Daily Archives: September 5, 2007

Quiet Racism

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Jay Bookman a writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote an article that caught my eye recently, titled “Even quiet racism can drive everyone a little crazy.” Now as I started reading I was thinking, hey this guy might get it, somewhat. But as I read on, no doubt he started to lose me bit by bit. It starts off with him telling us about an RV trip he took to the Masters tournament where he was with a large group of white businessmen. He says, “They were introduced as prominent businessmen in their hometown, and as we inched our way through traffic, I was astonished when they began passing time by telling each other jokes about black people — although “black people” wasn’t the term they used — of a crudeness I hadn’t heard since childhood.” Now I get it that he was shocked by the jokes and whatever, but what I caught onto immediately was that no where in this piece did he say that he opposed what they were saying or that he told them this was unacceptable, he just sat there and listened or turned a blind eye to it, maybe even laughed along as to not be an outcast.

Now I am not saying that he needed to “be” the voice for a community that he is not even a member of but, he could have at least pointed out to them their blatant disgusting game was inappropriate. Anyway this wasn’t my main beef with the report. I was more disgusted that he goes on in his opinion to start and talk about how just because there may seem to be silent racism a Black will somehow see racism where NONE exists. He states that “Conversely, it also means that some black people will sense racism at work even in cases when it probably doesn’t exist. Its nebulous nature also means that people can cynically claim themselves to be victims of racism when the real cause of their problems is their own stupidity or criminality.” If he is on a bus with all these so called “prominent business men” who I am assuming from that title run and own businesses, wouldn’t he also conclude that from his own observations of their behavior these men are propagating racism in the workplace as well? How can they look at a person as inferior and make jokes about them one day then the next day at work they see them as equal by hiring them, giving them a safe comfortable work environment and treating them with the same respect as they do their white staff.

So why then is it so far fetched that more than likely the cause “IS” racism and not just over-sensitive Blacks or our own “stupidity or criminality. I do agree with some of his statements about people being responsible and the like, because yes anyone committing crimes need to take responsibility for their individual actions, but like anything that is done, it’s not happening in a vacuum. So I would like to look at the why they did it versus just what did they do. Why are these people acting in this manner, what makes Black communities have poor housing, education, health care, and employment? And could this be the “why” that we’re looking for?

He also makes reference to how Blacks are judged according to what any member of the group does, not on individual merit and I have to say kudos for that one. Because that has long been a pet peeve of mine as to why we need to defend ourselves as being an upstanding person because one Black does something to the contrary, yet whites can do a wrong and it doesn’t reflect on them as a community. Now unfortunately he goes downhill again with this statement “That sense of group responsibility — imposed from the outside — is itself a form of racism, far more subtle than racial jokes but toxic nonetheless. There’s no cure for it — it will exist as long as racism exists. But by acknowledging and discussing its existence, we can rob it of some of its power.”

I’m sorry but judging all Blacks by the actions of a few and those business men making racist jokes are toxic yes, but subtle, I don’t think so and let’s look at the big picture here. Isn’t the fact that they find it funny, acceptable and morally not a problem lend itself to the larger problem of Racism? These men are the very reason why so many Blacks are not being offered the jobs they deserve, the housing they deserve, the health care they deserve or the education they deserve. So to look at these men as toxic but subtle is a misnomer when they are far more than that. They are just a small peek at the type of adversity that awaits Blacks who dare to approach someone like them.

Mr. Bookman made some good points but then turned around and ruined the momentum by simplifying and falling back on poor old propaganda type thinking. This type of thinking is part of the reasons that constantly talking about racism doesn’t rob it of any of its power. We can talk until all of our heads pop off and things won’t change until we Blacks as a community decide to remove the control that they (White community) have over us and our image. We can only do this by ending our co-dependency relationship. I am not talking about some separatist movement per se, but I am talking about moving back to and building up our communities. Nice thought but I don’t hold out much hope of this taking place, which means that the least we can do is to resist and help our children resist the propaganda.

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