Racism has consequences

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made an unfortunate mistake when he said privately:

Obama, as a black candidate, could be successful thanks, in part, to his light-skinned appearance and speaking patterns with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one…He [Reid] was wowed by Obama’s oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama — a ‘light-skinned’ African American ‘with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.

The comments and the response to the comments have been laughable, disconcerting and indicative of the broader race-related issues that our country continually kicks down the road.

I’m frustrated that the only tellers at the Bank of Apologizing to Black People are still Rev. Al Sharpton and/or Jesse Jackson. Many have used the fact that Rev. Sharpton accepted Reid’s apology as grounds for vindication. Rev. Sharpton is as much a proxy for Black America’s social consciousness as the CEO of Goldman Sachs is a proxy for the interests of community banks. Just like there’s a movement to move our money out of big banks, Black folks should be moving their representation away from Rev. Sharpton and to community voices.

It’s further frustrating to think about how the latent prejudice of our politics has contributed to structural inequity reinforced by public policy.

Take health care reform. Why is there disagreement between the House and Senate over the need for reform to narrow disparities in health care coverage? The House bill does this; the Senate bill does not.

Take unemployment. A community jobs program would work wonders for communities over-represented on unemployment roles: Black and Latino people. Yet the current debate on public job creation has shown little interest in this regard.

Perhaps there is more at work than the latent racism that leads to remarks that are at their best in poor taste and at their worst indicative of utter moral failure. The way to work through a controversy like today’s uproar is to put these incidents into a larger narrative about the consequences of entrenched racism and prejudice. Once that narrative is constructed, we can create a solution.

One Love. One II.

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About Garlin Gilchrist II

I am the City of Detroit's first ever Deputy Technology Director for Civic Community Engagement. My job is to open up the city's public data and information for the consumption and benefit of all Detroiters. I currently live in Detroit, my hometown, with my beautiful wife Ellen and our twins Garlin III and Emily Grace. I'm from Detroit. I created Detroit Diaspora, and was formerly the National Campaign Director at MoveOn.org. I also co-hosted The #WinReport on "The Good Fight," a an award winning, nationally syndicated radio show that was one of Apple's Best of 2013. After graduating with degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, I became a Software Engineer at Microsoft. By day, I helped build SharePoint into the fastest growth product in the company's history. On my personal time, I sought out opportunities to connect my technical skills with community building efforts across the country. This led to my co-founding The SuperSpade: Black Thought at the Highest Level, a leading Black political blog. I served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, and then became Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change. I spent two years creating and implementing a strategy for the Center to take it's 40 years of community organizing experience into the digital age. I speak before diverse audiences on effective & responsive government, empowerment in revolutionary new organizing spaces, increasing civic engagement & participation through emerging technologies and protecting civil rights in the age of the Internet. Full bio here.

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