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Talking About Having A Talk About Racism

The ugliness of racism has been brought back into the spotlight with the murder of seventeen year old Trayvon Martin by self appointed, wannabe sheriff George Zimmerman and the botched, seven hour and thirty minute investigation, give or take about five minutes, by the Sanford police and other Florida authorities who failed to give the crime its due consideration. Initially, the police claimed there was no evidence to contradict Zimmerman’s claim that he murdered the black teenager in self defense. The police bought the story and sent the shooter home with the gun he used to kill Trayvon in hand. It wasn’t until the people protested did the higher ups in Florida realized that a high profile travesty of justice was happening in their backyard and reopened the investigation and Zimmerman was finally charged with a crime and held in police custody.

The protest that brought Zimmerman to justice was led primarily by people in the black community. People all around the world gave their support. But the mass of thirty thousand people that descended onto Sanford, Florida was disproportionately black, outraged over another example of white on black crime compounded by a police department with a history of contributing to racial tension that appeared reluctant to take the murder of an unarmed black teenager seriously. President Barack Obama was asked his opinion of the Trayvon Martin case. Along with an expression of sympathy to Trayvon’s family, Mr. Obama said that if he had a son he would look like Trayvon.

Mr. Obama’s sentiment only added fuel to the fire people used to justify the shooting and subsequent lack of an investigation of the boy’s murder. People already dismissed Trayvon as unworthy of justice simply because he was black, kind of like Zimmerman denied Trayvon the right to walk down the street without being harassed because he was black. But when Mr. Obama made his statement saying that he could identify with Trayvon, some people took their racial animosity to the stratosphere. It was wrong for Mr. Obama to insert race into a situation that had race written all over it. Newt Gingrich went so far as to interpret Mr. Obama’s statement as an endorsement that it would have been acceptable of Zimmerman had murdered a white kid. Only a race baiter would attempt such a colossal and irrational leap of logic and few people outside the seriously ravenous hatemonger took Mr. Gingrich seriously. Nevertheless, the fact that race was playing a part in this whole ugly ordeal could not be ignored.

The news was filled about how once again we should be opening up a nationwide dialog about race. Did race play a part in the murder of Trayvon? Did race play a part in the initial lack of an investigation by the Sanford police? How did race factor in the response by the black community? What role did race play in the response by so many people who were saying that black people were rushing to judgment? What role did race play in America’s history of racial intolerance? You get the point.

Many television news programs asked the question is it time for America to have an honest talk about race. I saw it on many of the programs on MSNBC including Morning Joe, Up with Chris Hayes, Now featuring Alex Wagner, Political Nation with Al Sharpton, and quite a few others. Many people were talking about whether or not the shooting of Trayvon was an opportunity to talk about race. But few of these shows took the opportunity to actually talk about race.

Instead of asking a question if now is a good time or talking about racism from a perspective that only adds ambiguity and confusion to the issue in order to spare somebody’s feelings, why can’t we have an honest discussion about America’s racial disparity. How is it possible that even in twenty first century America an unarmed black teenager can be murdered by a man who, if rumors of his compulsion to call the police at the site of an unknown black person holds true, obviously has a problem with black people and can walk away from the scene of his crime with the murder weapon? How does that not bring to mind the history of pre civil rights era of a place like Mississippi or Alabama when racism was so rampant? Why don’t we talk about the fact that something like half of the white population were tired of hearing about the Trayvon case just weeks after the boy was shot and Zimmerman remained free while more than eighty percent of the black community felt otherwise?

If we are going to ever have a conversation about racism then let’s have a conversation about racism. Talking about why we should talk about racism just doesn’t cut it. That ranks right up there with talking about arresting somebody who killed an unarmed teenager and yet the police told him to have a good day as he walked away. People need to want that conversation about race instead of pretending that racism is just a ghost story from our unenlightened past. It’s nothing to fear. And the longer we put it off the longer it will take for America to heal the wounds that we have suffered all in the name of racism and the continued subjugation of people of color.

Monday, April 23, 2012 - Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Black Culture, Black People, Life, Racism, Thoughts


  1. A discussion on racism in America should not be on racism, perse. It should be on elected leaders who play groups against each other, particularly along economic, class, ethnic, religious, gender and racial lines.
    In a word, it should be on the people who take advantage of our differences, not on how people are affected as a result of being targeted. IMHO.

    Comment by Larry Carter | Monday, April 23, 2012 | Reply

    • Thanks for the feedback Larry Carter,

      If we were living in a world where the subgroups were simply separated and no single group was vastly valued, appreciated, respected so significantly more than the others then an approach that avoids all the disgusting attributes of having one group existing at the bottom of the racism ladder would be an approach that would have value. But this is far from the case. Racism as practiced against the black community by the racially generic dominant community that consist mostly of white people is such an arrangement where the impact of racial disparity needs to be addressed head on. People might be taking advantage of black people and that’s an important factor in the conversation. But just as important are the impacts that cause many of us to believe that it is somehow okay for an unarmed black teenager to be shot and killed and the resulting investigation of exactly what happened is over and done in 7.5 hours is outrageous. Who was taking advantage of the racism of such a situation? Finding out exactly who’s gaining muddles the issue in this example.


      Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Monday, April 23, 2012 | Reply

      • With all due respect, racism is just one form of targeting and dividing people in America. There have been many discussions on racism already, but there is not a single group of Americas that experience on an every-day-of-their-lives basis the degradation blacks have, and I don’t expect them to get that understanding from a discussion. Sure, many will agree and commiserate, but the effects of another discussion on racism will not have any longer a shelf life than the previous ones.

        One, because nothing in this country comes close to the devastating effects white-on-black racism has on a people, particularly our youth, so to have such a discussion on something as complex as racism, (particularly with people who are in denial) and base it on a single incident, as horrific as that incident was, is in my view what “muddles” the issue and comes off more as a knee-jerk response and “easily” explained away. But while it may be a way to explain to people who are not black what would happen to me or you if we were to find ourselves in Trayvon’s position, such a discussion doesn’t explain the overall turmoil that currently takes place in the lives of black people.

        However, to focus on the people who use race, religion, economic status, gender, sexual orientation, etc., to divide people in order to get laws on the book and to make a profit, we will not only be able to effect a deeper understanding of how other people are being shortchanged (in much the same way as blacks) by policies that attack women’s issues, say, or gays, or Muslims, unionized workers, the elderly and how they too are affected by some form of ism. What I’m saying is that, in a country that makes a practice of putting the victim on trial, we need to expose the beast.

        Comment by Larry Carter | Tuesday, April 24, 2012

      • But here’s the problem. The idea that we can discuss the impact of racism based on “who benefits” is like saying that we need to “discuss” rape by talking about the impact of who benefits. People need to understand that racism is a crime. We don’t talk about crime from the perspective of who benefits. We talk about it as it being a crime. To say that we shouldn’t discuss the negativity of a crime by looking at some of its most devastating examples is to make it more tolerable and minimize the ugliness of what it truly is. To water down the impact of racism so that people who participate in it will feel more comfortable is not the way to discuss racism. People already are dismissive of racism saying that it isn’t so bad or it’s not like it used to be. The impact of racism is still as devastating today as it was a century ago. The fact that the racially generic dominant community isn’t as blatant with it as before doesn’t mean that it’s better. In many ways, all it means is that they have adapted to make it more subtle. But the impact is still the same. Black young men are lynched on sight and the authorities look the other way. Why do so many people feel entitled to kill black people? Why do so many people continue to feel that they can call black people lazy or disqualify black people for certain opportunities just because the black candidate made people feel uncomfortable based on some irrational fear that makes the white candidate more acceptable. The people in this country have never discussed racism in detail. We spend an hour on some television show talking about things from a single perspective and then call it a day. But we didn’t get into this racial disparity mess with an hour on a television show. It took more than two centuries of racial discrimination for us to get to where we are today. It may take just as long to make things right. And it will take even longer if we never get started.


        Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Tuesday, April 24, 2012

      • You’re still not feelin’ me. Let me try and put it another way. First of all, discrimination is not peculiar to black people. Say you have one group of people struggling against religious discrimination and another group dealing with sex discrimination, yet another with racial discrimination, as well as other groups combating other forms of discrimination, be it, language, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, etc., how effective would it be if one of the groups gave a discussion on the negative impact of discrimination on the individual members of its group without acknowledging the plight of other groups, when every group is dealing with the same sort of thing?

        People of one group who can’t find a job, buy a home, or get decent education for their kids, may not be all that understanding or interested in how members of another group is impacted by discrimination (“Hey, go away, I have my own problems to worry about”). But if you get them to understand that there is one group of Americans that is not only NOT discriminated against, but rather, who’s members benefit from the discriminatory hardships of others, then you may begin to get people to listen, work together and come up with solutions.

        The Civil Rights Movement in the 60s led to a groundswell of rights activity, groups, organizations resulting from the understanding that many white Americans themselves were not free. Hence, we had women’s lib, gay rights, free speech movement, anti war marches, animal rights, green peace, emancipation rights for the child, non smoker’s rights as well as rights of the smoker, obese people had rights, also handicap people in which all sorts of accommodations came into being, etc. Once other people became aware of their own loss of opportunities made it much easier for them to identify with the black struggle in America. (Yes, I know the news media didn’t portray it that way for obvious reasons.)

        For me, a discussion on race without some obtainable goal in mind, is just another symbolic display, much like Al Sharpton’s voter rights march to “dramatize” an issue we were already aware of… but accomplished nothing else. Would it not have been better if he had used those same resources to stage a march to the poles on election day, in the cities that are impacted by voter discrimination? THAT would have been more meaningful… but I digress.

        Bottom line, we can try to change the hearts and minds of the people who discriminate against us by dramatizing the issue with another racial discussion, or we can take a more meaning for approach, that’s all I’m saying.

        Comment by Larry Carter | Wednesday, April 25, 2012

      • I beg to differ. Just because I don’t agree with you doesn’t mean I don’t understand what you are saying. First of all, we are not talking about generic forms of discrimination. People already have an understanding that some forms of discrimination are not permissible. We have people who understand that discrimination against women and the elderly are not acceptable, even though it continues to happen. And a lot of people agree that racial discrimination is unacceptable as well. It’s just that too many do not understand all the nuances of racial discrimination in its many forms even when we have it staring right in our face day in and day out.

        Every racial group says that they have been discriminated against. Even white people will point to some instance of unfairness and say that they are being subjected to racial discrimination. They’ve managed to garner the attention of the judicial branch and argue their case that they are somehow suffering from reverse discrimination from their peers who, for whatever reason, are trying to undo the damage done through America’s institutionalized racial discrimination that had governors standing in school doorways to voice their opinion of how black people are not entitled to higher forms of education in state universities. White people have successfully argued to other white people and the many non whites who are sympathetic to the discrimination a white person may suffer, but ignore the larger picture of what an entire race of people may suffer. White people talked about black people benefiting from the efforts to undo the damage done when white people were the only game in town. In my humble opinion, talking about who benefits from racial discrimination is pointless because it doesn’t get to the root of the problem that people are being discriminated against.

        Also, let’s understand that the civil rights movement wasn’t the catalyst to rights for everyone else. Women have been arguing for equal rights with since the suffrage movement from the early twentieth century. Nobody would say that women’s rights led to black people’s rights. The vice versa is just as true. Just because one group managed to make their argument about the wrongness of the discrimination they suffer doesn’t mean that it was the first domino in a series that led to equality for everyone else. Essentially, each one happens in its own vacuum.

        The intent of the article isn’t to bring about a discussion about race. The intent was to bring about a discussion about racial discrimination. The goal is self evident. The goal is racial equality throughout our social collective to replace the many instances of racism. Some people may say that they need something else. But if that’s the case, then we already have already given up on racial equality and instead will placate ourselves with something else than will in time prove to be inadequate.


        Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Wednesday, April 25, 2012

      • With all due respect, you don’t understand what I’m talking about. First, we both seem to agree that all the race, ethnic and class groups, save one, are discriminated against. (Even white people, as you mentioned, because, and for the sake of argument, I accept that an equitable economy is unfair to the privilege.) And I think we both agree that the oppressor is common to all the oppressed groups in America… Ala, oppression by Divide and Conquer. If we are in agreement so far, then where we seem to differ is in our approach as black people to resolving our particular oppression… in a word, our strategy for going forth. In your model, you favor of a national discussion as the vehicle for resolving the oppression. This means that you are in favor of seeking validation from the oppressor, or others loyal to the oppressor… I’m saying we have already been validated a number of times since the 60’s. (Those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it) But how many more times do we need to offer ourselves to the world as helpless victims before we make a stand and take control of our own subjectivity, and (as in my model) form a legion with other oppressed American citizens (which would be a defiance of the oppressor’s rules) and move our struggle to the ultimate level? To repeat history as you suggested would be to not only continuously play the oppressor’s game of divide and conquer, but to continuously play it by the oppressor’s rules, (as an individual group and not in a league with other oppressed groups) in which there can be no success. That’s why they are his rules!

        Also you are wrong about the influence of the civil rights movement not only on the liberation of the American people, but in many parts of the world. To suggest that today’s women’s lib stems from women suffrage movement is tantamount to saying the civil rights movement was tied to Nat Turner. I happen to know that there was no climate in this country for women liberation prior to 1967, and that some of the first white women libbers had been friends of mine and champions of the black struggle. In fact, the first time I saw them sitting at a card table passing out feminist literature, I cracked up, asking what do you mean you want the right not to take your husband’s name? Therefore, if you want to deny our influence, I feel compelled to ask you, what other explanation is there for all the rights groups that were springing up on a daily basis in the 60’s if not the civil rights movement? Finally, all I can say that if holding a discussion on the issues is as far as we as a people have gotten in the past fifty years, it would be too painful for me to watch, I may as well go back into hibernation. Nice talking with you.

        Comment by Larry Carter | Thursday, April 26, 2012

      • Fine, I’ll accept your judgment that I don’t know what you are talking about. If you feel that I’m trying to resolve racial conflict by seeking validation from the oppressor then we both can agree that this is your opinion. But I must add, that’s like saying a woman who is the victim of rape and presses charges against the rapist is only trying to seek validation from the rapist. It sounds good if you want to condemn the woman for seeking justice, but it’s hardly the truth of the matter.

        If anything, I find people who are trying to tone down the atrocities associated with racial discrimination are the ones seeking some form of validation. If we only make the ugliness of racism more acceptable to the people who don’t want to acknowledge racism then we will get their acceptance. That just doesn’t make a lick of sense.

        And who said that the black community is helpless? If anything all the protests that the black community performs shows for a fact that there is strength in our unified numbers. It was the protests of the fifties and sixties that led to the civil rights era. It was the protests in Jena, Louisiana that led to the careful investigation of murder charges against six young black men for a school fight while no charges were made to the white participants. It was the protests in Sanford, Florida that led to the investigation of George Zimmerman’s acquittal for the murder of Trayvon Martin. I don’t call that powerless. If anything, people saying that the protests were too confrontational and black people need to make sure that everyone understood what the objective was before the protest was to happen, that rings of acquiescence and a tolerance for racial subjugation. Too many times, too many people want to say that we have to define goals, roles, foes, and take polls, take the time to define everything and get our act together, before we make a stand. That kind of analysis just leads to paralysis and the perpetual condition of nothing getting done.

        If you want to believe that the civil rights movement was the domino that led to freedom for everybody else around the world then you are free to believe what you want. Don’t let anybody tell you different. But other people have a very different opinion of the world we live in. When you say that the civil rights movement was the vehicle that led to equality for everyone else around the world, it sounds like you indeed want to give Nat Turner credit for the fight for civil rights in Tibet. Just because we managed to get words promising equal housing, employment, and etcetera on official government paper doesn’t mean we found equality and that led to freedom for the people in Egypt and the abolishment of apartheid in South Africa. The reality is truly different. It is a bit naïve to think that just because two events appear similar one is responsible for the other. More times than not, the parallels are only coincidental.

        Just because people don’t agree with you doesn’t mean that they don’t understand you. All that means is that for whatever reason other people can see that you are wrong. If you think that women’s rights didn’t start with the suffrage movement, where women fought for the right to vote as equals, then you have the freedom to be wrong as much as anyone else.

        Finally, I hope you enjoy your hibernation. While you nap, I prefer to keep conscious, keep up the protests, and fight a good fight despite the opinion that I’m only trying to seek validation. However, if I ever change my mind and think we need to put goals to paper and present them to oppressors with a nice tidy bow, I promise to wake you up for your insight.


        Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Thursday, April 26, 2012

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