February 16, 2011 11:09:00 AM
A phrase used by Donna Stark in a Local Voices piece in Monday''s Dispatch has caused a stir among our reader-bloggers. In her column titled "Old times not forgotten," Stark, a retired biology professor, enumerates some of the inequities of Mississippi''s racist past and takes Gov. Haley Barbour to task for downplaying their severity.
The term that has raised the ire of our bloggers is "our collective past." Most seem to interpret it as "our collective blame," something altogether different. We don''t think that is what Stark meant, and if it was, we would take issue as well. Our collective past is another thing, however.
Like it or not, we, as Mississippians, share the history of this place. There is much to be proud of and much that we wish had not happened. No one, not even Gov. Barbour, can rightly deny that horrific things were done to black people here prior to the Civil Rights movement. Those were far from the best of times, and the evil that existed then permeated all levels of society.
Mississippi has and continues to pay a terrific price for those misdeeds. Not only has the state been stigmatized, Mississippi''s blacks as a group are lagging in desirable categories (income, education) and leading in the undesirable ones (high school drop out rates, unwed mothers). Some might argue that sad state of affairs is a legacy of racism. Others say blacks have failed to fully accept the responsibilities of equality under the law. Again, that is not what we are arguing here.
As Mississippians we have a shared history, a collective past, if you will. We draw from the lessons of history and, as a result, continue to make this a better place for people of all races. It is work that is never finished, however, and frank, honest dialog such as Stark''s column and the response it evoked contribute to that progress.
Read Stark''s column in Monday''s paper or at cdispatch.com/opinions.
lateral caudal nidopallium commented at 2/16/2011 12:39:00 PM:
We'll just have to disagree on this. I don't feel I misunderstood the writer's message, as I've heard and read it many times in my life. It is a political message and one I, my parents and grandparents vehemently disagree with.
Never in my life have I tried to take credit for the work or accomplishments of anyone else, of other people or groups of people I wasn't a part of. When I refer to past accomplishments of a group I now belong to, I refer to the group generically or as the group, past tense. I never use the word we when speaking of past accomplishments of people that I had no part in making happen. That, I was taught, is a matter of truth, honesty and respect.
The same goes for taking the blame and accepting guilt for the same, even though it's been politically correct since the 60s and 70s to do that, or for some in the media to promote that idea. I was taught that we carry our own water, that what I do I will answer for one day or another, eventually, and ONLY I will answer for what I do.
No matter how you frame it or word it, to accept credit for accomplishments or achievements you have no part in is wrong. To expect otherwise violates not only the Christian faith, but the tenets of many faiths and many religions and many philosophies. The same goes for blame and guilt. The concept of accepting credit or praise for the accomplishments or achievements of others that you had no part in, or accepting the guilt or responsibility for the actions of others that you played no individual part in, is a political ideology and a means to an end. Both roads lead to the same place.
No person is born into this world burdened with the guilt for the personal individual decisions made by another. To preach that, to expect that, to demand that is contrary to everything that makes us individually unique. It goes against what I was taught is right, goes against my religious beliefs and goes against my conscience.
I would never have taught this to my child and I would hope people think before teaching it to theirs. Passing on the truthful harsh realities of the past is one thing, but with all the burdens we saddle our future generations with, unnecessary and wrongly placed guilt shouldn't be one of them.
jim varnon commented at 2/16/2011 2:00:00 PM:
I'm with lateral(above) all the way on this one..I have said before that I can go back 5 generations on the sides of each of my parents and there never was a single slave owner...I DO NOT hate ANYONE !! THE STEREOTYPING and the Racial Profiling is used in this article
to demean the innocent and in particular, the innocent white man.
BAD CHOICE !!!
zenreaper commented at 2/16/2011 7:34:00 PM:
I got ONE question for the writer. Listed as negative issues for black people are high school drop outs and unwed mothers. So tell me HOW it is the WHITE COMMUNITIES fault that girls are getting pregnant too young and being single parents, or that kids are dropping out of school? I mean I KNOW it isn't a "popular" opinion, but there is NOTHING the WHITE community can do to "force" a black person to drop out, sell drugs, commit crimes, have unprotected sex, abandon your children, etc etc. I would say you MIGHT have a case if ALL black families did this, but we ALL know that the truth is that the ones that are doing this are in the MINORITY of the black community.
SO start blaming the ACTOR, not the AUDIENCE, for the bad plays.
Grow the hell up and start acting like ADULTS and taking responsibility for your OWN actions.
raider commented at 2/17/2011 9:37:00 AM:
I appreciate the point some of you may be trying to make but I really disagree with it. There are many things that I believe people or groups are inherent a part of whether you want to be apart of it or not. I am an American. Therefore, when I speak of the attack on Pearl Harbor, I believe "we" were attacked even though I wasn't alive at the time. When the world trade center was attacked, I believe "we" were attacked although, I was in Mississippi on that day. In "our" attacks that followed, I believe that it was the "collective" actions of America that responded and we are responsible for that "collective" response by America. That includes the responsibility for dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and for the attacks on Iraq that I vehemently disagreed with. However, as a "group" (USA) we are responsible to do as much as we can to rectify the situation in Iraq. That included and will continue to include sticking around and helping the country get back on thier feet. Even after combat troops leave, 50,000 or more troops will remain in the country to continue helping it rebuild. That is our collective responsibility and we can't swear it off just because it was all GWB's fault.
Based on what I am understanding you to say..."we" were not attacked on 9-11, the people at the towers were. "WE" were not attacked at Pearl Harbor, the navy was. "We" didn't dropped the bombs on Japan, the military did.
I am willing to bet that many of you that do not believe in the "collective" responsibility or groups have no problem blaming Muslims for the attack on the WTC even though on only a small group of people that happen to be muslim was responsible.
I believe Ms. Stark was speaking of the tendancy of some of us to discount and whitewash the bad parts of our history. The message that I receive from her was that we have to face up to the full truth, the good and the bad and not have selective memories that change history to what we want it to be.
lateral caudal nidopallium commented at 2/17/2011 12:28:00 PM:
Please refer back to my message, as someone evidently overlooked much of what I wrote. I wrote "When I refer to past accomplishments of a group I now belong to, I refer to the group generically or as the group, past tense." I do NOT use the word WE. That shouldn't be that hard to understand. My children understood it at a young age when it was taught to them.
I also wrote "I never use the word WE when speaking of past accomplishments of people that I had no part in making happen." Refer back to the first reference above if that is confusing for anyone.
I am sad to think that anyone feels it's okay to take credit for the accomplishments of others. That must be so, since it is being said that people must be willing to accept guilt and responsibility for the actions of others. Unlike the ideology that promotes that belief, I disagree. You can't have one without the other.
I also wrote "The concept of accepting credit or praise for the accomplishments or achievements of others that you had no part in, or accepting the guilt or responsibility for the actions of others that you played no individual part in, is a political ideology and a means to an end. Both roads lead to the same place." Meaning the political ideology is to force a guilt on people who had no part in something in order to secure a redress or compensation from those people. That is the end of that road, and the statement was made "That is our collective responsibility and we can't swear it off..", which is no different than saying that every African-American who is or has been a US citizen is part and parcel of the collective responsibility for the enslavement of African-Americans in this country and they can't swear it off simply because of their skin color or the fact that they weren't alive at the time, or based on the fact that the very idea that they bear any responsibility at all for slavery is ludicrous in itself.
To clarify, I am one human who has never blamed any religious group for the acts of individuals, nor have I blamed whole groups of any kind for acts by individuals. I judge groups based on voluntary acceptance by each member of the group's purposes, laws, rules and beliefs. Anyone who hasn't been hiding under a rock has seen in recent days that there is disagreement in most every group of humans; Democrats, Republicans, Egyptians, Iranians, Iraqis, Palestinians.
I am not the one who has written anything promoting any belief in or philosophy of group responsibility for anything. I am not the one who has written anything promoting any belief in or philosophy of group guilt for anything. "That is our collective responsibility and we can't swear it off..." If that is so and the way some people want it to be, then why should Muslims, or Egyptians, or Iraqis or Bosnians or anyone escape this collective responsibility for the evils committed by members of their group. I am not the one who appears to confused on the subject of collective guilt and collective responsibility. I apply my beliefs to everyone, not selectively. Can you say the same? Not from what I've read.
1. Susan Estrich: Close to home NATIONAL COLUMNS
2. Michael Gerson: The GOP as the party of reform NATIONAL COLUMNS
3. Lynn Spruill: Lest we forget LOCAL COLUMNS
4. Froma Harrop: Doing well by doing good -- but better by doing bad NATIONAL COLUMNS
5. Our View: Summer's home stretch DISPATCH EDITORIALS