Did you know there was a Freeport Y.M.C.A. affiliated or sponsored basketball team in 1917 that used the name, Ku Klux Klan, for their team name? Wow! What a disappointment! What a sad reality! And some people want to tell themselves there is no history of racial problems or prejudice in Freeport.
For instance, I remember “Whitey” Stewart, a member of St John UCC when I was the pastor there, telling me an African-American friend of his and he went into a restaurant in downtown Freeport for lunch in the 1950’s. The owner looked at his African-American friend and said, “We don’t serve your kind in here.”
There are deep roots of racial problems or prejudice in Freeport and Stephenson County.
The Y.M.C.A. (Young Men’s Christian Association) allowing, affiliating itself with, or sponsoring a basketball team with the name Ku Klux Klan is baffling, troubling, disturbing and a sad part of our local history. Fortunately, these are not the values or spirit of our “Y” in these days. Our current “Y” leadership and staff support and value an open and inclusive membership and participation of all persons. Unfortunately, it was not always so. The vestiges and effects of such prejudiced affiliations and other attitudes and actions of hatred remain in our community. They are a part of what is known as the “collective consciousness,” which is the foundation and lifeblood of systemic racism.
Dr. Nicki Cole, Ph.D. in Sociology, explains “collective consciousness” with quotes from the “Founding sociologist Emile Durkheim” and her own words. (https://www.thoughtco.com/collective-consciousness-definition-3026118) She writes:
“collective consciousness is something ‘common to the whole of society,’ as Durkheim put it. It is not an individual condition or phenomenon, but a social one. As a social phenomenon, it is “diffused across society as a whole,” and “has a life of its own.” It is through collective consciousness that values, beliefs, and traditions can be passed down through generations. Though individual people live and die, this collection of intangible things, including the social norms connected to them, are cemented in our social institutions and thus exist independent of individual people.
“collective consciousness is the result of social forces that … course through society, and that work together to create … the shared set of beliefs, values, and ideas that compose (the collective consciousness). We, as individuals, internalize these and make the collective consciousness a reality by doing so, and we reaffirm and reproduce it by living in ways that reflect it.”
What she’s saying is that “intangible things,” such as prejudice and stereotyping, are firmly rooted in the hidden mindset of our “social institutions.” Our courts, schools, public administration, health care systems, law enforcement, politics, religion and more. In fact, such attitudes and actions become spread across and throughout society as a whole. Currently, we see this in our systemic racism, the white supremacy movement, and the false notion of replacement theory.
She also says that we take those “intangible things” and beliefs, values, and ideals and internalize them. We take them into ourselves, so they become a part of who we are. The result is these societally destructive forces and beliefs get fed back into the “collective consciousness” and “passed down through the generations,” making it a continuing reality.
Submitted by Donnley Dutcher