Can Anyone Win The Race (Conversation)?
What is the conversation about race that takes place when only Latinos, only Whites, only Blacks, only Asians, or only like ethnicities are alone in their conversations? Let’s not kid ourselves, when men are alone, or women are alone we know how the conversation differs without the other gender in the mix. So, why would it be any different in terms of race? As a matter of fact, it would be even more dysfunctional because across gender lines there is love for our sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, mothers and fathers, girlfriends and boyfriends. Across racial lines we often don’t see a connection, which prevents us from loving one another, and instead exacerbates our hatred or inconsideration for one another.
People want to deny our preoccupation with race, though undeniably talking about race is more often than not, problematic. Just recently I received an email, along with many others, about an article in the Press Republican that reported on the conviction of the child rapist in Plattsburgh. The author stated he was “very offended to see that under the headline that said "Child rapist gets 10 years to life", it was also stated, "Puerto Rican man convicted of abuse and rape of young girls in the area." The author’s concern was that the ethnicity of the rapist wasn’t germane to the topic at hand. The author also pointed out that on the same day another writer wrote an article that stated that a “Peru man gets 12 years for abuse." In this article the writer did “mention the person's name but no where in the article does [the writer] mention his ethnic background and rightfully so.” Was this deliberate collusion on the part of one writer versus the other? Of course not, (and I can say that because I know many of the writers for the Press Republican, as well as the management and know that) the paper wouldn’t deliberately put out such a problematic message. However, did the writer perhaps misstep in engaging the details? Is there inconsistency in the way stories are reported from one writer to the next?
Perhaps we can evolve beyond these awkward situations with more dialogue on race. Perhaps we can transcend our uncomfortable feelings trying to articulate the chasm of differences by exposure to others that originate from these different communities. Perhaps a solution to this problem could be the Press Republican and other local companies joining the ranks of other businesses, organizations and companies and introducing its employees to diversity and social justice education as well. In this rapidly changing world of ours is anyone beyond the challenge of becoming more educated about the differences that exist between communities. As an educator in this field, I continually learn so much from one engagement to another.
Is all this commotion an overreaction? Not if you are a member of a community and feeling devalued or disrespected. Have you ever been grossly in the minority in terms of some aspect of your identity and felt that way? The saying “just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean you aren’t being chased” could be quite applicable in this situation. I remember years ago having to address the Press Republican’s printing of the N-word in a letter to the editor (October 2002) when I knew the B-word, or C-word would not have appeared in print. Would the N-word have been printed in a newspaper if that newspaper had a staff that was all Black? Frankly, it is hard to answer that question because of the wide array of ideologies that pervade our society. However, the more diversity (in this case racial) that exists within any conversation would enhance the possibility of differing sensibilities being considered.
Yesterday I had my first class meeting of the semester for my African American Culture course. I entered this class with a completely different sensibility than ever before, greatly influenced by the Obama presidency. The other seven previous times I have taught this course I have structured it around the fact that African American culture today is still responding to the aftermath of slavery. You can see the aftermath of slavery in Black paranoia, disdain for interracial dating, hesitance or disinterest in voting, use of the N-word, an overt preoccupation with physical prowess (sports and entertainment) as opposed to academic enterprises, etc. How my approach to engaging current day Black culture will be affected by the ascent of a bi-racial man to the presidency is uncertain to me at this time, since I really haven’t fully processed the various dimensions of this reality. And for those of you who don’t agree with my assertion that African American culture today is a response to slave culture, why does Obama embrace his blackness over his whiteness when he self-identifies (read Dreams From My Father” to really experience what I am talking about). Have race relations changed? Should our ability to elect a so-called Black president be seen as an indication that we really have advanced in our ability to look beyond race? Or is it like the old saying “even a broken clock provides accurate time twice a day.” Tell me what you think?