Rocky Michelle

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Has desegregation been a help or hurt to people of color, specifically the African American community?

Some people believe that desegregation has helped to advance the African American community, while others believe that it has gradually began to deplete the culture and sense of community brought over from African during the diaspora. My challenge for us as global citizens is to maturely discuss issues with race and ways that we can progress forward for the betterment of humankind. Also, I wanted to courageously share with you a topic that comes up in African American conversations. My knowledge is limited to the African American community, but this conversation is open to all who share a similar experience.

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    Nov 5 2012: I saw "White Only" water fountains, restrooms, and restaurants in Mississippi in the 50's. As a newcomer to the South I got mobbed and thrashed by (fellow) whites simply for conversing with a black kid on my first day of school. Is anyone going to argue that such a system should not have been abandoned?
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      Nov 5 2012: Hello Edward. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and personal experience. The type of segregation that you speak of was a forced segregation in which one segment of society, African Americans, were not given the same liberties as others. This in turn sparked the ideal that desgregation is freedom. When the opportunity came for African Americans to desegregate, although the intent and outcomes outway the negative, some believe that this has caused a collapse in the community. Many of the leaders that once had to reside in primarily African Ameican communities are now intergrated into more diverse communities. Personally, I believe that you are the change that you want to see and it does not matter where you stay. However, many think otherwise due to the current state of predominately African American communities.
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        Nov 5 2012: Sorry Ms. Hill, I do not get your point. Are you saying the passage of the civil rights bill was a bad idea? I cannot respond to your several points until I know what your message is. Please clarify. Thank you!
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          Nov 5 2012: Thanks for the feedback Edward! Personally, I am a progressive. However, the issue that I have heard from some in the African American community is that desegregation has resulted in a lack of community, culture, and unity. The trend that I have noticed is that many feel like African American culture has been "watered down" since desegregation. For example, you have many Asian communities that share a common culture. Many places have a "Chinatown". However, to find an African American community of the equivalent is difficult or does not exist. Some blame this on desegregation. Civil rights are a no debate. Yes, society needed to advance forward. For those African Americans who believe that they have had their culture "robbed", segregated communities provided unity. Again, I am a progressive, so these are not my thoughts. I am just a conduit for some that think this way. I would hope that no one would ever want to go back to the days of "Whites Only" fountains. Just the thought of this saddens me. I think that people who feel this way about the African American community have not totally bought into the beauty of diversity.
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        Nov 6 2012: You lament the scarcity, or absence, of African-American towns? Sorry, but at first glance that looks petty and misguided. It still sounds like you are saying degegregation was not a step forward in the journey to buying-in to the beauty of diversity. Again, please be clear on this exact issue.
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          Nov 6 2012: I believe that desegregation was a step forward. I do not have any regret over the absence of African American towns or communities. I am sorry that you feel this way but this is an issue that many African Americans struggle with and desegregation is seen as the root cause. The exact issue is that many feel that the African American community suffered as a result of desegregation. Although new opportunites arised, many feel like culture and pride in the community were lost as a result such.
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        Nov 6 2012: I see. You are speaking on behalf of "many African Americans" about their opinion or perception with which you do not agree? Respondents should not address your personal beliefs, but the beliefs of those absentee people for whom you are speaking? Is that correct? Thanks for your patience Ms. Hill.
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          Nov 6 2012: Correct Mr. Long. Thank you for seeking to understand.
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    Nov 4 2012: The purpose of desegregation is to open the door of opportunities for the African American communities in terms of education, employment and access to privileges and resources that are to be enjoyed by all law abiding citizens.
    Some African Americans have been able to seize the opportunity and make something good out of it. Some still cling to excuses and would keep blaming an imaginary oppressive system probably forever.
    No doubt freedom provides avenues to advancement; but freedom could also lead to bondage if not handled with wisdom; hence freedom is a lifetime pursuit and not an event. Freedom would present peculiar challenges; so I believe that African Americans (like post-apartheid South Africa) need to face the new challenges with courage.
    Culture is not static and can not be; so the key for the African American community is holding on to principles and values that has helped in building homes and families; and then being aware of the diversity of the nation.
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      Nov 4 2012: Thank you for sharing your thoughts. You bring up many good points. I would agree that "culture is not static and can not be". However, if you are African American and you see flourishing and thriving communities that share the commonalities of race and culture, and thus are segregated to an extent, does it not make you question the effects of desegregation?
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        Nov 4 2012: As they say, we are one but not the same. The fact is that those people are being true to themselves and their culture; and they do what they do because that is who they are. Not because they are trying to exclude anyone.
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    Nov 7 2012: I'm going to give a weird answer... that can only come from an outsider. Suburban white American mutt... and I may be entirely off base in this... but I think in this one sense young modern white and black Americans have a lot in common.

    As a young white guy with some Polish, Scottish, and German in me... I'm supposed to identify with "white culture"... but, if you look up literature, of people who right about "white culture"... They're usually pretty creepy racists. At the same time I don't really connect with my Polish, or German, or Scottish roots. I'm only second generation American on one side of my family, but already, really the only cultures I identify with, are New York, and Los Angeles.

    When you talk about African Culture... There's a Chinatown... There's not an Asian Town. Which African culture do you want to connect with? There I think we have the same problem... I don't really have any interest in reconnecting with my German roots, lol. I've visited, they're great engineers, it's beautiful, but the cultural history, is very bleak, and not progressive at all, i'm not a fan. I think many African Americans especially young people feel the same way about Africa.

    Also, because of the horrific conditions which brought African Americans to this country, and the treatment they experienced here, many don't even know which nations they're initially "from", and it's probably several. It seems as though, at this point, many of these perspectives about a need for African culture, may actually just be an outlet for anger over the injustice of taking culture away from their ancestors. Anger which is entirely rational and understandable, given the circumstances, but still misplaced in the modern world

    I think desegregation was a big win. A deeper connection between the African American community, and actual refugees, and immigrants from Africa would probably be a worthy project though.
  • Nov 5 2012: "...gradually began to deplete the culture and sense of community brought over from African during the diaspora."

    This is problem, as I see it -- that some people, despite having never seen Africa (or whatever else it may be), still try to cling to a "culture" that is, essentially, an illusion.

    I'm not white, myself -- not even remotely. I have all kinds of friends, from all continents too. We grew closer together only based on mutual interests and by "being there" for each other. The matter of our races comes up only when we joke (the good-natured kind).

    I have seen discrimination (rarely -- speaking of Europe) but I just choose to not associate with narrow-minded people. I bear it when I must, and run when I can. Some acquaintances have tried making offensive jokes, but I'm usually good at turning it right back.

    If I were asked for advice, I'd say, forget about your past, your race, your religion, etc. These are irrelevant between friends (or even with people you meet for the first time). Just be nice to people, and you'll meet people who are also nice to people.
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      Nov 5 2012: Thank you for your advance. I hope that it finds someone who needs it and that they receive it in a spirit of gratitude.
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    Nov 17 2012: Hello Colleen. Personally, I do not think that the disconnect is from guilt or shame. Africa is comprised of many countries and tribes. The parts make up the whole. I believe that often times people look at the shared physical characteristics, ie skin color, of Africans and African Americans and believe that there should be a connection. The Nazi's in Germany did many horrific things to the Jewish people. But when we speak of that we make a clear distinction of the Germans and not the Europeans. For some people it Africa there may a disconnect and a resulting feeling of shame. However, for many others I think the disconnect is just cultural between the African and African American.
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      Nov 18 2012: Good point Racheal,
      The inability to truly connect, with many people, is because of differences. It is the differences that I embrace, appreciate, respect and love in people. A disconnect simply means that we deprive ourselves of information, and an incredible my humble opinion.
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    Nov 14 2012: Hi Racheal...nice to see you again on TED:>)

    It seems like this question is best answered by African Americans, and you invited all of us who may have shared a similar conversation to join in, so here I am!

    I have had this conversation with African American friends, as well as African friends...those recently coming to the US from Africa by choice. The conversations we've shared, seem to indicate a division between these groups. I'm curious to know if that is your perception? The basis for the division seems to be that Africans feel more of an identity because they know their family... their heritage... their roots. Whereas, African Americans, because of the circumstances, have lost those connections, and have been assimilated into white use the term "watered down" in this thread. Malcolm X also used that term, and addressed the same concern many years ago.

    Unfortunately, those who believe they are superior, often try to change others, because they believe everything about them is "superior", so why wouldn't EVERYONE want to be just like them? This may be part of the reason that African Americans feel they have lost their culture...because recognizing and holding onto their culture was not encouraged?

    I believe we can progress forward for the betterment of humankind by recognizing, respecting, appreciating and encouraging various cultures. I live in a state that has been predominantly "white" until a resettlement program began here 20-30 years ago. We are now becoming much more diverse, and many people are involved with the different ethnic groups now sharing this community. There are often cultural festivals, different cultual activities and events, which are sponsored by local people, and municipalities. This is a very small state, and in the big picture, what is happening here is a very small effort. We all need to participate in this process, if we truly want to move forward as a global community.
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      Nov 15 2012: Hello Colleen! I do believe that there is a disconnect between Africans and African Americans. Some Africans, certainly not all, look down upon many African Americans because of their slave ancestors. Unwillingly, many African Americans lost culture and tribal affliations due to slavery. Some African Americans long to know who are their African tribal ancestors. I have even had people to tell me that they "pray" for their last name; similar to how Malcolm X used "X" because he rejected his "slave" last name of Little. Many of the Africans that came to the Americas during the slave trade were tribal prisoners of war. Slaves were being traded by tribes for goods offered by they Europeans. I think part of understanding the disconnect is in understanding the part that tribes played in the slave trade. That's the part many people don't talk about but it is fundamental.

      Despite is all, I am just tired of racism, whether it is internal or external to one's "race". It's time to progress. Humankind is so beautiful. I am grateful for the advances in (T)echnology that allow such (E)ntertaining and engaging discussions which could possibly have an imprint on the future (D)esign of society.
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        Nov 15 2012: Hello again Racheal!
        I got that impression...that some Africans look down upon many African Americans because of their slave ancestors, and also because they were assimilated into the white culture? Malcolm X, in his autobiography, spoke about being embarrassed because his skin was the "lightest" of all the children in his family. For him, that seemed to be an indication that he was more "watered down", and had lost more of his African roots.

        I am aware that many who came as slaves were prisoners of tribal wars, and sold or traded to the slave traders. Many of their own people sold and traded them into slavery, which must be an unbelievable burden to carry. I didn't know that when I was young, and only found out by having conversations with Africans, African Americans and reading a lot about it. I agree that understanding the disconnect is in understanding the history, which many people do not talk about and are not aware of. I hear people sometimes saying something like....slavery was history....get over it....move on. The true circumstances are very difficult to "get over".

        Some folks fail to connect with the people who are the "players" in the history which is important to understand. I am tired of racism too Racheal, and I believe people are denying themselves a great gift by hanging onto racism. Humankind can indeed be beautiful, when we respect, appreciate and accept each other for who and what we are. It is sometimes helpful to know where we came from to understand where we are going, and if people do not understand the whole story of how/why Africans were brought to this country as slaves, they do not fully understand all the dynamics of what African Americans may be experiencing. I cannot even imagine, how it must feel, to know that their ancestors were here as slaves because they were often betrayed by their own people.
        Do you think that part of the disconnect for Africans may be guilt or shame for selling or trading their own people into slavery?
  • Nov 8 2012: Ask President Obama.
  • Nov 5 2012: As a white European I cannot say I know about segregation from experience (although I have experienced discrimination for being an atheist when I lived in the US) but I do believe it has absolutely been positive in that black Americans now have the same opportunities as white Americans in the same socio-economic class, this is a priceless advancement. The struggle is now for gay Americans to be accepted as human beings.
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      Nov 5 2012: Discrimination of any human being based on their belief, race, age, gender or sexuality is nonprogressive. I would agree that desegregation has been an advancement.
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      Nov 7 2012: Did you really feel descriminated against as an atheist here? Were you in the south? You certainly won't get that in Sacremento... Also... Just to be a bit of devils advocate, wasn't the feeling mutual?

      I always find it weird when atheists tell me they're descriminated against... because once I hear someone say "the earth is 6k years old", or "abortion should be illegal", or "gay people are going to hell"... I just immediately think "Oh, me and this person aren't going to get along, just smile and nod, and leave them alone". I don't see that as descrimination, so much as having taste in who you choose to associate with.

      I don't think you missed out on anything by being descriminated against, in this particular scenario... I also think you secretly descriminate just as much against the religious zealots that didn't like you... maybe I'm projecting there.
  • Nov 4 2012: My dad told me my grandfather said: "integration done screwed us up..." As I matured I understood. I wasn't around then but I understood our interdependence among the negro community was stronger. We had physicians, attorneys, and the dollar remained in the community. I'm afraid there's no yes or no answer. It's quite complicated.
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      Nov 5 2012: I believe that the interdependence was out of necessity due to the norms of society. I think the bigger issue is when a culture remains intact and segregated because it is who they are versus a community that remains segregated because it has been forced to remain in such a state.
  • Nov 5 2012: Seriously stop we should stop letting media influence our kids. They make girls feel ugly and unlikelable, then say if you want a guy u have to do ..... and wear ..... and buy alot of products to look good. But really they should be encouraged to like themselves, they get put down enough at school. Young men are encouraged by media to act like dicks and be violent because it looks cool on tv. Seriously compare the the last 30 years of action movies with the last 30 years of action movie standard. You the difference it has less violence and more sex content. One encouraging over is better than encouraging violence. 2nd because they encourage a lot of safe sex and instead of secretly promoting things with sex, and then guilt people into buying redemption from the church with Abstinence RINGS or tithes to support the ever dying church.
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      Nov 7 2012: I agree that modern culture, especially advertising driven media, has contributed a perverse sexual culture... and the various religious, and self help organizations that profit from redeeming people from that path...

      I would only add... There is an element of this discussion which is a bit misleading... Culture doesn't create these desires... It manipulates them. Young boys are the king of the jungle, they're designed to stomp around and see what the boundaries of their empire are. They are designed to spread the seed, and say or do anything they have to in order to propagate their genes. We are animals, the lizard brain, exists in every one of us. Young women are designed to kind of like that. Tall, strong, quick, alpha males, almost obsolete in a technocratic society... that's what young women naturally look for.

      We are animals... and we are only evolving beyond it very slowly... I think if we are unwilling to accept that, and teach our children about some of the negative, destructive aspects of our built in programming, we will have difficulty getting pas them. In many ways youth culture, some of the most creative culture on the planet, is a giant game of seeking "high value sexual partners", and language, and careers are our plumage... Of course that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.
  • Nov 5 2012: Ok as I young African American I can completely understand your confusion about this and let me convey with a underlining truth that it was necessary. I sure imagining a time without equal rights seems strange, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't of happened If you believe this Then their is a interesting movie called Confederate States of America that depicts what would happen to the US if the south won.
    Still that doesn't change current problems in our community our sense of unity. We are no longer a community of people who care about education, or each other. We have taken a very dark turn where a lot the young black teens only care about living for today's not tomorrow's satisfaction. Most Africans in Public High Schools in rural areas are subjected to a Superficial behavior, along with A belief that today's Rappers along with people from Reality TV shows are good Role Models that they should follow. I remember seeing a vibe magazine that cover photo Had one of the real Desperate housewives on along with 3 other women, who were dressed like matching Hooker's and the title said today's role models.
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      Nov 5 2012: Thank you for sharing your thoughts Kenya. Are you implying that desegregation, although it was necessary, resulted in a reduced sense of unity, lower educational standards, and a lack of role models?
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    Nov 4 2012: There are people who profit from black people being victims. Be careful of what you believe.

    Government involvement has made things worse in the U.S. My disposition on this comes mainly from Thomas Sowell and Walter E Williams, they are both black economists. Who are extremely enlightening.
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      Nov 4 2012: Hello Pat. Thanks for your response. Can you give more details in your views of government involvement? People should be careful of what they believe. I will have to research those economists that you mentioned.
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        Nov 4 2012: I can't give enough praise to them, their books are literally life changing.

        "free markets make racial discrimination extraordinarily, even prohibitively, expensive."!
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          Nov 5 2012: Thanks for the homework Pat! I always love when someone provides data and information. I can't wait to review!
        • Nov 5 2012: "free markets make racial discrimination extraordinarily, even prohibitively, expensive."

          No, free markets make racial discrimination extraordinarily, even prohibitively, expensive when racists are not a plurality (in demographic or economic sense) in any of the major areas your business operates in, otherwise it can even be profitable to have racist company policy. The reason for this is that boycots work both ways: minorities and those opposed to racism will boycot racist companies but racists will boycot non-racist companies in turn.

          You don't solve a problem by assuming there is no problem, unless you are a libertarian of course...
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        Nov 5 2012: John

        As usual what the hell are you talking about?
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          Nov 7 2012: He's talking about the fact, that there were many small towns, all the way up until the civil rights act, where racists so dominated the local demographics, that having a "whites only" sign, was actually more profitable, than being an open minded decent human being. These places became a nightmare for people of color passing through town on the highway system.