Posts Tagged ‘ race ’

a president for black america

The Article

Courtland Milloy of the Washington Post wrote a wonderfully engaging opinion article on 02/20/13 by creating a simple supposition in reaction to something President Obama said during an interview with Black Enterprise magazine.  The question posed to the President was this: “How do you respond to the criticism that your administration hasn’t done enough to support black business?”  The President responded, “I’m not the president of black America.”  Emphasis on the unspoken “only” may have been tactful on the President’s part, but while the statement is realistic and just there is something amiss—an opportunity blown, a reservation when an assertion ought to have been made.  Milloy sees this, and so appropriately dons the mask of President Obama to give a revised and more complete reply to an underlying question, “How do you respond to the criticism that your administration hasn’t done enough to support black life?”

Milloy slams the reader with statistics that drip blood and tears.  And these statistics linger because his writing flows, metaphors dropped are immediately picked up and used again in escalation.  My favorite, which seems a shame to say given what it means, is this:

Our “school to prison pipeline” is so huge that it would make the Keystone XL pipeline look like a soda straw.
It’s surreal: Big Oil getting its black gold out of the ground while we bury ours.

I can only recall front page of the Local section and the countless portraits of murdered black men and women, of their weeping and wailing families.

Milloy, as faux president, continues with a turn of apology, a list of quotes that illustrate the President as being well aware of the deplorable state of black America yet perhaps never naming it as starkly as it truly exists.  What he can name starkly, however, is his own future:

Let me be frank. Less than two months into this new term, I’m already having trouble getting a secretary of defense confirmed—and a Republican one at that. Two years from now, I’ll be a lame duck for sure. So I’m asking you to think long term.

The last sentence is no longer a Milloy-as-the-President;  it’s a worried Milloy—worried by the all-too-human tendency to lose hope quickly, to disengage, and to become self-destructive.  Facing that threat, Milloy musters the strength to put on the mask again and offer a plug for the President’s web page that seeks to build a collaborative relationship with the black community, and then to set expectations high:

Get involved. Take advantage of every opportunity available. Then help create more opportunities for others.
This is your president speaking. No ifs, ands or buts about it.

The Content

I shared this article for two reasons—first because it’s rare that an opinion article is so creative.  Opinion writers often speak on a personal level—as themselves—and if they do deviate, it’s to an absurd and comical degree, masquerading as ideologues.  But this was different; it was sedate and honest; it was a writer sharing himself through something he cared about rather than through a personal narrative or expert opinion.

The second reason is that I’m pleased it was brought up.  I’m displeased it needs to be “brought up.”  But surely my having written that illustrates my location, describes my awareness, and cuts my attentiveness down to the size of just who I am.  I then am left wondering if this article was otherwise effective.  How many more hits did the White House website get that day?  How did you receive the article?  What should that mean to me?

what do you think?

Thank you for reading.
Thank you for writing.


i am white

Why is a discussion of race relevant?

The reason we must speak openly about our racial identity is because it is so often the first aspect of ourselves that others make immediate and subconscious judgments about, thus imposing upon us (before we even begin to communicate) an infinite set of assumptions—assumptions that we must address, or, in avoiding address, indirectly validate.

Race informs only our attentiveness; in the globalized world, it no longer has any relation to our location; it has never had any bearing on our awareness.

identifying the mechanism of racial distinction

Attentiveness is biased by racial distinction because racial distinction is itself an unsubstantiated fabrication, a warped lens through which our attention is distorted and misguided to the point of asserting an other—based upon superficial difference—as from a dissimilar and unapproachable location.

When we recognize the result of this mechanism—to posit others as different—we can begin to understand why it exists.  Much like the self-preservative mechanisms of religion, racial distinction seeks to divide humanity into disparate communities for the sake of intra-communal solidarity and harmony.  Racial others, as determined by distinguishing physical characteristics (mere vestiges of a different lineage’s  spatial trajectory through human history), are also assigned inferior or superior intellectual characteristics for the sake of establishing a hierarchy—most often to substantiate economic  disparities (and all of its corollary freedoms).  Racial distinction exists because it is a tool of economic subjugation and consequent political and social marginalization.

Knowing why racial distinction exists helps to explain how it exists—namely, because it is viciously reinforcing.  The economic, political, and social privilege of the self-proclaimed superior race ensures that said race operates only to maintain or strengthen the status quo.  In compliment, the economic, political, and social powerlessness of the subjugated race ensure a life trajectory of a poor education and consequent poor earnings, ad infinitum.  Those that the self-proclaimed superior race identifies as inferior are then subjected to a maddening paradox: not only is racial distinction a fabrication (and thus, originally, untrue), but its imposition as a truth—whether through manipulated and bastardized science or through inherently biased and botched statistics—effectively renders it a reality nonetheless.

If we fail to comprehend this mechanism and those subject to it (all people, for those of the self-proclaimed superior race are as intimately victimized in true comprehension of our reality—and how to navigate it appropriately—as are those who are subjugated), if we fail to comprehend the context of racial distinction, then we will inevitably bring assumptions to our interactions that inhibit an honest and open discussion.

By comprehending why racial distinction exists and how it is maintained, we can accurately address issues that plague the privileged and subjugated communities.  Part of that comprehension is identifying our own status—remembering first that we are all the same, and then that because of human manipulation we are also subject to an imposed fabrication-come-reality to which we must respond knowingly and appropriately.

what i believe

All humans are composites of their nature and nurturing; we all may fulfill our greatest potential only if we accurately comprehend each other, our needs, and our common desire for harmony.  Racial distinction is in direct conflict with this belief because it posits false differences and imposes inaccuracy for the sake of disparate gains.

By viewing racial distinction in this way, I relegate it to its proper place as a fabrication informed and substantiated by greed and perpetuated by ignorance.  I recognize it as a potent detrimental reality that requires outing as an economic ploy of dominance in order to garner an address appropriate to such a reality.

Racial distinction, then, must continue to necessarily exist in discussions of its own rectification as well as in discussions of the subcultures created in response to it.  Racial identity, then, can be a source of pride for the subjugated who have survived; it can not, however, be anything but shame for the oppressors—a constant reminder of the fragility of the human mind, of the inherent selfishness of humans that we must consciously turn to altruistic endeavor.

If my worldview is to embrace the entirety of humanity as my community, I simply cannot deny my racial identity and all of the privileges and detriments consequent of it because to do so would blind me from the true state of affairs in my environment, to do so would render me ineffective in being an active advocate for change, education, and appropriate attentiveness.  Because of this, I must do my best to identify my racial status and how such a consciousness informs my attentiveness so that I may better be an intellectually available member of my community.

so, what am i?

I am white.

I reject the notion that this fact endows me with any inherent value over any other race.  I reject the division of humanity on the grounds of perfectly normal and useful superficial differences.  I reject the belief that adopting a policy of color-blindness (which facilitates racial distinction as it becomes ever more insidiously ingrained in our culture)  or a policy of equality (which ignores the harm already inflicted upon the subjugated masses) adequately addresses the issue of racism.

I accept a policy of equity regarding racial distinction.  I accept that while race ought not to be an issue, it has become one, that it requires a multi-faceted address in the realms of education, healthcare, housing, and the workforce.

I must admit to being woefully overwhelmed by this topic.  I tell you that I am white so that you may begin to comprehend my location as a privileged person whose observations of discrimination at the personal level are scant and often muddled.  My location is isolated; my awareness limited; my attentiveness biased.  I can only wonder what reputation precedes me and paves my way.  I can only wonder what the slights and offenses against subjugated others must feel like, day after day.  I am never more ignorant than in this realm of consideration.  I am never more saddened than to consider the ruin caused by it.  But I persist in exploring this topic because  I am attempting to become an educator, and those who most need education are the poor, a populace disproportionately composed of the subjugated races.

In conclusion, I believe that racial distinction is merely a device of division and manipulation, that it was fabricated as a tool for the sake of greed, and that it relies on a woefully uneducated populace for acceptance and perpetuation.  The greater truth is that no human group as defined by spatial trajectory (and its consequent physical adaptations) has any distinct intellectual advantage over any other.  We now live in a global community; there is no excuse for hate, for it is truly only self-hate; we’re all in this life together; solutions to all of our problems require only the application of our minds in cooperation, not our might in opposition.

what are you?  what is it like?

Thank you for reading.
Thank you for writing.

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