Race Talk in America
This is part of the bi-weekly Black on Black Thought feature.
What’s up fam,
I am happy to kick off Black on Black Thought. This week, James wrote about CNN’s Black in America special (that will highlight life in Black America in all its complexity) and considers whether or not this series will over saturate America with “race talk” and its possible impact on the 2008 election. James basic conclusion is that we are reaching a saturation point in our “race-talk.” I think we are far from the point of saturation.
James’ article kicks off with a basic premise that America is not ready for a meaningful dialogue on race and to this end, I think he is right especially given the mistaken notion that we are living in a post-racial society and the willful ignorance of addressing the historical significance of Indian removal policy, slavery and Jim Crow (and others) as institutional wrongs whose impacts can be felt today
James goes on to question “whether America isn’t “done” with race for the moment, and whether re-engaging a dialogue on race won’t hurt race relations — but also the Obama candidacy — in the end.
I will address the aforementioned shortly but James supports his argument by stating that “By November we will have had the Wright/Pfleger controversy; Obama’s speech on race; questions about Obama’s patriotism; stories about white Americans who believe Obama represents a “change” too great; discussed Black Liberation theology; and will have “learned about what it’s like to be Black in America — and then be expected to vote for a black man in the poll booth.
If I could sum up James’ article it would be that America is getting tired of talking about race and this may have the impact of hurting race relations and damaging Obama’s chance of victory in November. However, if we are really honest with ourselves, it’s not that Americans are not tired of talking about race, they are just really annoyed and upset when it comes up.
To help illustrate my point, consider this, all of the major news outlets embark on a two-week campaign highlighting the need for Americans to give of their time and money to help victims of Hurricane Katrina. For clarification, imagine that this coverage is replete with graphic images and harrowing stories and intensity comparable to MSNBC’s coverage Tim Russert, whose passing moved me deeply and inspired me to cherish my family more. Now do you think Americans would a) Respectfully engage this campaign by watching/listening to this coverage and give of their time and money or b) Occasionally watch the coverage and before the end of the first week, start to think to themselves and become vocal in saying “OK, I get it. Katrina was bad but can we please change the subject now?” I suspect that the answer would be b) because people aren’t tired, they are really annoyed and upset.
For any remaining moral purists, tell me how long it takes for you to click away from television specials that highlight the need for giving aid to starving African children?
So if we are at a place where we can’t even mount sustainable campaigns where people have to give of their time and money for extremely worthy causes, how can we get people moved to do a far less taxing activity such as having a “race-talk.” As for Obama’s candidacy, I think his “race-talk” will be beneficial in comparison to the extent that the majority of Americans are not annoyed or angered. And in my opinion, if Americans are over saturated with anything, it is thinking that it is inherently unfair to correct this country’s original sin through public policy along with a severe lack of empathy for those less fortunate and/or different.