Sunday, September 24, 2006

Negrophobia in 2006?

NPR did a really interesting Q&A with the historian Clarissa Myrick Harris, co-curator of an exhibit chronicling the 1906 race riots in Atlanta, which happened a century ago Friday. In the interview she talks about the many reasons why the riots happened, even though the city was considered riot-proof because it boasted the largest black middle class in the country. She also talked about the role of the media in inflaming racial tensions. Here's what she had to say about the "negrophobia" that prevailed in the city that is now "too busy to hate."

There is paternalism that looked at the black race as inferior but capable of being improved by guidance and the example of white people -- "We will civilize them." And there is negrophobia -- which looks upon black men, in particular, as essentially degenerate, fundamentally vicious, prone to vice, prone to lust, as not quite responsible because they haven't developed morals, [which] sees the black man as a dangerous animal. Negrophobes think the black man can't be improved, but he can be controlled. That's where you get ideas like the chain gang, a system to get itinerant black men off the streets by putting them in jail, putting them to work for the state, building roads, doing work but remaining incarcerated. The idea is that, "At least we're teaching them to do a good day's work, giving them food." This is the lens that negrophobes had.

Amazing how much and how little has changed.

To hear the NPR broadcast, click HERE

See the New York Times article about the anniversary click HERE

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