For those who do not know my heritage I am Ghanaian by birth and moved to the United States about 16 yrs ago. In the US I have never been able to escape being mistaken for a Nigerian, Caribbean American or African American among a whole host of origins and associations. I have no problem with this because I do not believe my heritage defines who or what I am. Our genetic heritage outside of the social associations and restrictions that it may imposes upon us does not define or determine who or what we are, or become.
In Charlottesville today there are violent protests between groups on two sides on the significance of race in our social order. What makes this situation so sad is that we are fighting among ourselves over the social construct. A social divide that we have created and reinforced over centuries to determine allocation of resources and opportunities. Slavery in the Americas is one of the most extreme forms of this social policy. I use the word policy because in those times our laws supported this practice. Today though not supported by law it still exists deeply entrenched in our society. Our society has evolved from slavery into a social system that fosters racial bias with whites at the top of the hierarchy and blacks at the bottom with Asians, Jews and Hispanics somewhere in the between.
Over the ages several writers and philosophers have come out with several theories that try to propagate the belief in white supremacy. Historical accounts that accentuate white supremacy either by design or happenstance have tended to be promoted at the expense of other groups. This has created a strong belief among some white Americans that the resources of this nation should be one of their inalienable rights at the expense of other groups. This is probably the driving force behind the protests in Charlottesville, VA.
I was not surprised to hear David Duke a former KKK leader and a strong supporter of the trump campaign for president comment yesterday on the protests in Charlottesville. “This represents the turning point with the people of this country, we are determined to take our country back. We’re gonna fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That is why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he is going to take our country back and that is what we are going to do”
Duke’s statement most likely reflects the beliefs of most of the right wing protesters in Charlottesville. When David Duke mentioned taking his country back I could only cringe at his words because, I know a group of Americans who should be singing that tune. The riches and resources of this country have been divided and shared over the years. Historically slavery and post slavery Jim Crows laws have always ensured that the sharing has almost always been unequal with Black Americans getting less of the pie.
Today if there are any groups of Americans who deserve to be taking their country back, it is Native Americans. Unfortunately today Native Americans are a minority on this continent. The sacrifices and contributions of all the various racial and ethnic groups to the greatness of this country needs to be recognized.
Today I raise a shout to all our, Latino, White, Asian, Native American, African, Jewish and Arab brothers and sisters who are standing side by side in defense of Unity and progress. Today as we mourn the protester who died at Charlottesville, I say to all the counter protestors “you are all great American heroes”. You stood for what America stands for, and you will be remembered by posterity.
Dr. Leonard Sowah is an internal medicine physician in Baltimore, Maryland