Monday, August 3, 2009

Why the Race convo didn't end last week.

Now that President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have met with Sergeant Crowley and Prof. Gates to air out their concerns, CNN blasted a headline that said would it make the nation chill on race? So just because the President held this meeting, the conversation on race will be done with?


The conversation will move out of the mainstream and back into college classrooms, private encounters or wherever it has been limited to now. It had one of its brief cameos where it was discussed mostly on the surface but now goes back underground from our sights.

Attorney General Eric Holder made one of the most honest statements I’ve heard in a while when he said that we are a nation of cowards when discussing race. That goes for all races because we lack the language, patience and thick skin necessary to talk AND hear each other’s perspectives. It was a bold statement that I agree 100% with, having seen this firsthand during my college years.

Issues of race and identity were discusses at length in class but if something happened on campus outside the class, people were woefully ignorant of its implications. For example, an editorial in the sports page back in 2005 said the NBA had an image problem then promptly only had pictures of Black players, including a prominent (and old) mugshot of a scowling Allen Iverson.

Nevermind that it plays into fears of threatening African-American men scaring folks. It prompted me and a few other students to start a campaign against the newspaper and its policy of allowing stories to run without checking it for sensitivity. People were mixed on it –of course the obvious cry of he’s a good person, not a racist – but the point is that it happened without much thought put into it of the consequences.

That’s one example on why the race convo won’t happen – people get offended when you question their beliefs or comments, immediately saying they aren’t racist. The key problem here is – you aren’t racist, but your comments/beliefs/way of thinking are ignorant and it’s our job to enlighten you for YOUR benefit. It’s key to separate the person from their words so you can show them the real problem together, not attack them both.

The issue of race will not go away because it has been replaced by a more dangerous cover of ignorance – people who stay in the dark about how things offend people and prefer to just be colorblind. But the best way to fight it is what we just saw from these four men – sit down, talk about it openly, learn from each other and figure out how to impact the world around us after we evaluate ourselves.

I was talking with a friend of mine last week who was discussing how he talked to someone struggling with alcohol and he said that the dude was impressed when my friend talked about how we all have to fight our demons instead of judging him on his. The same analogy comes to discussing race.

We are imperfect people who need to stop making people perfect. We need to be imperfect people who aren’t afraid to discuss the error of our ways, not be dictated to about them, and work on fixing them individually and together.

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