The Roots of Racism

It’s been justified and rationalized for centuries, and the arguments to support it vary from scientific to downright insane. Although universally doncemned, subtle forms of it still crop up in all modern societies. Skin color, sex, what you put on your head or to cover your face are still fair game for prejudice.

Today on Thinking with Somebody Else’s Head, the roots of racism.

First, thanks for all your notes to me about the program. It’s always gratifying to hear from you, so don’t hesitate to write me if you’ve got any comments, questions or even suggestions for the show. And please pass along the suggestion to like-minded friends and family to check out Thinking with Somebody Else’s Head as well. The bigger community we create together, the more Norberto Keppe’s profound but insufficiently recognized work will get out to more people. And this can only be a good thing.

Well, we can look back at images from recent history – a short 50 years ago – and be staggered at the pictures of black people sitting at the back of the bus. Duke Ellington got so disgusted with not being able to stay at the hotel where he was playing, or even go in the front door, that he bought a Pullman railcar for his band to travel around in. “Now,” he said, “We travel just like the President.”

Billie Holiday’s harrowing song about lynching, Strange Fruit, which her generation witnessed in no small abundance, makes us shake our heads in shock and dry our eyes in sorrow to this day. Because slavery, lynchings, apartheid, ethnic cleansing – these are so obviously wrong – and have always been – to any person with even the most tenuous link to the true human essence. Surely there can be no debate about that anymore – except by someone so separated from human spirituality and love as to be certifiably insane.

And yet, it continues. And not just in subtle forms, like being refused a job, as the horrible images and reports rising out of Rwanda and Bosnia attest. How can this be possible? Well, I’m reminded of St. Augustine, who confessed after deep soul searching that there was no difference in intention between the worst criminal and himself. He only managed to control it, where the other did not.

What is it inside us in regards to racism that we don’t understand well enough yet? This is the essence of Norberto Keppe’s work, and the subject of our program today. My guest is American musician and researcher, Gilbert Gambucci.

Click here to listen to this episode.