When to play the Race Card and Why it is Played
It’s the big, fat elephant in the room whenever a Black person is accused of anything. It’s the silent reality that everyone knows but few articulate whenever a Black person goes to court. It is the subtle assumption when dealing with inequality in America. It is the ever-present Race Card.
The question at hand is, when is it appropriate to justify a situation or an action by the race(s) of the person(s) involved therein? Let’s look at a few examples and try think about it.
Anybody who took a CAAS class at Michigan or has read anything written by a member of the Black intelligentsia knows that race is a social construct, meaning that it is not “real” or “tangible.” The problem is that this “intangible” thing has been and continues to be used against people of the wrong [unreal] race.
The issue though is that race, whether you believe it is real or not, does not exist in a vacuum. It coexists in the complex matrix of circumstance often referred to as reality. In this thing called reality, many things pull many people in many different directions, not the least of these being their racial identification. Also, ones racial appearance and/or identification (which may not necessarily be the same) can and often does effect the perspectives they possess, the choices they make, the actions they take, the circumstances they exist in.
Prime examples are the Gulf Coast Hurricanes of 2005. This site is firmly at odds with the top-to-bottom governmental response [or lack thereof] to the disasters that was Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. While I have my own belief that race was the ultimate determining factor and motivation behind the apathy displayed towards the hurricane victims and survivors, I must also realize that other factors played roles. Poverty had a lot to do with the response as well. I do not know of an example where poor white people were in the same position as poor black people and then devastated by such an event. Only if such a case existed would I be able to test the validity of my theory. Regardless, the sad reality is that poverty and race in America are in many cases interdependent. This is just one example of the way that reality partners the real with the unreal, the tangible with the intangible.
So my question then is why do we not more often play the [insert your "real" card here] card. Why do we not focus on the implications of poverty when we talk about racial profiling? Does “poverty profiling” not occur? Does classism not exist in this country? Is it off-base to think that maybe this approach deserves serious consideration? Martin Luther King Jr. began articulating this with his Poor People’s Campaign, which he initiated shortly before he was made a martyr. I do not doubt that this realization was a key factor in his assassination.
Examples of the Race Card gone wrong:
- Dante Culpepper saying discrimination influenced charges brought against him and his teammates for an illicit party last year.
- Individuals who claim to do illicit things because black folks don’t have a choice (see some of the comments on this post, even though we all know how I feel about Stan Williams).
These are wrong to me because I don’t feel like race is a valid justification for stupidity, ignorance, or lack of creativity. Race does play a part in molding circumstance, but we do not have to use it to justify negative or hurtful actions.
Example that could go either way
- Driving While Black
This warrants further explanation before everyone gets pissed at me. The simple example is this: Consider two cases. In case A, I am pulled over for going 5 over in my suburban neighborhood of Farmington at 10 PM on Tuesday night. In case B, I am pulled over for going 25 over in my suburban neighborhood of Farmington at 10 PM on Tuesday night. In case A, I have been found guilty of Driving while Black. In case B, I have been found guilty of Reckless Driving [While Black?]. You decide.