Neighborhood Transformation

Neighborhood Transformation
Undoing Racism
Training conducted at W. Palm Bch, Florida April 4-6, 2000
by People United for Survival and Beyond

Notes taken by John Little

Society is built on a race construct. There is no quick fix. We have to find a support base for change. Part of the answer is to recognize it and say it.

The neighborhoods where poor people live are called by different names: ghetto, "hood", trailer park, the "projects". The people who live here have to interface with numerous institutions based outside their neighborhoods each and every day including employers, social service agencies, the police, schools, financial institutions, etc. These are the gatekeepers. Many of these are institutions built on a subtle racist construct.

Working Definition of "Racism".

The language used for the definitions of racism in the dictionaries will not allow us a way to undo it. We need a self-serving working definition so that we can have a meaningful discussion.

Here is our working definition

racism = race prejudice plus power

In other words, we are not talking about mere prejudice. Our working definition makes clear that our core institutions in American society (i.e. "power") were built on a subtle yet real racial construct that results in giving people with white skin an inherent advantage over people of color.


Forms of racism:
  • individual

  • cultural/linguistic: things in popular culture there are certain portrayals of certain groups are seen as almost being normative. (e.g. "the only good Indian is a dead Indian", Hollywood's constant portrayal of young black men as aggressive and dangerous)

  • linguistic: Segmenting humanity with words and phrases that reduce people to an object and that are negative and pejorative. But the dominant culture looks at such words and phrases in a positive light.

  • Examples.

    • "Negro" people originating from Africa are named by their color (not origin).

    • "blackballed"

    • "black magic"

    • "mumbo jumbo" (corruption of mandingo mantra "mama gyumbo").

    • "mulatto, rooted in latin word mulus (also root of "mule" which is half and half like mulatto).

    • "colored": note the past tense, implying formerly (white) people.

    • "pikaninny" a corruption of "pequeno nino"

    • "European". comes from root "eu" which means good, well. In Greek mythology Zuez rapes Phoenician princess, and this is the origin of Europeans (ancestors, the gods).

    • "Jew" as a noun means a type of person, as a verb it means "to cheat".

    • Gypsy. origin of verb "to gyp"

  • institutional: Society built on a racist construct. All major institutions created prior to desegregation (most prior to abolition of slavery). These include the financial, legal, educational, etc. Institutions are built on a racial construct with white's are the beneficiary.

  • militarism as applied racism: "militarism' goes beyond martial force. Its an ideology that says all problems should be solved by military means. "Let's nuke em all and let god sort them out".

  • environmental: poor neighborhoods often serve as locations for environmentally polluting activities.

  • healthcare: where people of color receive a different level of care.

  • economic: disparity in economic resources.
How do you stop a movement? You cut them off from their history. Prior to the 1960's about 70% of people in jail were white, now its reversed. Before civil rights movement jails were not needed as a social control mechanism. Note the 13th Amendment (outlawing slavery) had an exception . . . for people incarcerated. Jail is tool of social control

Diversity, in and of itself, is not and should not be the goal in trying to achieve justice.