Friday, May 30, 2008

Removed From the Issue

“Removed From the Issue”

When discussing issues regarding race, many express hesitance, due to their feeling that they are somewhat “removed from the issue”. I assume this means that they feel the issues raised do not directly affect them, they have little real life experience, or are just afraid to venture into the mine field that is racial discussion.

These people may feel comfort in numbers, many white people feel this way, so much so that I seem quite the zealot for raising the issues. This hesitancy is natural and a normal exercise of common sense. I do not fault anyone for not wanting to address issues they feel unqualified to expound on, or have no real motivation or reward for investing time in. Not only is there little reward but more often there is great cost in friends, comfort, and distraction from more present matters. Fair enough.

I would however like to point out that this is a view and even “privilege” enjoyed only by white people. No black person can ignore race and its issues. Every one of them has experience on the subject. Racial issues affect them directly. No black person can avoid issues out of fear or convenience, they are wrapped in it.

Realizing this, and attempting to appreciate it, will open the doors to understanding for all of us. This will help a teacher or adoptive parent understand where all the anger may be coming from. It may help the armchair politician understand why all these activists can’t just “let it go”. This is why despite what we were taught about Dr. King’s dream, race still matters.

Now this realization is just one tool to help create context, not the answer to problems. It does not in itself even have to be a “problem.” It is simply the reality of anyone who is a minority of any sort. Whatever makes you stand out, intentional or not, will become a major part of your identity.

We all have a stake in racial matters but only some of us (white people) have the opportunity to choose if we care.


tristanjh said...

Wow...thank you for your willingness and persistence in discussing this issue and for doing it so eloquently. I suppose I fall into the "far removed" category because I can honestly say that I have never been in a situation where I've had the opportunity to sit by a black person at school, invite a black family to dinner or work side by side with an African American because the two states I've lived in, Utah and Idaho, are very predominately white. Nevertheless, you raise a good point: the importance of trying to understand where someone else is coming from. This is relevant not only as it pertains to race, but also in that as humans we tend to take small amounts of information and make broad judgments about people we really know very little about. I hope that I can raise my kids to see people for who they truly are and what they have to offer and not make assumptions based on skin color.

Jake said...

Okay....I am going to play the antogonist here. First I would like to state that anything I write here may or may not be my acual opinion on the subject. I am highly interested in how Dalyn will respond however. I agree that as a white person and a white male for that fact, I am able to easily ignore any issues of race, racism, or anything connected to it. However, isn't part of the issue the fact that a lot of black people and other races for that matter, can tend to make an issue about race that never was about race in the first place? Don't some people claim discrimination based on race where in fact it has nothing to do with race in many cases? Isn't there some responsibility that most of the current generation of "white america" is not actively trying to "hold black people down" and a big part of the problem is percieved and not actual. That does not mean there is not an actual racial and discrimination problem present and that does truly exist, but only gets compounded by false perceptions. Also, a percieved problem may be just as difficult as an actual problem. Where does the responsibility of the individual come in? When do we as "white america" say okay, we have done all we can to make reparations and to assist in any way we can, but now, you have to act? Father's need to be present families need to exist. Children need to work hard in school not to just graduate, but to go to college. When does the black culture that I see many inner city youth live in today have to change in order to create opportunities and break out of the cycle of repression that some may say is holding themselves down? Just to stir a little controversy and hear the blogmaster's opinion. =)

brohammas said...

As stated in the closing of the original essay, the idea of whites ability to ignore race, and blacks inability, is a realization to help create context and in no way offers a solution, or even an identification of problems that exist.

"Wolf" is cried quite often and is incredibly damaging to the betterment of race relations. But within this context one can realize that When race is ever present in one's mind, as it is in the genreal black coniousness, it is very hard to discern real motivation in any event or conflict. When your property is vandalized was it racial bias, or random act? You cannot know, nor can you avoid wondering. This is an ever tiring burden of minority.

To compound the problem is the human nature to assume that others think and see things the same way you do. More specifically in this discussion, is the tendency for black people to see all issues with racial glasses, and an assumption that whites do the same, both with a bias toward their own. On the other hand whites can ignore race, assume others can as well, and are therefore surprised when race keeps popping up it’s head.

This essay is not about any individual or collective responsibility but about an understanding that will lend to more affective communication across racial lines.

Once better communication and understanding is established, then steps can be taken to address where responsibility lies and the appropriate actions to better the condition of the greater whole.

I like the term Blogmaster but it does give me the unquenchable desire to ask for the Gatekeeper.

Jake said...

Nice "Ghostbusters" insert!

Anonymous said...

I think improved understanding would be great, but at what point do we expect understanding from both sides? I listen to Obama and his wife and his former pastor and they are filled with such hatred. It may be justified to a degree, I haven't walked a mile in their shoes. I'm not sure I want someone with such a deep contept for white people leading this country.

brohammas said...

What examples of Barack expressing hatred do you have? How has he shown contempt and what examples do you have that show it, if it does exist, to be deep?

Anonymous said...

I for one would like an answer to that question. The preacher Jeremiah Wright has said some seriously hateful/crazy things. But where, oh where and when and What hateful things has Barack said? Ever.

Anonymous said...

Let’s start with Rev. Wright:
An ABC News review of dozens of Rev. Wright’s sermons, offered for sale by the church, found repeated denunciations of the U.S. based on what he described as his reading of the Gospels and the treatment of black Americans.
“The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America.’ No, no, no, God damn America, that’s in the Bible for killing innocent people,” he said in a 2003 sermon. “God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme.”
In addition to damning America, he told his congregation on the Sunday after Sept. 11, 2001 that the United States had brought on al Qaeda’s attacks because of its own terrorism.
“We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye,” Rev. Wright said in a sermon on Sept. 16, 2001.
“We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost,” he told his congregation.

Moving on to Michelle:

The heavy presence of security around Obama was also a silent reminder of the change that took place with the announcement. Michelle Obama, the candidate’s wife, acknowledged it in an interview to air on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” in which she was asked if she fears for her husband’s life as a black candidate.
“I don’t lose sleep over it because the realities are that . . . as a black man . . . Barack can get shot going to the gas station,” Michelle Obama said in the interview, set to air Sunday night. “You can’t make decisions based on fear and the possibility of what might happen.”

What a relief…as a white person I have no need to be worried about getting shot at the gas station!

And my personal favorite:

Michelle Obama spoke these words:
What we have learned over this year is that hope is making a comeback. It is making a comeback and let me tell you something, For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country. And not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change. I have been desperate to see our country moving in that direction and just not feeling so alone in my frustration and disappointment. I have seen people who are hungry to be unified around some basic common issues. It has made me proud. [emphasis mine]

A man named Bryan Preston responded:

Nothing America has done in Michelle Obama’s adult life, which at 44 goes back 26 years to 1982, has made her proud of her country? Nothing? Not winning the Cold War? Not our regular and orderly transitions of power based on the rule of law? Not the fact that we feed and defend the world, not that we lead in science and technology research, not that we elected the first black president in 1992…nothing? Not the fact that she and her husband were able to go to Ivy League schools before embarking on extremely lucrative careers? Not the fact that we help out in disasters wherever they strike in the world?

And now Obama:

Obama quotes this passage:
"It is this world, a world where cruise ships throw away more food in a day than most residents of Port-au-Prince see in a year, where white folks’ greed runs a world in need, apartheid in one hemisphere, apathy in another hemisphere…That’s the world! On which hope sits!"

From Obama's "Dreams of my father".

"I ceased to advertise my mother's race at the age of 12 or 13, when I began to suspect that by doing so I was ingratiating myself to whites,"

"I found solace in a sense of grievance and animosity against my mother's race,"

"The other race (White) would always remain just that: Menacing, Alien and Apart,"

"That hate hadn't gone away, blaming white people,"

"THAT HATE HADN'T GONE AWAY," he wrote, BLAMING WHITE PEOPLE,- SOME CRUEL, SOME IGNORANT, sometimes a single face, sometimes just a faceless image of a system claiming power over our lives."

And...the "BLACK LIBERATION THEOLOGY" he believes in...
"If God is not for us and against white people, then he is a murderer, and we had better kill him. The task of black theology is to kill Gods who do not belong to the black community ... Black theology will accept only the love of God which participates in the destruction of the white enemy."

brohammas said...

On Obama:
To open by quoting Obama, in an instance where he was quoting someone else, without stating who he was quoting and to whom he was speaking, and in what context is unfair at the least and places the intellectual honesty of your argument in question.
Did you actually read the book? Context is everything my friend and the snippets you provide are couched in none of it. Obama was very frank and honest in his book which described his youth and "coming of age" if you will. Do you expect nothing but roses on the subject? You cannot read that book and come away thinking he is a racist... unless you bring that thought in originally and simply mined the pages for some quotes to reinforce your argument. In fact I think one of those snippets was from an account Barack gives of himself encountering a young black man who held these attitudes and Obama refutes that ideology.
honest question, did you read the book from which you quote?
On Michelle:
Michelle does not address "whites" in either of those passages. She does not say whites have no worries and statistics show that young black man get shot at a dissproportionate rate, usually by other black men... this means she hates whites?
As for what she is or is not proud of, I guess you are assuming that by "America" she means white people, otherwise this quote would be irrelevant in regards to her views on race.
If anything this may play back to the point of my original post. Bryan Preston is obviously proud of his country and can choose to ignore issues of race in the process. How easy is this for a black person? To automatically assume that critique of the United States is a critique of white people is more telling of who you view as American than it is of Michelle's views.

Have you taken the time to consider how patriotic you would feel if this country's policy regarding black people had a direct negative affect on your life? Do her comments seem that extreme in that context?

On the Rev.
Now here is a fine example of a racist and race baiter. As for Obama's belonging to the church once again context and understanding of the culture comes into play.
If you were working toward improving the black community and needed to connect with an orginization with like goals, where would you go?
Does the church you belong to have any racist teachings that would not be understood by an outsider? Does Brigam Young's views on race make you call all his teachings ino question? Why not?
Now the Rev is obviously not a prophet but though he may be a biggot that is not all he is. Just the same as it seams Brigham was a biggot but that is not all he was.

That is why understanding is important. It adds context. We should all try to honestly see where others were coming from rather than reacting so quickly.

lyric said...

"I'm not sure I want someone with such a deep contept for white people leading this country."

Is this REALLY what the talking heads are saying? I'm horrified.

Have you actually listened to Obama's full speeches, his writings, looked at his record? I have started paying more and more attention as he seems to be an intelligent, reasoned, thoughtful person. A person who straight out of college - started trying to make a difference in the world for the better.

What have any of us done? How involved are any of us in our community - getting our hands dirty trying to help those right in our own communities?

I don't know about you but in my community a lot of the poor aren't white. Why? The kids my children go to school with are good kids. They want to succeed. Their teachers want them to succeed. They are at a distinct disadvantage when you see their parents struggling with two minimum wage jobs just to pay the rent with no hope of health insurance and no time to help with homework, read bedtime stories, or spend the time I'm lucky enough to spend with my kids.

Every day I see examples of black and white people who have worked hard to better themselves and the people around them. But I still see the looks that are given to black people - and not to white people, when they walk into a store. I can only imagine the hurdles they might face in a job interview.

I could go on. I, for one, am sick of racist commentators spreading their bile. Stop listening to the radio heads and reading e-mail forwards and go to the source. Make up your mind based on the whole of the information presented.

Sigh. Sorry to go off. Believe me. One of my first fears (coming on the anniversary of Bobby Kennedy's assassination) is that someone is going to try to shoot Senator Obama. The white candidates don't have to worry nearly as much about this do they?

Shalise said...

I feel so lucky to have had contact with many African Americans! I met most of my friends at S.L.C.C., I have felt the honor of understanding there culture a little more. I think it is great the topics of discussion you have posted on you blog.
Your such a smart guy (always have been).
Post later

Rob Larson said...

I think that the main reason race isn't discussed much by white people is that there isn't really much to say, unless you want to expose yourself to social pressures and discomfort. There's only really one socially acceptable viewpoint on race, and most of us share that viewpoint, and once that viewpoint has been expressed, what else is there to say? If you try to engage in a discussion that is more thoughtful and nuanced, then you run the risk that people who don't know you well will think that you are trying to argue with that viewpoint, and therefore suspect that you secretly harbor feelings against that race. People who really do harbor such ill-feelings are afraid to say anything because then people will find out and label them racist, which is practically a social death sentence nowadays (think about it: I really can't think of anything that will destroy your social status in the public eye faster than coming out as a racist, except maybe admitting to being a child molester). The rest of us are afraid to say anything because we're afraid our comments will be misinterpreted. I don't think that anyone who knows me well would ever suspect me of being anything but understanding and tolerant toward other races, but in the past even I have come out of some conversations fearing that I have spoken too freely and that people present will have misunderstood my comments and suspected my motives. Often I then resolve to stick a cork in it next time around.

I think as long as there is this fear of social labeling then it will be hard to have racial discussions with anyone other than your closest friends. And that is a big stumbling block against people all across society gaining a better understanding of issues involving race. Further, even if such a conversation does take place, people tend to be afraid to voice any concerns they have, which then precludes anyone else from offering any fresh perspectives or helping resolve those concerns. So the concerns remain dormant.

For example, even on this blog someone was afraid to voice concerns they had without doing so anonymously (which is totally understandable). If this had been a face to face conversation they most likely would never have voiced all their concerns, and so no one else would have been able to reply with alternate information or perspectives.

On the other hand, this social pressure does good in that it is helping shape the viewpoints of the rising generation. Nowadays almost the only really racist white people you meet are either old or grew up in certain geographies where that's still an accepted view. After the 60's when racist laws were struck down and both the government and the media began to preach racial tolerance and equality, you had the next generation grow up all across the country with the viewpoint that racism is wrong. And the next generation will be even more so. So it has helped in that regard. But I think it has swung too far the other way. Nowadays to be even suspected of racism is suicide for your social life and even your career. And as a result, people are afraid to ask questions and get their concerns resolved.

lyric said...

I think one of Dalyn's points is that as whites we have the OPTION to speak abut race or not. It isn't a luxury black Americans seem to have. Or hispanics, or these days especially, anyone who looks like they are from the middle east. I think it's an every present issue in their minds. Always at the forefront. It's interesting how many of my black friends who are artists have produced work referencing lynching. It still looms large in their experiences. The ones my age had parents who were personally effected by those horrors.

I think it also depends where you live. I hear lots and lots and lots of talk about race on the airwaves here, at least on public radio. And it's mostly nuanced and interesting and intelligent from both sides.

Thank heavens for the rising generation. The one's whose parents didn't grow up in a completely segregated society. The more we speak out with love and sincerity, the better our hope for hte future.

brohammas said...

Rob is right that accusations of racism are a death sentence.
I have witnessed a knuckleheaded teenager, who knew this, pull the race card and repel a large group of college educated adults as if he were waving a crucifix at a flock of vampires.

The obstacles to interracial communication, and reconciliation, are real and go both ways.

The biggest way around these obstacles is real life experiance and interraction. I say the bigger challenge lies in what Rob said about true feelings only being shared with the closest of friends. The issue is that the way things work now, most close friends look alike.

brohammas said...

In regards to the rising generation there are huge strides being made for the better and worse.
I see evidence of those who have limited interraction, and therefore little context, are moving towards the poles. (as in polarized)

Rob said...

Maybe I am just being optimistic, but I don't really see many strides for the worse. I do see terrible examples of racism, but I tend to think that these are nothing new, and in fact I would attribute any increase in publicity for these acts to the fact that nowadays it is newsworthy when something like that happens, whereas in the '70s and even '80s it wasn't as noteworthy. Overall I'd say things are getting better each decade.

One exception to that might be the fact that recently it has somehow become acceptable for people to publicly express anti-hispanic feelings when talking about immigration. You hear people voice fears that their local culture will be contaminated by exposure to Latin American culture, and I don't see how that can be interpreted as anything but bigotry (even when it's not technically racism, it's certainly assuming your culture is better than their culture and that your culture will somehow suffer if it gets too close to theirs.) If the same fears are expressed about African culture or US urban black culture, people have learned to recognize this as bigotry, but somehow the anti-hispanic voice has lately been given a free pass.

I guess I'm a little sensitive to that one because I hear it from people who are otherwise so educated and balanced. Personally I can't understand it. How can I not believe that my culture can only be enriched by being exposed to other cultures? How can I not want my children to be exposed to as many other languages and cultures as possible as they are growing up? (Especially given today's global economy.) One of my favorite things about Europe is that in many of the big cities you can often hear 4 or 5 different languages being spoken on one street corner (even in London). I think it would blow the minds of many political pundits to hear the same thing on a corner in their neighborhood.

Personally I think it's grounded in a fear of poor people. These guys aren't afraid of rich black professionals, they're afraid of poor black ghetto kids. They're not afraid of rich Mexican businessmen, they're afraid of poor migrant field-workers. They're not afraid of rich Indian doctors, they're afraid of poor Navajos on the reservation. Or maybe that's because those that are rich have usually assimilated into the upper-class white culture, whereas poor people tend to maintain their own cultures. I don't know.

But like I said above, I do think that things are getting better and tolerance is increasing, although it's slow and can only be measured in decades, not years. And I think that social pressures and "political correctness" has a big hand in this progress, simply by influencing the education and exposure of each successive generation.

Rob said...

OK, I have to admit though that despite the "glass half full" view above, it is depressing that I only really see progress in interracial relations being made one generation at a time. Why can't people in the current generation change their views while they are still alive? Unfortunately I don't see it really happening, now or in the future, and I don't see any realistic solution for it. People gain their values and beliefs in their formative years through interactions with their parents, friends, school, and media, and they don't tend to give them up later in life. From then on they tend to forget or discount data and experiences that conflict with their viewpoints, and remember that which coincides with their views. (That's why 80-90% of Republicans have Republican parents, and same with Democrats. Same with religions.)

The only time people tend to change their beliefs is when they have a deep or profound experience that makes them question what they have previously learned. Like if they move next door to someone of another race and become good friends with them. Or more likely move into a whole neighborhood or country filled with ppl of another race/culture.

Unfortunately you can't exactly manufacture those experiences for others, so it's tough to see how you can really engineer faster progress for the country as a whole. Of course, the more exposure to other races/cultures and even philosophical discussions you have, the more you are influenced by degrees, but it seems a tough nut to crack as a whole.

Guess that's why I like to focus on inter-generational progress.

brohammas said...

Where things are getting worse is in those who are otherwise right (morally not politically) thinking people, who have no real life experience with black people, see media images, or instances which they see as wrong, and begin to harbor a negative feeling toward those people as a whole.

Example: Guy in Utah thinks racism is dead, he has never seen it. (how would he every one around him looks the same).

Cop shoots an unarmed black man in NYC and all the black people are upset on TV. The cops are found innocent, Utah guy, who is law abiding, accepts the court is fair and has recollections of the LA riots as he watches black people call “foul” over the police shooting.

Utah Guy is politically aware and sees Rev Wright on TV condemning the USA. This seems amazingly absurd to Utah Guy who is a bit offended by not just the racial accusations but at the idea of politics over the pulpit. Black people don’t seem too upset by Wright and it seems the main stream media doesn’t make as big a fuss as he would like. Then there is Michelle Obama not smiling and complaining. “what could she complain about,” Utah wonders. “She went to Ivy league Schools and made lots of money while I went to BYU and only make a modest amount. Why isn’t she more chipper?”

Compound this with MTV’s booty videos, and the fact that Utah Guy hates all of Allen Iverson’s tattoos, long hair, and attitude… not like good old John Stockton, the greatest to ever play the game.

Utah Guy does not feel he is racist, and isn’t really, but everything he sees points to black people being irresponsible, complaining law breaker (both legal and moral). He begins to think that the issues facing black people today are all their own doing…after all, they won the civil rights movement (we have a holiday to prove it), he has never witnessed any racism in real life… and he is beginning to get annoyed at innocent white people like the Duke Lacrosse team, Trent Lott, and Imus, getting railroaded for false issues while Chris Rock can call him a “cracker” with no repercussion.

Utah Guy is headed the wrong way fast, there is nothing going on to stop his descent, and he is not alone.

This guy is why I think these things must be talked about and worked through. This is the same guy that my kids are going to run into at church for the rest of their lives.

brohammas said...

Oh yeah,
Being Latino, especially Mexican, most definately puts you at the bottom of America's social ladder. Apparently the free world hinges on the English language.

But thats another subject for another post.

Rob said...

Oh ok, I see what you mean. I was talking about blatant racists, while you were talking about people's more subtle attitudes about race. You are right, that part is getting worse.

I think the reason it's getting worse now is that people (some of them for the first time) are getting exposed to slices of black culture without getting exposed to black people. And slices of culture in a vacuum--without actually getting to know the people--will always seem odd at best, and (sometimes) wrong at worst. I guess I should be saying inner-city culture, since there's not really one culture common to all black people.

So how do you solve that one? Increased exposure to actual black people and education about what it's like to be black should help, right? But how do you make that happen? Dalyn you're definitely doing your part by trying to get people to think about race from the other guy's perspective. But unfortunately it seems that most ppl in the country seek not for opportunities to understand, just to take care of their own.

Rob said...

Hey Dalyn,
I have a question for you, something I'm curious about. What is your opinion of Bill Cosby? And if she doesn't mind saying, what does Kay think about him?

For the past few years he has been trying to influence the overall black culture. There are things specific to the inner-city culture that he doesn't think are helpful to the black race, and he is trying to get the broader black culture to go in a different direction. And naturally this has been rather controversial.

Of course, you could say that he's on a fool's errand, that one guy has zero chance of influencing an entire culture (unless maybe his name is Michael Jordan :-)), but what do you think about his efforts, and the fact that he may have influenced a few people at least?

brohammas said...

Bill Cosby Rules!!!
He is saying things that black churches have been saying for years but he is a person with enough "crossover" success that the rest of the country is getting to "listen in." (way to many "")
He is getting a lot of heat for speaking out not so much for content but that he is doing it in mixed company. Its the whole airing the dirty laundry problem, no one wants to hear some redneck down the street quoting Bill Cosby on this subject.

Kay likes him too and thinks he is right, but has some reservations in that he offers no solutions, or rather she questions how constructive his critisizm is.

I think people speaking out is exactly what we need. Most of the legal battles have been won but we then forgot the PR war that should have followed.

rob said...

Interesting. I had heard other preachers & leaders criticize the absentee fatherism & crime, but I hadn't heard anyone else go so far as to criticize the slang way of talking or even the way inner city kids dress themselves, as Bill has done. Nothing I wouldn't have told my own kids (speak correctly and dress nice), but a bit unusual to have a non-parent say such things to an entire community, or so it seemed to me.

brohammas said...

It is not hard to get an older black person to go off on kids wearing their pants off their backside.

Rob said...

Ha! That makes sense.