This country really, really needs a dialogue on race. Evidence of this is my own hesitation, right here on this page, to say what I really think about the situation. My views on black-white relations have softened a bit over the years, but not that much. And legitimate research on my part has added confidence to my point-of-view. Yet I dare not say what that point-of-view is by virtue of this horrible tag of ‘racist’ that is almost certain to come from some quarters provided this blog is read widely enough.
If the “N Word” is anathema to African-Americans (as it should be), then the “R Word” has almost as strong a counter punch power to whites. I would argue all day that I am not racist but maybe I am. Who gets to define the racist, the person who views you, or you? I just don’t know. But I sure don’t want to be called one, or worse, be one.
I watched most of President Obama’s comments last month on his own experiences and saw little new. Of course I would hate to be followed in a store as he described, but it was not as dramatic as some might have expected. I guess it was news when a sitting president would volunteer such personal stories. But I was prepared, if asked, to comment on some of his experiences but demurred. What rights have I to tell him he is wrong? But then again, why can’t I ask questions without being called a racist?
When I was growing up, we knew who the racists were. They were the folks who went out of their way to point out unbecoming traits or lifestyles of blacks in my southern home town. If you said nothing to argue the racist’s rants then you were not a racist yourself, you were just well mannered. Today, you are a racist if you disagree with the hyperbole that comes from the self-designated racist identifiers. I think we all know of whom I speak. But again, I dare not share their names because disagreeing with them makes me a racist. In fact, the shame of calling me, the somewhat conservative but mostly forward thinking Caucasian, a racist is that there are fewer denigrating words to call the true haters. The folks who believe one race is genetically superior to the other. That’s not me. That’s a Racist.
So we need to talk. I need to be able to sit with an African-American and ask about how they feel. And I should be willing to do this, not armed with rebuttal but with compassion.
The outcry about the Trayvon Martin case might have been my personal turning point. Or it may have been a big adventure of lemmings heading over the cliff. My personal view of the verdict was that it was correct. But I didn’t watch the trial in detail so maybe I don’t have all the facts. So then how can millions and millions of blacks disagree with the same verdict? Am I missing something? If I am, educate me but don’t regurgitate the 30,000 foot view about an armed man and an innocent boy. Be more specific. And don’t try the ‘shoe on the other foot’ argument either. That rarely works and is 100% hypothetical. But millions of Americans gave up their Saturday on July 20 to go and protest something that happened in a jury room in Florida one week earlier. Are they all protesting the verdict, or are they protesting the state of affairs in America.
I must presume it’s the latter. Folks are angry about something they cannot define to me but the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case may just be the lynchpin that causes the collapse. So I need to be educated so that I can understand the pain. I’m tired of talking to myself and always coming out on top. I want to understand racism so I can help stop it.