Saturday, February 21, 2009

Are we racist cowards?

As I read Gary Graham's piece, I'm a racist coward a good portion of it really struck me, and I had to really think about what he was writing. I can't say I disagree with quite a bit of what he wrote, especially these parts:
I always thought that I treated everyone fairly in my daily life with no preference or deference to anyone based solely on skin color. I always loved the words of Dr. Martin Luther King who said so eloquently, that he dreamed of a day when people “would be judged, not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”. But now…I find out that that philosophy is racist and cowardly. And it is proclaimed by the top law enforcement officer in the land, our new Attorney General, Eric Holder.

Apparently, I’m a racist coward because I want to be color blind. This great national offense of racism doesn’t want to die - even though we just elected our first black president. Just when you thought it was okay to climb out of the past, to put racial injustice and animosity behind us…the Attorney General in the national media yesterday drags it back out.

I don’t believe in Black History Month any more than I believe in White History Month. To me, Black History Month is a complete insult to Blacks. We must prop up an entire race of people, give them special awards, honors, and recognitions, underscoring their accomplishments and achievements and contributions to society, based on their color… as if it’s so truly remarkable that they did it in the first place…and are African American to boot? Stop the presses! A black person accomplished something great! As if they couldn’t have done it on their own, without help. As if they are somehow inferior to whites. That they somehow overcame their blackness…and did all these wonderful things despite the obvious disadvantage, encumbrance, disability…of being a person of color.

Am I the only one in America…who finds this the least bit patronizing and insulting…and downright, well, racist?

I also recommend this article in the New York Times by Charles M. Blow, he shares a bit different of a view:
First, white people don’t want to be labeled as prejudiced, so they work hard around blacks not to appear so. A study conducted by researchers at Tufts University and Harvard Business School and published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that many whites — including those as young as 10 years old — are so worried about appearing prejudiced that they act colorblind around blacks, avoiding “talking about race, or even acknowledging racial difference,” even when race is germane. Interestingly, blacks thought that whites who did this were more prejudiced than those who didn’t.

Second, that work is exhausting. A 2007 study by researchers at Northwestern and Princeton that was published in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science found that interracial interactions leave whites both “cognitively and emotionally” drained because they are trying not to be perceived as prejudiced.

The fear of offending isn’t necessarily cowardice, nor is a failure to acknowledge a bias that you don’t know that you have, but they are impediments. We have to forget about who’s a coward and who’s brave, about who feels offended and who gets blamed. Let’s focus on the facts, and let’s just talk.

If you did not hear Eric Holder's words? Watch here.

This is especially an important topic given that the NAACP is now demanding that the New York Post fire Sean Delonas. It's situations like this cartoon, that clearly was not referencing Obama that create the fear of offending that Blow describes in his article. It's those of us who believe if it was Obama (which it wasn't) there should be no double standard of expectation such as Graham expresses...


Cyberseaer said...

So, according to Holder, I should treat black people as equals in the second month of the year and then treat them as subhuman the rest of the year?

Also, I can only have a sincere dialouge with a black person only if I start out with "Hey, you're black and I don't know anything about that, please tell me of your pain before I ask how your family is."? This Holder guy is an ass.

In my experience, the only time race is brought up is by black people, if brought up at all. People are people. It shouldn't matter the hue of the skin. All of my friends who happen to be black I would trust with my children and we hang out and are always equals. We talk as friends and have good times and bad. We all treat each other with respect and have fun. Should a racial naughty word come into play, all know that it's all in fun and humor. And if someone has a problem, it is brought up and dealt with before any feelings are hurt.

Why is it that when a powerful black person gets a mike in front of his face, most of the time, he will say how unfair the system is for blacks? Looks like the system is doing well for him. Does he really believe that or is his own guilt of success that makes him feel that he must say these seperatist things to make him feel better about himself?

Lawrence Moore said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alex said...

Mr. Holder's point isn't that we ought to open a discussion with a reference to one's race; merely that we should be open to frank discussions with people of a different race.

Mr. Holder wasn't assuming black oppression and arguing from this position, he was deducing what he believes to be 'cowardice' from our self-segregation. Our self-segregation is an empirically valid observation.

His argument seems more reasonable in light of the tangential and platitudinous nature of most conversations on this topic: ‘People are people. It shouldn't matter the hue of the skin’, ‘Should a racial naughty word come into play, all know that it's all in fun and humor’, ‘Why is it that when a powerful black person gets a mike in front of his face, most of the time, he will say how unfair the system is for blacks?’

Mr. Holder wasn’t articulating a position that would make the aforementioned statements applicable; they’re merely ‘gut reactions’ to an uncomfortable topic.

Kevin Lockett said...

Colorblindness is bad. How can your eyes be open to racial inequality if you don't see race? Yes, race is a social construction created within the past few centuries, and yes it's only skin deep, and yes we're all equal. However, we must be able to see the distress that racism has caused in our world in order to combat it. How can you see injustice against racially marginalized groups if you refuse to acknowledge their racial identity.

Like many others, you are making Eric Holder's case for him. Instead of engaging the many racial issues we face, your hiding behind criticism and hurt feelings. No one called you a racist. He only said that we need to have more and more honest discussions on the issue of race. I don't see how this is something to take offense to. We do shy away from such discussions in this country.

Finally, and speaking as someone for whom the teaching of history is a passion, we need things like Black History Month, because otherwise certain topics in our nation's history that are barely touched wouldn't be addressed at all. I hate the fact that we need such a month, but it all goes back to the disease that is racism. Things aren't right because things aren't right. We have to have strange-looking things like Black History Month or affirmative action to deal with the stranger and more disruptive thing of racism.