Our VoiceCulture

Can We Talk? (About race)

Guest Blogger • Sep 28, 2009

by James Johnson

“Don’t you ever talk that way to me. NEVER!” Said the Captain (Hits Luke with blackjack knocking him down the hill.) “NEVER! (pause) “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate,” said Cool Hand Luke.

Character A:  “Subprime mortgages were aimed at People of Color.”
Character B:  “There you go playing the race card.”
Character A: “When you look at the facts its race based. ”
Character B:   “So you are saying the policies were racist.”
Character A:  “You said it not me.”

We’ve reached a point where we’re actually talking about race here in the United States. But we’re not having a dialogue. Instead of talking to each other about race, we’re talking over each other, at each other and about each other.

Not having a true dialogue about race in this country is akin to not talking about the effects of alcohol at the family reunion. While it’s not a problem for most of us, we all know that Uncle Pete got drunk and Auntie Jane had a black eye the next day. But no one talks about it in the open. Many say (in secret) what a shame it is, but no one does anything and everything remains the same.

While watching ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy one would not only believe we live in a “colorblind” society, but race doesn’t matter and everyone gets along just fine.

But this isn’t the reality that most of us live every day. We still live in a society were white Males believe that their jobs are being taken by People of Color. We live in a nation where images of Latinos pop into people’s minds when immigration and immigrants are discussed. We are a nation where the N word is still routinely used in country clubs and rap music.

When will we have that discussion and dialogue about race and its present (and historic) effect on American society, and why it still matters in this country?

When will we talk about the effects that slavery and Jim Crow has had on Black America?

When will we not just say that it was wrong to round up and put Asians into concentration camps during World War II, but also ask ourselves what led to it and how to avoid in the future?

When will we ask ourselves why we’re not outraged when a white man who is dating a black woman is attacked and beaten? And why won’t we consider this a hate crime?

When will we talk about the injustice of killing and rounding up and placing American Indigenous Peoples on a plot of land with no or few resources?

We as a nation will be better off when we confront these issues head on as opposed to sweeping them under the rug and pretending they aren’t there. If we don’t do it now, or in two or three generations, who knows how many generations from now everything will remain the same.

“Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once.”Julius Caesar by Shakespeare

Maybe, Attorney General Eric holder was correct in saying,

Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards. Though race related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion, and though there remain many unresolved racial issues in this nation, we, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race.

And we will die many times as a nation.

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