Saturday, March 22, 2008

Racism 101

This has been a very interesting campaign. It is going to get even more interesting. Racism has reared its ugly head. The interesting part about it is that for the first time, how black people feel about it is becoming part of the dynamic. I've lived with white people all my life. I've seen them in many different facets. One thing that I've noticed that seems to be a general rule is that they don't deal with hard questions very well. They tend to hide or pretend that problems don't exist. This happens in their families and it happens in their politics. The mere mention of Lynn Cheney's homosexuality made them flip. Talk of anger over racism make them cringe. Hell, anger itself is a sign of insanity. It seems the "proper" way to handle difficult subjects is to pretend that they don't exist and don't talk about them.

Not true in the "black community." All our business, for better or worse, is on the street. I remember when I first moved into my neighborhood here in Brooklyn, I saw a man getting kicked out of his house by his wife. She was yelling and screaming and tossing his things out the upstairs window. The whole neighborhood stood by and quietly watched. And when the show was over we quietly walked away. That's how I knew I was home.

Displaying anger and frustration openly is part of our culture. So I wasn't surprised, shocked, or even upset with the sermon that Rev. Wright gave. It was a catharsis. America needs to learn from Black people. America needs to hear the anger. It's good for the soul. Do you think a victim of rape ever stops feeling anger? Do you think that 30 years later she/he doesn't still want to rip the rapist's head off? Think about it. When a great wrong has been done the anger does not go away. Not without a lot of work. I would go even further — if the anger seems to have disappeared, I guarantee it has shown up in some other form: illness, depression, self-destruction. This is not to say that everything that bothers us needs to be on the street as my example of the wife and husband split up, but not talking about the hard things is also not the answer. In the end, the discussion needs to begin at an official level: a department on race and peace initiatives of somekind, i.e. something/someplace where we can work out these things peacefully.

The long overdue conversation on race has begun. Let us not let this opportunity pass. This is not just about white people listening to black people; this is also about black people listening to white people. We can do it calmly now or violently later. This is a fact and we all know it. We don't all have to like each other, BUT WE DO HAVE TO LIVE WITH EACH OTHER. Let's take this opportunity to continue to figure out what kind of country, hell, what kind of world, we want to leave for our children.


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