• Racial debate in this country is a convenient excuse to not talk about class.
  • The Republican Party is currently white and the power-holders are white, but they need to reach out to the future voters, who increasingly are brown.
  • The Democratic Party only talks about race in terms or racial conservatism or racial moderation. It’s never about racial liberalism, because that means an assault on white priviledge

 

Powerful statements, right? Those and more were made during a recently aired documentary on PBS, called: Race 2012. Have you seen it yet? If not, you should. It’s thought-provoking and eye-opening on so many levels. Here’s the link.

Don’t worry, it’s not a long diatribe against the “Great White Race” or the sounds of a woman belting out Swing Lo, Sweet Chariot while pictures of slaves hunched over cotton stalks flash on the screen.

It’s thoughts from a mixture of people of varying backgrounds and political persuasions who are on the forefront of this nation’s conversation on race. We’ve all heard about this need to talk about race, and some of us do have these difficult conversations. But not enough of us.

A lot of times white people don’t want to talk about it out of fear of being labeled the “R” word. On my end, sometimes it feels like whites are so worried about saying the “wrong thing,” as if doing so will make them candidates for the Grand Wizard.

And a lot of times black people don’t want to talk about it because we’re tired. We’re tired of explaining the same things over and over and over again, we’re tired of you not believing us when we point out racist behavior. Until you’ve walked a mile in my shoes, please don’t dismiss my experience.

I know it’s easier to dismiss me than to look at the ugliness of racism. But we all need to buck up and face the nasty, insidious monster in the room.

After all, a good chunk of America has a negative attitude toward blacks. A recent AP poll showed that 51 percent of Americans have prejudiced against blacks, and here’s the key, it’s regardless of whether the person recognizes it or not. One AP poll in 2011 found that 52 percent of non-Hispanic whites expressed anti-Hispanic attitudes.

Since the release of this study, I’ve noticed a lot of people have wasted a lot of hot air debunking it. For me these statistics ring true. I admit that based on my experience, I would guess that instead of 51 percent with negative attitudes, it would be closer to 35 or 40 percent. But enough about the numbers.

Here’s my two cents on racism. It exists, accept it and let’s figure out how to fix it. Sure slavery ended ages ago, but its scars are still obvious today. It’s clear in the systematic discrimination in our housing policies, education policies, our sentencing laws and even, quite recently, with our right to vote.

I’m not someone who considers themselves a victim or cries a river of woe. I’m black, I know there’s people out there who don’t like me because I’m black, I know that on some levels I’ll have to work harder because I’m black.

Everybody, regardless of race, class or creed, has obstacles to overcome, some are mountains others are mole hills. I know I was lucky to be born into a family with a solid foundation and great expectations. They gave me the tools I have used to claw my way to success.

All I am saying is, even if you don’t believe me when I talk about my struggles as a black woman, listen to me. Hear me out. I’ll do the same for you.

That’s why I encourage you to watch the PBS Documentary. It needles at parts of your cultural consciousness in a way that may not have happened before. For me, and I’m speaking in really broad strokes here, I’d never before thought about how many Asians feel that they often aren’t viewed as Americans. They’re seen as foreigners who have allegiance to another country over the good ol’ U.S. of A.

And for Latinos, people just assume they’re illegal immigrants regardless of whether they’re family has been in America for generations.

Again, check out the documentary and see what you learn. I know it gave me a different lens to view my America.


Comments

Race 2012: The documentary gave me a different view of my America — 2 Comments

  1. Good stuff Mel, I wonder when it will air again? I’m most interested in how we can change it. The only way I know to eradicate racism and stereotyping and prejudice is for people to *really* get to know someone unlike themselves. That can be hard, especially when people are hesitant to show their true selves around others or let people into their lives.

    Also I really don’t understand the issue with voter ID laws, which I assume you are saying here are inherently racist. I’d like someone to explain that to me.

  2. Melanie-

    Thank you for sharing this! I look forward to watching the documentary.

    When I was in the classroom as an 8th grade teacher in Atlanta I had a wonderful discussion about race with my students. (my school was about 40% white, 30% black, 20% hispanic and 10% asian) We were talking about the Civil War and many of them think of the event as something that happened long ago to people who have been dead for over 100 years. But then we started to talk through what happened after the war (abolishing slavery, Jim Crow, de-segregation, etc.) and how it was impacting them today. (When I was teaching there the district I worked in had a program called “Majority to Minority” where they bussed black students from south Atlanta to schools north of Atlanta where the majority of students were white. This program was established to de-segregate schools and it was STILL going on at the turn of the 21st century!) I had them look at where everyone sat in the cafeteria (almost 100% of the students sat with their own race- they self segregated) and we talked through why they chose to sit with their own race instead of all sitting together.
    I’ll never forget that conversation as my students started to realized their own thoughts and beliefs about race. I think their views were so sub-conscious they hadn’t even recognized it until we started to discuss it as a group. It also became obvious that the views some of the students had towards different races were largely influenced by their parents. “My dad said this, my mom said that”…. How can you help a young child see diversity as a good thing when their parents are at home spewing prejudice?

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