What he says loud, I cannot whisper. I'm not allowed to say, "I'm white and I'm proud." If I did, someone, maybe a lot of someones, would label me a racist, a bigot or a white supremist, and those same someones would go to great lengths to explain why I shouldn't be proud of my race, which by some accounts isn't a race at all. White just is. But Jason is right, we have had these talks before. The circle went round and round and round, and no matter what the white folks said or how carefully each one chose his or her words, someone, even the other white someones, found fault within the statement. And besides, a "white" opinion doesn't count anyway, right? How could any white man possibly understand the plight of a black man? All the while, the white folks were suppose to grin and bare the name-calling: cracker, honky, bigot, racist, among others foreign to me, and yep, I bowed out early on. I guess I don't grin and bare insults none too well.She's right. One of the truths about discussions of race in America is that, right now, minorities control the language we use. One of the most frustrating words to me is "colorblind" but it's a 'safe' word for white participants. People might disagree with you but you're not going to feel guilty about wanting to look at people for the "content of their character" rather than the "color of their skin." But nobody's going to take me to task for using the word "cracka" (well, maybe somebody will) and nobody's going to take a white person seriously when they are using the word "nigger" (although, that's not always true, either) and, while I get frustrated by it more than anything because I've been having essentially the same conversation for 10 years, the semantic arguments about race are necessary to make people feel safe and comfortable expressing themselves at the diversity table. And I still like the words diversity and multiculturalism. For me, the concepts that lie within those words have always worked well. It's about seeing life from different perspectives, trying to understand how those perspectives came about and why. That does not preclude you from still making value judgments about things...but as I said to Ms. Jones earlier today, the more information you have, the better a critical thinker you'll be. Often we want to make choices without learning anything. We'd rather judge first. Seems simple to me.
What Iíd like to figure out, is what people mean when they talk about race. I know what I mean when I use the word, but I often get the strong impression that other people give it a different meaning or use the word in a way I find hard to understand and accept. Iím not saying there isnít a problem with race in America, there clearly is. I understand that prejudice and discrimination exist and that they promote inequality and social exclusion. I am not blind to the very real difficulties that large numbers of Americans face on a daily basis when confronted with the ignorance and bigotry of some of their fellow citizens.Yesterday there was also a list of questions about the definitions of race that he asked but, I assume, he no longer wanted the answers as they no longer exist. I was thinking about those questions for the majority of the day yesterday, though. I was going to answer them by not answering them. I'm conceding that we'll likely not have a common definition for race. But even if we did all agree on the definitions, what would it matter? How would it change how we interact. How would it affect how we view skin color and each other? Would it change the reality that the black experience in America is completely different from the white experience in America? Or, to expand that question to those who regularly use the word "colorblind," if race doesn't matter, would you choose to be a different one? Chris Rock suggested that no white person would switch places with him and he's rich! I know people who disagree...they say, "I'd trade places with Chris Rock in a minute. He's rich and famous and funny." I have to remind them that the point is that making that trade isn't about being rich or famous or funny. What Chris Rock is saying is that nobody white would choose to be black. Making that trade is not about exchanging wallets but about exchanging histories, about choosing to be on the losing end of an unfair deal. And, as a black person, whose people, whose ancestors, whose leaders have spent the entirety of their existence in America trying to define themselves differently than the majority sees them, I can't imagine why anyone would want to choose anything other than the racial identity they were born with. I say it loud, I'm black and I'm proud. But, maybe that's one of the big differences. Blackfolks (and we're talking America here, the problems of black/white racial identity that we have are rather unique) have had to create an identity from scratch, an identity that is built on color. Just think about the songs, the poems, the stories that resonate amongst and about black people. We have to remind ourselves that we are beautiful, that we should be proud of who we are, that we are not how the larger community views us or has viewed us in the past. And that's why race is important for me. Whatever the definition.
"And there is no doubt that we will win the War on Terror. Remember that."Now, nevermind that it seems like a presumptious, and decidedly questionable, statement for a news journalist to make when those facts don't seem to be in evidence, it got me to thinking -- how, exactly, could we lose the War on Terror? With a nebulous enemy and a cloudy ultimate goal and no real way to define victory or failure, isn't it just up to the government to declare what parameters constitute a victory and will we, as constituents, be in a position to argue? Can't the President just come out one day and say, "The War on Terror is over and we are no longer afraid." ? And conversely, isn't it also a war that can continue as long as those in power want it to? There's no diplomacy necessary, there's no peace treaty to be had, there's not even a country to take over and claim ourselves the victor. So, much like the move from Afghanistan to Iraq, can't the President just announce that there is a new threat somewhere else? That the lap of terrorism is now in Iran or Saudi Arabia or whereever else we might like to send young men and women to in the middle east? Or maybe we'd just like to use the War on Terror to battle those who strike fear into the hearts of citizens in the good ol' U.S. of A. or maybe politics has moved down the slope from simply playing on our fears to cultivating them? Because, really, I can't imagine what would qualify the "war on terror" as lost yet Americans are still afraid, still unwilling to ask the hard questions, and if they are asking the hard questions, still unwilling to demand truthful answers.