Thursday, October 2, 2008

What You Gonna Do When the "Race Issue" Comes for You?

I'm so tired of reading, writing and talking about the race issue.

Not because I don't think it's important. I do. And it's not because I think it's one of those problems that just can't be solved. I think it's very solvable. Nope, I'm tired of discussing the race issue because it seems like nobody really wants to "talk."

We'd all prefer to "converse."

Some of y'all are shaking your heads and wondering if I understand that "converse" and "talk" are synonyms. Trust me, I'm pretty good with words so I was aware of that. But, in my mind, despite the dictionary definitions, those two words don't really mean the same thing.

See, when I discuss the Obama candidacy with my co-workers, we're conversing. When I discuss it with y'all, we're having a real talk. When guys talk to girls for the first time on the phone, they are conversing. When guys are trying to explain the naked pictures of their old girlfriends that their new woman just found, well then they are doing some sho' nuff talking.

Conversing implies a surface conversation; one where no feathers are ruffled and no imaginary lines are crossed. Talking is what you do when you're comfortable and want to get to the truth. Conversing makes people feel good about problems, talking can actually solve problems.

When it comes to racial issues, most of us prefer to converse. I just read this story about a racial incident at a Quaker college and the whole article is an attempt to "converse" about race. There ain't a shred of real talk in the article and the only useful information is the comment that many Americans view economic success as a "zero sum" game. (That means that most folks figure that if you succeed, it means there is less success out there in the world for them. Sounds stupid, but in my experience, it's a pretty accurate observation.)

If y'all check out the article, it's about students hanging an effigy of Barack Obama from a tree at a college in the Northwest. Attached to the effigy was a note that railed against an affirmative-action styled program at the college. The article tries to determine the motives of the students who hung the effigy without actually talking to them. And, wouldn't you know, the article dances around discussing the most obvious explanation.

The students feel like black people are getting an unfair advantage in the world, and Obama is the biggest example of that fact.

It's really that simple. If the article had forcefully and continually attacked that position, instead of pussyfooting around, the world would be a slightly better place right now.

I'm a firm believer in the idea that the best way to combat lies is with the truth. And not some milquetoast versions of the truth, but the unvarnished, factually-based truth. That doesn't mean you have to be rude, but it does mean that you cannot co-sign lies. This approach has lost me many a romantic interest and a few friends, but it's still the approach I prefer.

When it comes to race, we just need to step up to the plate and talk this ish out. Let white folks say how they really feel, and then let them listen to how black people feel about those opinions. Then lets bring in the stats that matter when it comes to racial disparities. More importantly, the media, and other individuals with knowledge, need to do a better job of showing people the true reach of affirmative action.

I think that if white Americans were hit over the head with the facts about how few black people actually benefit from affirmative action it would be much harder for them to hold some of the views they hold. Instead, too often we tend to avoid talking about why affirmative action was created and what it actually does because we don't want to have that kind of "talk." We "converse" about how sad it is that certain people hold such outdated racial views, but we rarely "talk" about where they get those views from and what's needed to combat them. Once we start having those talks, then we can start taking some action.

As long as we keep conversing, we'll just have cottonmouth.



Darth Whitey said...

Good post! Sad thing, this effigy episode, nuts!

As a white person myself, I insist that no matter why affirmative action was instituted, no matter what its effects really are, it is counter-productive. It generates resentment amongst whites, like it or not. Perception is reality and if you have to spend more than two minutes explaining it to uneducated white people then you've already lost.

If you were to simply change it to be based on economic status only, then I assure you, minorities would reap the same benefit they get from it now without screwing the trailer park white trash, and white losers wouldn't blame their lot in life on minorities.

Does the son of a black doctor, like Theo Huxtable for example (heh), _need_ affirmative action? Not a chance. His even being considered for it is a slap upside the head to the son of a white janitor, it's grating and you can hardly blame the white kid for being a bit resentful.

OG, The Original Glamazon said...

The truth will set you free. I'm sorry my brain is just on vacation these days. I wish I had the energy to TALK about this today.

I know sad. Have a good one.


Big Man said...

Ain't no thing


It's amazing how often white people use the Theo Huxtable argument when discussing Affirmative Action. Let's deal with reality instead of some television character.

As a white person, how many of the African Americans who benefit from Affirmative Action do you think come from affluent households? Did you know that only 3 percent of all scholarship money awarded in this country takes race into account? Who is getting those other scholarships?

What do you think Affirmative Action was created to deal with? Here's a hint, it wasn't slavery. No, affirmative action was created because white people, regardless of their economic class, were being given opportunities that qualified black people were not being given. This had been occuring since America became a real country. To undo some of that wrong, the federal government created a program that required businesses and universities to consider all applicants justly. If those companies failed to do that volunatarily, they were then forced to admit minorities using a quota system. The problem isn't Affirmative Action. The problem is the willingness of white people and their ancestors to allow inequities to prosper in America for centuries. White people have then compounded that problem by complaining about a federal program created to address those inequities, even though that program has been in effect for less than 40 years. So, we have a country where one racial group benefited from inequities for more than two centuries, than turned around and complained when those inequities were rectified.

And you expect black people to understand that?

Darth Whitey said...

Understood Big Man, but in this day and age, do you really think that such a rigid race-based definition is still appropriate? It has served its purpose as it was, but things have evolved now. Just change it to economic status now, reap the same benefits and take away the easy argument and blame-target from the losers!

You must recognize that leaving this pinata up for trailer park folks to beat up on as an excuse for their failure is damaging to black folks no? Not so much in what minorities are able to achieve, but in the _perception_ of uneducated whites.

You could eliminate quite a bit of resentment if you redefined aff ac, and resentment is a gateway to racism.

Again, perception perception perception. The truth doesn't matter, it's what Rush Limbaugh and friends can say. Eliminate the easy target!

Deacon Blue said...

And when you elminate the "easy target" and remove race as a consideration, what happens?

Financially strapped white students will get as much or more aid in a world where they still have an economic edge over black folks in most cases...and black folks have one less program to help even the playing field.

Fact is, affirmative action hasn't "done the job" and whites have been bitching about a fantasy problem for decades.

Is your answer that we stop trying to address inequities in the hope that white will do the right thing?

Big Man said...

Affirmative Action began roughly in 1975.

White people began bitching immediately, but turned things up to a fever pitch by about 1980 or 1982 when Reagan tapped into all their hate.

So, white people believed that all the problems of two centuries of discrimination had been solved in seven years?

And I'm supposed to be able to depend on these white people to consider the issue rationally moving forward? Nope, not going to happen. When folks start admitting what really happened and didn't happen, then we can have a talk about eliminating or revamping Affirmative Action. As long as most white people don't even do the basic work of educating themselves on the issue, I'm not interested.

Darth Whitey said...

You overestimate the intellect of the average American.

Look, in America there are two kinds of people: players, and player-haters. The haters need someone to blame for them not being players.

Race based affac makes it soooooo easy for them to fault minorities for their own failures. Most of these people are not racist, they don't think that black people are inherently inferior or anything, they're just resentful that black people get an advantage at their expense (or so the stigma of affac would have them believe,) and then of course saying anything bad about black people is taken as racist.

Just drop it, replace with economic, and boom, straw man gone. Everybody wins. Haters will have to find a new excuse. So what's the problem?

Raving Black Lunatic