The Race Issue

The Race Issue. Vol. 2

Daria Silter

Daria Silter

Daria Silter is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief at Global Storybook.
You can read more about Daria here.
Daria Silter

April 6, 2018

April 4th, 2018 marked the 50th anniversary since the assassination of the prominent African-American leader, Dr. Martin Luther King. Fast-forward five decades – a lot has changed, yet much remains the same. Racism, bigotry, sexism, intolerance and discrimination, unequal opportunities, fearmongering – feelings and attitudes which are not always visible, or even conscious, yet they are still a fundamental part of the mundane world.  Whether you close your eyes and deny its existence, or keep them wide open, it still would make little difference, unless you fully understand the ‘race issue.’

So, what is race? Well, if you really want to know, then, brace yourself for the truth might be even more shattering than you (and I) were prepared (read: brainwashed) for.

So here comes the truth about race. Race. There is no such thing as ‘race.’

We. All. Came. From. Africa.

Africa, really? Why do we look so different from each other then?  The striking difference in our skin tones is a natural reaction to the… sunlight exposure. The darker color is the skin’s acquired immunity against the burning desert rays of the African sun, while the lighter tone is the skin’s ‘pro-active’ response to the sun deficit in the short wintry days of the Northern climate. Those long-forgotten tribes which once resided in Africa are, in fact, our early predecessors.  Yours and mine, and his and hers, and theirs, and the rest of the 7 plus billion people who currently live on this one-planet-Earth.

But wait, I wasn’t born in Africa! Yes, our ancestors eventually spread out across the globe, they invented languages, dialects, traditions and superstitions, and even religions. Now, after we added religion to the mix – things got even more complicated.

So, what you’re saying is that we are all “related,” yet we still fight not only with other countries, but also with… our own neighbors? Correct. The “US” vs. “THEM” is now in full force, “protecting” us against them-enemies. For, we are better than them (brainier, prettier, whiter, more creative), and they don’t like us because we speak a different language and look so different.

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“I would like to destroy all NGOs in this country,” said Mr. Orban, the Prime Minister of Hungary, who ordered the revision of the national textbooks, claiming that refugees are a threat to Hungary, since: “it can be problematic for different cultures to coexist.” One of the country’s academics also stated that “the deportation of the Jews under Horthy (Hungary’s leader during the World War II) in 1941 [was] a mere “police action against the aliens.” (source: Remodeling Democracy and Rewriting History, The New York Times).

Once I finished reading that article, I thought back of my first visit to Hungary in the Summer of 2016. I had rented a small studio apartment in Budapest, on the opposite riverbank from the capital’s stunning and famous Palace of Parliament.

The apartment’s owner was incredibly hospitable and had even offered me a ride to the apartment from the central railway station. On our way to the studio, when we were approaching the magnificent Chain Bridge, he threw a quick glance to the right and in an upbeat tone declared that during the World War II, a number of Jews were lined up along the riverbank, stripped of their shoes and other valuable possessions, tied to each other and then shot point blank. The first person to fall into the river would then drag the rest with her and hence drown everyone. And what a great way, it was, to save some bullets.

I can’t ever recall a more spoiled arrival to a new and exciting destination, apart from that one episode of an unprovoked brawl with the Canadian immigration control. Instead of soaking up the beauty and majesty of the grand and sparkling Hungarian capital, I ended up walking around its historic, cobbled-stone streets wondering what went on in the minds of the murdered Jewish people in their final moment being awake on this Earth, seventy-something years ago.

But, if you think that Hungary (or Nazi Germany, for that matter) is an exception – look around.  And quickly name one country free of any race-based crime. For, there is no single nation in this whole World, where each one of its citizens would be completely innocent of bigotry, or some type of racial intolerance.

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So, what can we, rational human beings, do about the ‘race issue’, now that we identified it?

Well, for starters, let’s strip off the adjectives that we use to describe each other, as in “Black,” “Jewish,” “Mexican,” “Muslim,” “Asian,” (or heck – “alien”?). Then, let’s take a closer look at the one common denominator that defines us. All.

P.E.O.P.L.E.

People.

We are all people. Humans. Made of the ‘same’ molecules, flesh and bones.

Now keeping that ‘magic’ word in mind — let’s play a game!

Read any of the below articles and once you see any of the terms used to brand people (a.k.a. ethnicity/nationality/religion) — remove the stamps, as in: Vietnamese vs Cambodian, Christian vs Muslim, Israeli vs Palestinian, Burmese Buddhists vs Rohingya Muslim, and then substitute them with our common denominator. Slowly, you will see the true picture: people fighting against people; people hating on people; people killing people. I promise, the reward of your hard labor shall be quite fruitful, if not mind-blowing — for once you see the truth, it will be hard to unsee it. Once you change the mindset, you will see this entire world in a whole new light.

P.S. I was worried that we’ll have a shortage of fresh articles on this topic, yet only a week later I had a different problem – selecting the juiciest illustrations among hundreds of contenders.

P.P.S. I highly recommend starting your “race exploration” with the April 2018’s National Geographic issue.  This special edition was actually called “The Race Issue,” and its main focus is on the U.S.’s racial profile.  In this copy, NatGeo has also shockingly admitted that its own treatment of black people was lacking at best, and simply… gross, at its worst. I confess — it’s also the first National Geographic issue that I read cover to cover.

NatGeo -The Race Issue, April 2018What am I reading this week?

📚 Books:

if You Knew Me by Zainab SalbiOK, this book is not for everyone. There’s a lot of graphic, violent content that some readers might find disturbing. However, it is also a very beautiful book with a bottomless meaning. It was created by Zainab Salbi, who is also the founder of a nonprofit called Women for Women International. The organization works primarily with marginalized women who were affected by war.

The book is based on a number of sad life stories, as well as photographs, of women from four countries: Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Rwanda, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. It’s a great example of how people might look different, yet still share one common spirit.

📝 Magazines:

This is the feature which will tell you (in more detail) about our African roots and the meaning of ‘race.’ If you can only read one article this week – then make it this one.

This highly disturbing, mind-numbing account of the brief history, experience, and treatment of the Vietnamese in Cambodia will leave even the most seasoned individuals with a huge question mark: How? How did we come to this, that even the third-generation Vietnamese people who were born in a country, are still considered… outsiders? Or, what’s that word they are called — “yuon,” a.k.a. ‘savage.’

As Ben Mauk, the author of this feature, states: “Nationalism is always in search of an enemy.” And if there’s one common thread which has soaked and poisoned every article in this volume — this phrase nails it.

Farmers vs. herders. Christians vs. Muslims. A neighbor vs… a neighbor. All is peaceful, all are friends, until a moment later… everyone turns on each other. This thought-provoking article not only briefly profiles some of the most poisonous conflicts as in between Rohingya vs. Burmese, Israelis vs. Palestinians, and some others, but also describes the inherent bias in the American police against ‘minorities’ (which is everyone in the U.S. who is not a white male, though in this case they are mostly black men).

Another widening gulf, which has been growing for ages, between the Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Now that the Brexit is stepping on the porch, what’s in the future for these two? For those (like me) who might have limited knowledge on this historic conflict, the article provides a nice background on the multilayered “us” vs. “them” playing field (Catholics vs. Protestants, plus Irish vs. Brits) in Northern Ireland.

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P.S. You might want to read it twice to get a better grasp of who is fighting for what in this country. And, please, don’t quiz me later.

 📰 Newspapers:

Fifty years later after the death of Dr. King, Memphis the town where he was murdered, is at the standstill. Poverty, racial intolerance, fearmongering, discrimination – the time had passed, yet its healing properties haven’t really kicked in yet. This powerful article could not have picked a better place to show the sad reality which still haunts the black people. Every. Single. Day.

A growing polarity between those with a noble desire to help refugees assimilate and start a new life in Israel, and those who offer them a choice of either a free plane ticket to ‘nowhere’ or… (a barb-wired?) prison. A stark illustration of another “us” vs. “them” mentality.

P.S. I don’t support hostility against the Jewish nation, nor will I close my eyes on Israel’s own prejudice against other cultures.

A horrifying look into the current political situation in Hungary. Rewritten textbooks, state-controlled theaters, surveilled human rights organizations. Makes you wonder – what’s next? (Not that the U.S. is any better! But if we were to stop criticizing our politicians, what would become of this planet?)

What am I listening to this week?

📻 Podcasts:

Haunted Places by Parcast NetworkThis episode features a small, eerie Mexican island which had turned into a mysterious, spine-chilling shrine filled with hundreds of abandoned dolls. Tourists who visit the island report uncanny experiences, such as bodiless cries and whispers, orbs of lights and other blood-curdling, paranormal sights. The river, surrounding the island, is believed to be filled with restless spirits who had drowned, committed suicide, or were simply murdered and thrown into the deep, murky water. All I can say is: creeeepy (hence why I love it).

P.S. I listened to this podcast on a foggy, drizzling, grey early morning while working on my routine in the gym. Guess, I couldn’t have picked a more ghostly ambiance for this kind of story. Follow my lead, and you’ll have one very memorable episode to muse over the whole week!

  • Still Processing by The New York Times (Episode: “We Celebrate the REAL MLK Day”)

What’s the “real MLK” (Martin Luther King) day? The hosts of this compelling podcast will gladly share with you. They will also share their personal thoughts and experience on what being black means in the U.S.

As Jenna states, one can be very accomplished and successful and yet still fear that one wrong choice will put eight bullets (referring to a recent police shooting of an unarmed black man, Stephon Clark) in your back. Which, by the way, can also happen in your own backyard. How f-ed up is that?

🍲 What am I eating this week?

 Spring Mushroom Salad

  • Preparation time: 5 minutes
  • Serving size: 1

 Spring Mushroom SaladIngredients:

  • Spring Mix green salad leaves
  • Baby Bella mushrooms (4-5)
  • Wild Caught Canned Tuna (half a can)
  • Grape Tomatoes (a handful)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Wash the salad leaves, the tomatoes, and the mushrooms. Cut the mushrooms into thick slices. Place everything into a bowl, add the tuna, a pinch of salt and the olive oil. Mix well. Enjoy!

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Over to you – let’s extend our little “game.”  Once you find similar articles, videos, books, or maybe even you’d want to share your own experience of how racial prejudice had affected you personally – paste the links/share the content below, with a brief description of the “issue.”  And, let’s continue the conversation!

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