I feel like I’m treading into dangerous waters here, because no matter what I say I’ll be slammed and ridiculed by somebody for something. As I say in my Position Papers, race has become “the new abortion” in the sense that rational and adult discussion is simply impossible. Emotions on both sides run way too high for people to slow down and think objectively and rationally.
Of course one can never truly know what it’s like to be someone else. A non-black person cannot truly know the full depth of what it is like to live black in today’s United States. No quibbles about that. But that goes for sex/gender, social status, upbringing, intelligence, and a slew of other factors, too, not only race. And while experience (“been there, done that”, so to speak) is indeed important, it’s not the be-all-and-end-all of situational assessment. Sometimes the person with the experience is *too close*, too emotionally involved, to a situation and is thus unable to remain objective. Said person is prone to give too much weight to their own anecdotal experience and/or whatever triggers their emotions. Sometimes it’s the outside observer, the one who is emotionally uninvolved, who is better able to step back and see where the experienced person is overlooking an important aspect.
Ideally, we should bring together the emotion and closeness of experience, and the unattached objectivity of outside observation, to gain the best possible assessments so that we can move forward, but from reading comments the last several days from several different resources and angles, I still don’t think that’s possible, and that saddens me. Way too many people are only interested in blaming the other side and absolving themselves (or their chosen side) of any part in the situation.
Some examples of emotional hyperbole and contradictions…
Example #1: I’m tired off all the implications, and sometimes outright accusations, that white Americans are the only ones who are responsible for, and have ever engaged in, racism… especially where the history of slavery is concerned. People of all races and ethnicity have enslaved each other since the beginning of time. Shoot, Russians once enslaved their own people (I consider serfdom a form of slavery). To hear some tell it, you’d swear slavery is a purely American-born concept and institution. It’s not.
Example #2: Solving race issues isn’t as simple as “pull yourself up by your bootstraps”. It’s dishonest to put roadblocks in the way of an entire group, then act as if the roadblocks aren’t there. This is one aspect where some whites fall off the boat, and where honest reassessment is needed.
Example #3: Any black person who has ever referred to another black person as an “Oreo”, or “Uncle Tom”, or other similar pejorative… the clear implication being said black person isn’t black enough and/or is “too white”… is part of the problem. They are actively cultivating the seeds of division. They are encouraging a form of segregation in their own right. Preaching integration one moment, then turning around and encouraging segregation, is not a recipe for success, it’s inconsistent and counterproductive. Trying to have both is a form of “separate but equal”, and I thought that was soundly rejected as a concept decades ago. We can’t have both.
As I am sitting here proofreading this it occurs to me that it is weighted to what blacks needs to do, and less what whites need to do. That’s not my intent nor my full thoughts, but if that has been your feeling as you read it, that’s a fair call. I guess I’m getting tired of what I’m seeing as the overwhelming blame being cast in only one direction. I see many people, both black and white, claim that racism is purely a white problem, and hence it can only be fixed by white people. I’m sorry, but I see it as a two-way street, and… well, maybe that’s a topic for a future post.
Anyway, the bottom line from all of this is that nothing will ever be solved, nor even any progress made, until we can ALL slow down and speak rationally. Emotion is the *why*, objectivity is the *how*, and taken together we might actually get somewhere.