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Us Versus Them

***The staff of the Jim Crow Museum receives dozens of letters and emails. Some of these communiques offer insight into race relations -- historically and in the present. While some are hateful, we have decided to share some of these letters and emails with our Internet visitors.***

Rapper 50 Cent

I am currently a Psychology student at The College of New Jersey and am enrolled in a class called The Psychology of Power, Oppression and Privilege. When I first began this class I had many ideas of who blacks were and who they were not. I would not consider myself a racist by any means, like most Americans (that I know), I considered myself to have an egalitarian outlook on life. Taking this class has given me a greater appreciation of the Black American's experience. It has allowed me to talk open and freely with Black Americans that I am acquainted with. I have a deeper appreciation of the social constructs and systems operating in our country that allow racism and oppression to exist, but I do have a question for you. Meritocracy aside, why do you not have any of the following "Modern Racist Forms" on your site?:

  1. The Thug
  2. The Gangsta'
  3. The Playa'
  4. The Angry Black Man
  5. The Angry Black Woman

As a white woman, I do not experience or see in my community overt, old-fashioned racism. No doubt the racism that permeates today is a private preference that people struggle with. They have both feelings of stereotypes (us vs. them) and believe themselves to be egalitarians. None of which who would admit openly that they may harbor less-than-EOE feelings. However, the above named Modern Stereotypes which are common media images, ESPECIALLY on MTV, reflect African-Americans in a very poor light. At some point, do we not have to take responsibilities for our own actions and live our lives with dignity and respect and not blame "them"?

Again, let me reiterate that in lower-socio-economic neighborhoods there is much pressure on young men to be tough and we know that when there is low self-esteem involved, the tougher a boy needs to be, but at what point does the black community step up to the plate and say, we won't allow ourselves to be portrayed this way anymore! Or acknowledge that these images are not positive and need to be seen just as offensive as a Pickininny or an Uncle Tom or a Black Brute? When do we, as Americans, stop getting sidetracked by consumerism and start taking back the values that were once so important in this country? We are so far off base -- worrying about immigrants and democracy in the Middle east and abortion that we fail to right the wrongs of racism, sexism and all the other -isms. We, as Americans, are complacent and if enough of us could get our minds off of 50-Cent and Paris Hilton, we might actually look around soberly and intelligently and "take our heads out of our collective asses" (Tim Wise), realize what's going on and actually join together as one mass and do something about it!!!

Anyhoo...thanks for listening. I hope you find time to read my humble words.

Michele Bizzarro
The College of New Jersey
-- April 10, 2006