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The Sins of the Past
June 27, 2023
Legal segregation was one of the most anti-modern social trends, and laws, in a very modern America (the 1950s was yesterday in the grand scheme of time). We still live with the scars of this policy as the Information Age exaggerates homogeneous zones of the nation and pushes a perceived reality of erasure and cultural warfare. The most rampant political demagoguery of today is aimed at maladjusted White Americans who find themselves in more heterogeneous spaces than in previous eras.
This nation has progressed since the extremely segregated days of the early and mid-20th century, but you can find plenty of Americans (of all backgrounds) who reflect on their experiences in racially homogeneous spaces.
For minorities, surviving these spaces becomes instinctual because of professional and financial needs, as well as security and sustainability.
The sins of the past find creative ways to show themselves in the present.
We may have modernized on the surface, but attitudes and social pathologies are still tainted by the legal and interpersonal attempts to separate the races - no matter the economic or scientific absurdity.
Segregation was flawed as an economic reality because it required serving two different populations (with one being governed by actual autocracy and thus commercial limitations). This created barriers for advertising and for creating mass audiences. Why cut off commercial spaces, and timing, from potential customers and potential revenue?
America has done some work regarding diversity pushes, but one can just travel to a city like Baltimore and see the poorly administered Band-Aids after decades of lashing the same anti-Black wound over and over again. We still live with the imbalances that racial segregation systematized in job categories, income levels, opportunities for travel, and educational attainment. When one space is funded and prioritized through much of a nation’s history and another space is told to survive in the deep end with no floaters or training, then there are bound to be historical gaps between Black and White Americans that also enable the conditions for disruption and decline in any nation, even a superpower.
The Republican party is weaponizing an audience that sees their superior standards of living as a product of their own ancestral virtuosity and not partly due to their role as the preferred class of laborers. This is where the idiotic and offensive attacks on “Critical Race Theory” comes from and this is what animates the mind-numbing assertions of racism being over, accusations of reverse racism, or the blatant “Black people are lazy and like to complain rather than work” framing, otherwise labeling all of Black people’s political imaginations and needs as tools of Socialism.
Segregation had this impact on the way White Americans perceive reality, but the effects have also been pushed into overdrive due to the Information Age and targeted advertising. Now messaging and advertising can learn a person’s deepest desires through their media and product choices and then exploit that data. Obviously, in America, this has a large racial overtone.
Also, I don’t have a solution. Separation by in-group has been a condition throughout all of human time.
However, I found it necessary to document this observation as a student of history. Just because people want to forget the ways that people and systems sought to humiliate African Americans in the recent past (and in contemporary times) doesn’t mean they are right in doing that. It really means we are a weakened nation that is desperately afflicted by an original sin that is denied grotesquely and pathologically.
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