a story for a different time.
I’m sorry for getting sidetracked there, but my point is, if we were to see racists as “flat-out delusional”, then we would have to hold nearly all humanity prior to the 20th century (and most of humanity even today) as being delusional.
Here’s where I toss the ball back into your court: would you then still hold nearly all humanity prior to the 20th century (and most of humanity today) as being “flat-out delusional”? Or would “ignorant” (and in much of America today, “deceived”) be a better word?
It is a fact that you’ve been a victim of racism to a far greater degree than I can ever know. You have experience and hard-won knowledge that I can never have, that no American white can ever truly grasp. Those two sentences are not patronizing, but are simple fact…and you would therefore have a perspective I cannot know. I watched my wife’s career ruined because of false accusations (by a disgruntled worker) and what I can only call investigative malpractice (and racism against my wife) by the state “investigator”, and we’re still paying the price now for the injustice…but I also know that’s only a few years’ worth of injustice, whereas you’ve lived a lifetime of it, and you’ve likely experienced much worse along the way.
However, in the perspective of human history, I do know that your experience is not the exception, but very much the norm. In my opinion, the fight against racism, against all such forms of prejudice, is (in the long view of history) a very new thing indeed. We’re effectively trying to shift the attitudes and beliefs ingrained (and even enforced) by thousands of generations across every culture on the planet…and we’re trying to accomplish that shift in a mere handful of generations. When it comes to sociology on the macro scale, I’m sure that’s a tall order indeed.