How Identity Relates to Race Relations.

Nkrumah History

Fact #13 of 28

T There is a phenomenon in Quantum Physics called Quantum Entanglement. Quantum entanglement occurs when particles are “linked” in such a way that whatever changes on one particle instantly adjust the particle that it is entangled with. For example, if one particle is spun clockwise, its entangled particle will start spinning counterclockwise.

Identities are learned things. And although identities are not subatomic particles, just definitions, they too can be entangled with other identities. Remember Identities are definitions of self. Important parts of that definition are the expectations of us and of others – and the roles each should play out in life. The reason we haven’t gotten further along with race relations, particularly between Blacks and Whites, is because we have misunderstood the cause that underlies the problems of race in America.
The ACTUAL problem is that our identities, the Slave and the Master, are inseverably entangled. For decades, we have focused on the symptoms of these identities hate, ignorance, mistrust etc. but we never pay attention to how those identities relate to each other, making an already complex problem even more difficult to disentangle.

It must be understood that that Whites didn’t stop living by the expectations of a Master identity after slavery was abolished any more than Blacks stopped living according to the expectation of the Slave identity. For 250 uninterrupted years, Whites enjoyed unearned legal and social privileges over Blacks; and what emerged through this relationship was an inexcusable sense of entitlement where Whites define their own self-worth relative to Blacks.

I offer you a hypothetical, imagine if it were reported on every news outlet tonight that Blacks, as a group, over the past 5 years or so, have made tremendous strides relative to Whites in academic test scores, employment, housing, and income. Those whites who define themselves by the Master Identity will feel threatened. In fact why should it matter? It’s not like the news report said that Whites are scoring any less on their tests, suddenly losing their jobs to Blacks, or bringing in less income into their homes, right?

While at the core of the Slave identity is a belief that one is irreparably flawed, at the core of the Master identity is a presumption of superiority and entitlement that can only be maintained by Slaves never breaking character from the role the Master identity expects of them.

By the time the civil war broke out, Southern men in the Antebellum South had a long standing reputation as being quicker to anger than northerners, readier in everyday life to take offense and react with violence. The reason was simple. Violence had served them well. It was the practice of violence which accounted for slavery’s extraordinary output which made them among the wealthiest men on Earth and laid the economic base from which this country was built, and violence was also the means by which they kept Slaves from making even a good-humored gesture of being their equal.

The Master identity is the reason why there was such a fuss about something as inconsequential Blacks and Whites drinking out of the same public water fountain? What is Racial Segregation but an attempt by those Whites with this Master identity to have the particular privilege of being able to live anywhere they want while they (Blacks) can only live in designated areas? To someone who is operating under a Master identity, if a Black can afford to live in the same neighborhood he can, this diminishes his own self-worth. Segregation protects them from this. This is also why Whites with Master identity were so angry when Blacks integrated the University of Mississippi and Little Rock Central High School in. Again, if they (Blacks) can attend the same schools that I can get into what does this say about my self-worth?

What Jackie Robinson was doing, by integrating Major League Baseball, and by competing at the same level as Whites were making those with a Master identity question their own self-worth. They were being forced to reexamine something that they had carried within themselves, completely unexamined since young children. Watching it disproved right in front of their eyes was akin to pulling the Earth out from under their feet. Had Robinson gotten into the baseball and everyone found out that he couldn’t compete with White ballplayers he would have reinforced their presumption of superiority.

What gives me hope is that since identity is learned it can be unlearned. And I appreciate that over time just as more and more Blacks grown more comfortable shedding more and more of their Slave identity, White Americans have also walked away from this Master identity, and have gained the ability to gage their self-worth independently from what Blacks are doing. Don’t argue that point with me. We have a Black President Ok? 12% of the people did not elect him all by themselves. Clearly, there are still far too many Blacks who still think like Slaves as there are obviously still too many White Americans that still think like Masters.

We as individuals must work to realize these identities within us and work towards dismantling them if we ever hope to have healthy relationships with one another based on our shared humanity.