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  • Karlyle Tomms


Even though my father was from southern California, I was born in the butt crack of nowhere, in northern Arkansas where my mother’s family is from. I was told that my parents separated before I was born, and then when I was five years old, when my mother was killed, I was taken to raise by my grandparents. They apparently never saw fit to try to locate my father, and I didn’t meet him until I was eighteen.

I was raised on a farm about ten miles out of town, and town (the county seat) was less than two thousand in population. Any town larger was about 40 minutes away, and that town had a population of about six to eight thousand at the time. It was across the border in Missouri. The region was rural, scrub farm land with more trees and rocks than pasture, and it was almost totally white in human population. As a matter of fact, I was fourteen years old when I saw my first black person in the flesh. It was on a trip to Kansas City, arranged by my aunt and uncle who lived in Independence, near Kansas City, at the time. I never saw another black person in the flesh until I went to college at the age of eighteen. Yet, my grandparents were not prejudiced, and I have written about this in other blog posts. My childrens’ books were the Uncle Remus stories, and I was raised to respect all races the same. It was not until I was almost an adult that I understood why there was no prejudice in my family even though I had been raised in an ocean of white. Finally, I put two and two together, and remembered my grandmother talking about going “to the bottoms” to pick cotton when their children were small. The hill people of Arkansas (Ozarks people) called the flat lands down around West Memphis “the bottoms”. During the Great Depression, people did whatever they could to survive, and hill people would go down to work in the cotton fields of east Arkansas near Memphis: the bottoms. This meant that my grandparents tugged a cotton sack right along next to black people. Therefore, they saw themselves as equals, and I had Uncle Remus stories for my childrens’ books because of the influence of black culture on my family.

It has always been difficult for me to understand how one race could see themselves as superior to another. Because I was influenced by seeing news broadcasts about race riots on TV when I was growing up, I had bought into certain stereotypes before I went to college. I didn’t consider myself any better than someone else, but I had been somewhat swayed by general society. More than anything, what I had seen of riots on TV made me afraid that blacks might attack me just for being white. Much of what I had seen in variety shows (Sammy Davis Jr., Lena Horne and even Moms Mabley) had been positive. I had even fallen in love with Motown music when I got a transistor radio for Christmas at the age of fourteen, and could tune in Memphis Motown stations if I sat out behind our smokehouse, and aimed the antenna in the right direction, but the news about racial tensions made me wonder if black people might automatically hate me. I had white fear. There was also a part of me that bought into the prevailing effect of antiquated social ideas that I should resent black people who become wealthy, or more successful than whites. The politics of media was a mix in those days, and I actually had very little knowledge of other races except for what I had seen in evening news broadcasts or variety shows on the only two TV channels we could get up in the hills. When I got to college, my actual experience with black students and other races made me realize that the stereotypes were false. Often, we don’t even realize how much we are influenced by news broadcasts, conversations, and rumors. In this day and age, with the concept of “fake news”, we don’t even realize how much we are being lied to in social media, and a variety of attitudes abound. The politics of media is much more complicated now, and is a thicker mix. With the ability to manipulate social media with bots, and other tricks, those with arrogance, and the illusion of power have much more influence than is reasonable and acceptable. Unfortunately, prejudice is alive and well and living in America, and some have been able to use social media, to play on human fear to propagate it.

One thing I have thought about, as I have watched recent happenings unfold, is that after centuries of so called civilization, we still can’t seem to grow up as a society. Disagreement is interpreted as disrespect, and of course, if you disagree, then you must be drowned out, and your voice completely silenced. If one can’t drown out the other by figuratively or literally putting his hands over his ears and screaming, then the other is drowned out by harassment or violence. This is the way children behave on a playground when they have never been taught manners and respect. It is the way bullies behave. It is not the way mature people conduct themselves in civilized discourse. However, at the moment, it appears to be the prevailing manner in which America conducts itself, especially in politics. There appears to be such a backlash after America elected its first black president. The pendulum has swung so far back in the opposite direction, it may hit the wall and shatter. As I have watched these things unfolding by reading a variety of posts on social media, reviewing the news, and thinking it through, I have come to the conclusion that one of the reasons America is currently divided is white fear. There is currently a vicious effort by the previous status quo of white establishment to maintain control and authority when it appeared to shift away from them for a time. I use the word, ‘authority’ here, instead of the word, ‘power’ because technically there is only one human power, and we all possess it equally. That is the power to choose, in this given moment, what we will think, say or do, and that’s it. Authority is something that is either awarded by election or appointment, or by seizing control, and it can be taken away. The illusion of power comes when manipulation, intimidation, corruption and violence are used to control others. The good news is that it is always temporary.

So, while we had a black president, the emphasis was on civil rights, LGBT rights, womens’ rights, the right to healthcare and other socially conscious causes. Those on the left might have dreamed of a utopian United States in which everyone respected the other, regardless of superficial differences, and everyone could expect at least reasonable care and comfort. One might have thought that the characteristic of “white supremacist” would have been about to become a thing of the past. However, something else was happening. Beneath the surface, there was a festering cancer in America that many did not see. One thing the Obama presidency did to feed that cancer was by daring to challenge the white establishment. This increased white fear and fed into an undercurrent. Recognizing the need to sell themselves to the general population, white supremacist and Christian extremist groups went about rebranding themselves with different names that would make their propaganda easier to swallow. Now they call themselves the “Alt-Right” or “white nationalists”, among other polite names. However, to debase the Shakespearian quote about a rose, a turd by any other name stinks just as much. Putting a polite name on a hate group does not change the hate that drives the group. It only becomes a branding and marketing tool. A turd in a pretty box is still a turd. Poison in a pretty bottle is still poison. Now that the Alt-Right Trojan Horse has gotten into the White House, these groups are coming out of the woodwork with the same hate and bigotry they always had, except they now feel freer to express it, and they have a fairly strong propaganda machine behind it. They always had the right to express their beliefs. Freedom of speech belongs to everyone, but because of the lack of popularity, they kept it a bit more under wraps. Because of fear, hate seems to have become popular again. Perhaps the unspoken meaning of a campaign slogan from the last election was make America hate again.

The driving force behind hate and anger is always fear. Anger is the emotion we choose when we don’t want to feel, or admit to feeling, some form of vulnerability. Acting on that anger gives the illusion of power to those who actually feel quite vulnerable. White fear is essentially the terror of becoming a minority, and if the Devil has tools on earth, fear is one of his best. There is actually legitimate reason for whites to have fear. First of all, it is not a matter of if, but when whites will become a minority, and it will be soon. European whites only make up 8% of the total world population as it is now, anyway. Whites of European heritage make up 62% of the current population of the United States, but projections say that by the year 2065 that will fall to 46% of the population. Whites will be outnumbered, and out voted by what have previously been considered minorities. It is projected that by the year 2020, current minority groups will make up the majority of American school aged children, and since 2010, there has been up to a 20% drop of white populations in 46 states. Hispanics are getting the brunt of the current backlash because of illegal immigration. However, Hispanics are just the current scapegoat. This may be in part due to the fact that at the present time, there are more foreign-born Hispanics in the United States than Hispanics born in the United States, and the numbers are rising. Illegal Hispanics come here, have babies, the babies are automatically U.S. citizens, and this plants the seeds for a takeover of America by Hispanic populations. This scares the hell out of the American white establishment. Yet, at the present time, there are still ten states in America that are about 90% white in population. Those include Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, West Virginia, Iowa, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Kentucky, and North Dakota. The region I came from in the Ozarks is still about 92% white, and I am one of those whites. With family names like Dover, Applegate, Lennox and Todd, it would be pretty difficult to deny my European white heritage, nor would I want to. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being proud of who you are, and being proud of your heritage, no matter who you are.

So, why does white fear exist? There is a fear, and many Alt-Right and white nationalists have expressed this, that a movement is underfoot to wipe out European white heritage in America. It doesn’t matter if it is not true. Since fear is a fantasy that something bad is going to happen, it is never rational. In my opinion this fear relates to something my Grandmother used to say, “Turn-about is fair play.” Another old parable is, “Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.” Whites are simply afraid that the tables will be turned, and they may have good reason for that fear. There are already some whites who are reporting that they have experienced prejudice and discrimination. So, the tables may be turning, but turning the tables is kind of normal in human behavior. For example, when I was a kid, my uncle Ray used to abuse and mistreat me. That went on until I grew into my teens, at which point I turned on him, and beat the crap out of him. It is not uncommon for abusive parents to have abuse turned on them by their children, after those kids grow old enough to have the ability to dish it back. In extreme cases, children of abusers may actually murder their abusers. I eventually forgave my uncle, but he had already learned not to mess with me again. Those who have been bullied are likely to turn on and reduce their bullies to victims once they have gained enough strength to do so. History shows that oppressed cultures in revolution are often quite cruel to their former oppressors once they gain control. Since some of the biggest oppressors in history have been European whites, there may be good reason to fear.

If you look at the history of whites, you have to consider imperialism. The British, in particular, did it very well. There is an old saying that the sun never set on the British Empire, because the British Empire was the largest empire in the history of the world. The British tried to take over every part of the globe. At one point there were British colonies and settlements in every hemisphere. The British were able to do this as a minority in world population because they got to the technology first. They had weaponry available that many of those they oppressed did not have. America is a bit of an anomaly in the British efforts of imperialism. America presented a situation in which the British were turned on by their own, and the American colonies were the first to break away from British rule, not because the indigenous people rebelled, but because the colonists themselves rebelled. America initially set about establishing something which was practically the polar opposite of imperialism. The United States constitution has nothing to do with imperialistic ideals. However, the lust for wealth and authority managed to ignore parts of the constitution. India is actually the only country ever to break British rule without going to war with Britain, and that was accomplished primarily under the tutelage of Mahatma Gandhi who advocated the principle of passive resistance. The French and the Spanish, not wanting to be left out of a good deal, went about attempting the same imperialism as the British, and the British had simply copied it from the Romans, Persians, Greeks and Mongolians who went before them. More recently Nazi Germany and Japan attempted to establish imperial rule which brought about World War II. However, one must not overlook American imperialism which was a bit more insidious. American whites went about genocide more slowly and stealthy, but on a scale much greater, in the long run, than Hitler’s attempt at exterminating Jews. Some estimates indicate that the populations of pre-Columbian indigenous peoples in the Americas could have been as high as between fifty or a hundred million. Yet today’s population of Native Americans is only around 5.4. million. Today, the United States possesses several territories that are part of, but not quite included in the United States. Puerto Rico is just one example. The United States also has a finger in the pie of multiple countries all over the world, and has done this for more than a hundred and fifty years.

The basic philosophy of imperialism is to take from others and give to yourself. Build an empire, and you build wealth. Steal lands and goods from those who aren’t strong enough to oppose you, and create the dependency of those countries on the mother nation. If you think about it, this is just gang mentality on a much larger scale. Countries still compete to control world wealth, and there are ongoing resentments of, and challenges to American domination and interference. Even though the United States was formed as a backlash against British imperialism, and was set up to establish democracy and freedom, we didn’t quite follow the constitution our forefathers had established. The lust for imperialism found its way into our culture. Perhaps it was due to having been born of the British Empire. We (my ancestors) pushed Native Americans off their lands, and took it for ourselves. We regulated Native Americans to reservations, and attempted to turn their minds white while never accepting that they could be equal to us. Whites have always been arrogant. Hitler is just an extreme manifestation of that. We hauled slaves from Africa and treated them despicably even unto the resolution of the Civil War, and after. Many of us (whites) have problems accepting that other races could be equal to us. After having had an Ivy League educated, Magna Cum Laude, Harvard trained constitutional attorney as president, who also just happened to be black, too many of us still buy into black, or other stereotypes, and still consider ourselves to be somehow superior to other races. Some of us just can’t seem to get it through our thick heads that the only real difference between one race or ethnic group and another is skin color and cultural heritage.

If there is anything that prejudice is about, it is about arrogance and fear. It is about a sense of entitlement that is allowed to override justice. It is about exploitation of those who have less authority and control, and it is the sociopathic arrogance that says it is okay to take from others in order to profit for yourself. It is anything but, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men (people) are created equal.” It does not ask if we truly believe in our own Declaration of Independence. Mature ethics and morality do not allow for the kind of thinking that generates prejudice. It does not matter which ethnic group or race is in authority, the phenomenon of prejudice can still occur. It is not necessarily a white thing. The aphrodisiac of the power illusion is something that many succumb to, and once they have it, they are terrified of letting it go for they know what atrocities they, and their own committed in order to keep it, and they assume that others, if in authority, will do the same. It is human nature to project onto others that which we most despise within ourselves, and to assume that others, given the chance, will behave as we behaved. White fear is the fear of being treated as we have historically treated others.

There is another way, but the history of human behavior would indicate that it is a long shot. That way would be for minorities to forgive those who have been their oppressors, and instead of emulating their behavior when at last their authority wanes, to treat them and others who are not in authority with compassion, or as Obama said, “When they go low, we go high.” There is a great deal of difference between leaders and rulers. Leaders inspire and motivate. Leaders respect their followers, even if they disagree, and treat them with compassion and understanding. Rulers dominate, expect orders to be carried out, even if they are tyrannical, and take whatever steps are necessary to maintain authority. It is possible for rulers to hand down their rule in one way or another to likeminded predecessors, and it is possible for those who once did not have authority to succumb to the same aphrodisiac of the power illusion that previous rulers were addicted to. It is possible for leaders to become rulers when the temptation of wealth and the illusion of power is high. This is the greatest fear of white establishment America: that those who have been oppressed will turn on us, and treat us with the same oppression as we have treated them. The logic is that we must, therefore, maintain authority at any cost, and this, I believe, explains the current backlash that is going on in America.

The time will come when American whites of European heritage will be a minority, and those who were previously the recipients of our prejudice and oppression, will be in authority. We fear, that they will do to us what we have done to them, and this is certainly a distinct possibility. One option that we have, instead of continuing to engage in bigotry, hatred and control, would be to embrace those whom we have oppressed, cease oppression and prejudice, and show compassion to those who do not yet carry the torch of authority. One option would be to get down off our arrogant high horse, and recognize that every heart pumps blood that is the same color, and there is no such thing as anyone who has less worth than anyone else. As well, there is no one who has any greater worth. If we truly believe “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men(people) are created equal.”, and that this principle is what our forefathers intended, then there is no room for prejudice and bigotry. There is no room for clashing over color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, religion, nationality or any number of other things. There is no reason to assume that a position of authority authorizes taking advantage of those who are not in authority. There is no room for infighting in a family, the human family, that must live together. We all share the world, and we all have the same Mother, Earth. For goodness sakes, if your Momma didn’t teach you to share, she should have. More than anything, we all need to divorce ourselves from fear, especially of one another, and come together as a unified humanity with the goal of creating the best we can for all our human brothers and sisters. We are not here to be selfish. We are not here to take from others, and live at the expense of others. We are here to share in the bounty of a world that is plentiful enough for all. When we stop fearing, and start respecting one another, a peaceful existence with one another is an obtainable goal, but we cannot get there with the assumption that anyone is worth less or deserves less than ourselves.

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