Saturday, August 04, 2007

Just Because Something Bothers You Doesn't Mean It's Wrong

BC over at America Blog has a post up which opens with this:

The quickest way to end a political conversation in DC these days is to bring up the issue of race. Most people, especially Caucasians (such as myself) are loath to discuss the issue. Your average Democrat (such as myself) would rather ride in the backseat with Lindsey Lohan at the wheel than openly discuss racial issues.

But I decided to breach these dangerous waters because of something I saw on television. It bothered me to see the head of the Atlanta Chapter of the NAACP, R. L. White, laying the credibility of his organization on the line to defend Michael Vick.


This is a disastrous opening if the author is truly interested in creating a true dialogue on the complex issues related to race.

First, an opening that implies, "What's wrong with this black man? Why is he being so stupid?" shuts real, meaningful dialogue down cold. When this implication gets a predictable backlash then it is easy to blame and insult those who respond to this post for the problem created by the author of this post.

Second, since important racial issues are related to poverty, health care, education, personal safety, and other critical day to day issues, declaring that you are loath to discuss all other racial issues means you are loath to discuss our (Caucasian) contributions to huge problems and you are loath to discuss what we can do to reduce or eliminate these problems. This subject matter is necessarily uncomfortable and many of us have the luxury of being able to just walk away because huge problems don't directly impact our lives.

When we walk into an emergency room with a seriously ill friend we likely can't imagine having to call 911 from the ER waiting room because the ER staff refuse to treat a friend in desperate and immediate medical crisis. We likely can't imagine that jail looks good because in jail there might be some chance of medical treatment. We likely can't imagine knowing that a friend or a loved one needlessly died because the ER staff decided that person was a chronic complainer.

If our only contribution is to tut-tut what black leaders or black organizations are doing, that makes us at best look shallow and stupid.

The crime of driving while black impacts them more, but the core problem is ours. Yet we often refuse to accept that and instead focus on what "those people" are doing wrong. And then we claim the reason we won't talk about this is that the topic shuts conversation down cold.

No topic itself can shut or open conversations. People do these things. Yet it is easier to pretend this isn't true or to blame those other people for what we do or what we cause.

Third, is the assumption that the NAACP is defending the crimes Michael Vick is accused of and is giving the man a free pass simply because he is black. This is a very dangerous assumption which eliminates, without discussion, any possibility that there are real, serious issues that this case magnifies.

Like the Duke case, a case like this one gives many people an acceptable outlet to spew toxic racist beliefs which really have nothing to do with the specific people involved or the specific criminal case. That geyser of previously suppressed hatred needs to be opposed no matter whether this man is guilty or innocent.

Fourth, this opening exposes how much easier it is to criticize them than it is to think about the situation from a perspective we've never even thought about. It's much harder to question our own discomfort and to ask ourselves what we need to learn to understand a puzzling action.

Our bias shines through when we can't assume or later accept that actions we don't understand can possibly come from people who are as intelligent and sensible as we are or who may be more intelligent or more sensible than we are.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:27 AM   0 comments links to this post

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