Monday, March 24, 2008

Discussing Race

There is a remarkable discussion at this blog. It starts with an incediary comment by Pat Buchanan which I reproduce below:

First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here
that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a
community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the
greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.
ought to go down on his knees and thank God he is an American.
Second, no
people anywhere has done more to lift up blacks than white Americans. Untold
trillions have been spent since the '60s on welfare, food stamps, rent
supplements, Section 8 housing, Pell grants, student loans, legal services,
Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits and poverty programs designed to bring the
African-American community into the mainstream.
...We hear the grievances.
Where is the gratitude?

A reader of this blog then added this comment on the developing discussion that was on how to even discuss race in America today:

I am a white guy. Raised in Virginia and South Carolina ... old enough to
remember "white only" water fountains and bathrooms and schools and churches. I
now live in California after a sojourn in Alaska. So let's talk about race, Pam.
I get you that the righties just don't get it and Sen Obama does. I think the
Clintons "get it" too. But that is not really the discussion that needs to take
place, is it.
It is one thing to describe the problem and another to
describe the proposed solutions to date (as Buchanan attempted - really tacky
that he termed "race" as a poverty issue in my book) But let's narrow the
discussion from "race" to white and blacks in the USA in 2008 and beyond. Let's
leave Asians and Latino's to another discussion.
How do we even talk about
black and white in the USA in 2008?
I was on a bus in San Francisco a couple
of years ago. The driver was a black man. He stopped the bus and three black
women got on aged approximately 19 to 21 or so. They had boxes of chicken
dinners in their hands. The first two women got on and immediately proceeded
down the aisle to the very rear of the bus, where they took a seat. They were
talking very loudly. Sitting in the front of the bus, I could hear every word
they said. They were really loud.
The third woman stopped at the pay kiosk
at the front of the bus. She proceeded to put change into the kiosk. She only
put a few nickles into the kiosk. The driver informed her she had not put enough
change into the kiosk for herself, much less the three of them. She said she did
not have any more money and asked him to let it slide. He refused. He said they
had money for chicken, they should have saved money for the bus. The woman
called, yelled, to the back of the bus to her friends for money for the fare.
They screamed back that they were broke and for her to just join them in the
back of the bus. They proceeded to yell back and forth for a good minute or two.
The driver was getting angry. He insisted that the three women get off the
bus. They refused unless they got their fifteen cents out of the kiosk. It is
impossible to retrieve money from the kiosk, as everyone in San Francisco knows.
They started yelling at the driver ... the one woman from the front of the bus
and the two women from the rear of the bus. It was getting nasty.
A black
man came forward. He was irritated. Asked the driver how much the women owed.
The driver answered and the man put that amount in the kiosk. the man and woman
proceeded down the aisle; the man to his seat, the woman to her friends in the
rear of the bus. The driver finally drove the bus. Howevr, the driver kept
looking in his mirror at the three women and yelled at them that there was no
eating allowed on the bus. They yelled back that they weren't eating on his damn
bus. Actually, they were.
The driver turned to the Asian woman seted next to
me in the front of the bus and informed her that in the City there were Black
people and there were niggers. Those three were nothing but niggers and gave all
black people a bad name. His comments shocked and offended me. The three women's
ploy for a free bus ride shocked and offended me. But I said nothing. I am not
sure I should have. Just not sure.
The fact that a racial discussion brings
this story to mind shocks me too. But it does.
I must balance it somewhat
with the incredible black man about 18 years old who organized the bus stop of
about a dozen folks of various races to allow a disabled white woman to board a
bus first even though she was the last to arrive at the bus stop ... a thing
just not done! He spoke up and moved us all until we all just stood aside,
allowing this woman free space and all the time in the world to board the bus.
He was quite the speaker and organizer. I tried to enroll him in labor organizer
school, he was so good.
I really don't know what I am talking about, do I?
LOL If you think someone ought to do something, that someone is probably you.

As someone who tries to provide a forum as well as a way to discuss race in America in my classes, I found this to be very interesting. As well as reflective of the difficulties folks have, both white and black. (and others as well).

I've had some of my most racist statements made by black students....about blacks. Part of the problem is that folks confuse racism, prejudice, and then discriminatory behavior. Certain words are incendiary, like "nigger" but a discriminatory policy all dressed in neutral language hardly gets a pass.

I think that white liberals are more afraid of being called racist than trying to work through the difficulties. Therein lies the problem. the very idea that some individuals are not racist. We live in a racist society, where the dominant belief system contains considerable racism. Without the tools to tease that stuff out, without a more theoretical understanding, we are ridiculously left pointing fingers at each other.

Buchanan's comments sound like the old planatation owner. "I give you a place to sleep, I feed you, I clothe you, your ingratitude is stunning." Affirmative Action helps everyone (I'm sure if anyone read this that will be eye popping).

The entire conversation is grounded in racist thought; that the individuals of racial groups are good representations of the entire group and that the minority group, especially, is monolithic. White folks make such a big deal out of African American folk being "loud" for instance. You should try flying 8 hours with a bunch of Swedes. Trying to scam a bus ride. I used to tape a string to a quarter, it would fall through, then I'd pull it back out again. Didn't work all the time, but maybe a third of the time. Until well intentioned whites admit their negative feelings, confront them and then begin to intellectually struggle against them (not wrap up their feelings in poitical correctness, because inevitably you get twisted statements like Geraldine Ferraro's).

No comments:

Blog Directory - Blogged The Steiger Counter at Blogged