Betters Ways to Talk About Race

As we’ve discussed before, one of the problems facing any discussion regarding race is that we tend to repeat popular catch phrases and talking points without fully contemplating their context as it relates to personal relationships. Simply put, you cannot converse with an individual as though they were in innate object. Often times, white people, in an attempt to disassociate themselves from America’s racist past, will actually belittle the experience that black people endured while at the same time being apologetic to black people for them having to have endured such experiences.

So how do we best deal with this situation? First, we can dissect the catch phrases and talking points and then eliminate them from the discourse. In a post called, Language Barriers, I presented five phrases that we should eliminate when discussing race. Those five were:

1. Poverty Pimp
2. Handouts
3. Victim Mentality (Victimcrat as coined by Larry Elder)
4. Colorblind Society
5. Affirmative Action

Today, I want to eliminate two phrases, slogans or whatever you want to call them.

#1: I am making a statement of fact that African Americans are better off today than their African counterparts. - Daydreamer of Oz

I posed this question to her and now I am posing it to all of you.

Someone presents you with an opportunity to sell yourself and your entire family into bondage. During this bondage, you and your family will suffer rape, brutality, dehumanization and the elimination of your culture. Your descendents would remain in bondage for a period of 500 years. Your reward is that after 500 years, your descendents will be better off for having endured the slavery rather than remain on its current course. Would you take this deal?

The questions that come to mind for me are: What is my current course and do I want the responsibility to determine my own destiny and do I want my descendents to have that same freedom to choose their destiny?

What would have been the result if the colonization of Africa taken place after the industrial revolution? What if European colonization did not happen at all and Africa was left to its own whims?

The simple fact is that nature, time and technology will eventually determine if a way of life is suitable. Bondage is never an adequate alternative to allowing people to exist and survive under their own accord. This statement, in essence, says that indeed bondage, slavery and genocide are adequate alternatives to free will.

Personally, I think this is a white supremacist philosophy and I catergorize with the same statement made by Shelby Steele when he wrote that black people haven’t learned to live with freedom or that white people have lost the moral authority to tell black people what they feel.

#2: Every culture has been enslave and one point in time.

This is true when discussing world history but it is comparing apple and oranges when discussing the history of black Americans. The Roman Empire once stretched from Portugal to the Mesopotamia. France, Greece, Turkey, Syria, England and Egypt were once part of the Roman Empire.

Under the guidance of Alexander the Great, Greece’s empire went as far as Afghanistan and parts of India. Of course, after Alexander’s death, the Romans wrecked shop but I say all of this to showcase something as it relates to black Americans.

Many cultures survived the conquest of the Romans and Greeks. The cultures of the Brits, French, Greek, Turks, Armenian, Egyptians and many others are for the most part, still in tact. The history, many family lineages, music, art, language and traditions to some extent outlasted the occupation of conquering forces. Again, time, religion, assimilation and other factors altered these cultures but if you compare them with black America, you will find that we black Americans have absolutely no connection to their African heritage outside of the color of our skin.

Our language, customs, religion and history are all derived from slavery. What few links we kept in the ways of rhythm, mannerism and kinship in no way represent in fullness as to where we came from. My people came to be through bondage and for the sake of commerce, became the equivalent of a mule.

Yes, cultures, languages, music, art and traditions are lost. It's one thing to lose something through the natural attrition of migration and assimilation, but it is completely different to lose it by way of slavery and persecution. To belittle it is to say that what happened to black America is as natural as photosynthesis. That dehumanizes the people that endured and were the victim of that bondage.


What I just said.

Talk About it:

1. What say you?

2. What other catch phrases can you think of that should be eliminated from the discussion of race?

3. (Repeat Quesition): Someone presents you with an opportunity to sell yourself and your entire family into bondage. During this bondage, you and your family will suffer rape, brutality, dehumanization and the elimination of your culture. Your descendents would remain in bondage for a period of 500 years. Your reward is that after 500 years, your descendents will be better off for having endured the slavery rather than remain on its current course. Would you take this deal?


18 Responses to Betters Ways to Talk About Race

  1. Timmer Says:
    I hate the word "colorblind", and am suspicious of those who use it. To me, that's a word that whitey came up with that completely misses the point. Yes, people should be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin; however the color of people's skin should not be ignored as it important in determining heritage as an aid to understanding of cultural mores and the like.

    I also hate the idea I have heard that things were better off during segregation because at least people knew where they stood (so less race-related problems occurred).

    And finally...I'm pretty sure we Dutch were never enslaved by any particular culture! We were even too stubborn for Napoleon to properly rule...

    (oh, and I wouldn't take that deal)
  2. NEO, SOC Says:
    Did you not do this one before?
  3. James Manning Says:

    Yeah, the Dutch seemed to have escaped all of the BS. But we really need to do something about those Viking fans - they are just out of control.

    @Neo, I did but I added two more to it.
  4. Mr. Grey Ghost Says:
    I gotta admit that I cant stand the term "colorblind society", plus too it'll never happen. But that would be the one I'd eliminate. The others are too useful and important to be tossed aside.
  5. Bushwack Says:
    I pride myself on being "colorblind" and if the rest of the world would just be "colorblind" also, we would make this a better place.
    "Colorblindness" as it pertains to people; is NOT seeing their color as a deciding factor on how to interact with them, but as a cultural difference that should be respected.
    As far as "Whitey" comming up with that word, I'll take that as an accomplishment and progress from people that helped start this crap years ago.
    Racism is WRONG folks and everyone here knows it, so all we have to do now is discover boundaries on both sides.
    The white man is a racist until proven different, the Black man is opressed and a victim until proven different.
    What ever happened innocent until proven guilty? Here is a hypothetical question:
    James and myself meet at a Panthers game, Would him being black be the deciding factor on how I talk to him? or would it be the Bears jacket he is wearing? mmmmm
  6. Bushwack Says:
    BTW-2. "What other catch phrases can you think of that should be eliminated from the discussion of race?"
    "White boy"
    "Bears fan" had to throw that in their..
  7. James Manning Says:
    I truly believe that Cowboy fans should be put out of the misery they cause everyone else. I'd like to see Duke fans wiped off the face of the earth - Oh, and considering that it was North Carolina that blocked my beloved Illinois from winning the championship, I'd like to see their campus engulfed under a swarm of locust (no disrespect Rell).

    This is fanaticism, which I think is a pretty logical and acceptable state of mind of any red blooded American male.
  8. Bushwack Says:
    Agreed, Except for the Duke and N.C. comments, everything else was right on track.
  9. Robosquirrel Says:
    #1: Personally, I think this is a white supremacist philosophy

    I don't know about that. Amnesiatic, jingoistic, narrow-minded and short-sighted, maybe.

    Of course I wouldn't take the deal, I think that's an excellent counter to the phrase - however, it doesn't make it less true. Though today's black folks in America are better off today than their ancestors of their African counterparts, it doesn't justify the institution of slavery. Nor does that fact make today's white folks responsible for past injustices.

    #2: Ditto. I don't even know what that's like, who would say that and think that it justifies Africans having been enslaved? That's like justifying slavery based upon the fact that it existed. It existed and there's nothing that can change it and we will deal with the repurcussions likely forever. That doesn't make, "Oh, quit whining, everybody's ancestors were slaves," thoughtful discourse.

    I'm reading a terrific set of novels right now by Neal Stephenson that includes an interesting look at slavery (partially from an economic aspect) in the 17th century. It's great historical ficton if you have the patience for 3 900-page novels. The trilogy is the Baroque Cycle (containing the books "Quicksilver", "The Confusion" and "System of the World").

    Wish I had more time, I'd like to get into the subject more. Thanks for writing about it!
  10. Timmer Says:
    Innocent until proven guilty was never in play...seriously ask yourself what you think about O.J., then ask me again about innocent until proven guilty.

    Allow me to clarify...In my mind, the term 'colorblind' implies ignoring differences in peoples of different color when cultural differences need to be respected and understood...not thrown aside. 'Colorblind' seems to me at worst an Orwellian newspeak term...that is, semantically dumbing down the language to make life more palatable by avoiding the threat of conflict. At best, it's a term used to avoid stepping on people's toes when, indeed, people do need to be offended every now and again. It is a term that in its very name strives to make everybody the same when the exact opposite is true.

    I would have to agree with manning about the Duke fans.

    A few other words I would throw out are 'cracker' and 'white bread' (or 'white bred'). I take 'Dutch Boy' as a point of pride, though.
  11. Diane S. Says:
    Wow James. There's a lot I'd like to say to this.

    First, I had some questions about the five terms, but then I saw (duh!) that there was a link to the post on these terms, so I went back and read that.

    I do want to challenge you on affirmative action though. Why this has failed in many instances, I think it has been moderately successful in addressing discrimination at our nation's institutions of higher education. That may just be the view from the cheap seats, but I can assure you that prior to affirmative action, you weren't seeing a lot of black students graduating from America's Ivy League colleges. Now you are. This is a good thing.

    May I suggest that you add the term "Reverse Discrimination" to terms that should be erased from the American Lexicon. Everytime I hear some Bubba use it, I am overwhlemed by an urge to smack him in the jaw. What I do instead is tell them that when incarceration and unemployment rates for black males are equal to that of their white counterparts, then - and only then - can they cry on my shoulders about how they missed out on a job/ promotion/ position on a team/ or admission to a school because it was given to some minotiry applicant under Affirmative Action guidelines.

    What do I say to the fact that every civilization has experienced slavery at some point or another?

    Slavery, as spread by the Roman Empire was a whole different animal than slavery under American and English culture when stealing human beings from the African continent. Our families were not torn assunder, nor were we been subjected to systematic violence, rape, or subjugation that African slaves were subjected to. Slaves were also paid, and it was possible for them to eventually purchase their freedom. Also, at the time we were slaves, it was a common human experience, and not subject to the social sort of ramifications that American slavery brought. It's an apples and oranges comparison. It's a fool's argument.

    Are black people better off than they would have been in Africa?

    I find this a stupid question. The answer doesn't matter. If there had been voluntary immigration to America, then this could be a question worthy of investigation. Since this was obviously not the case, it's like lauding the incredible wealth of medical knowledge accumulated by Dr. Joseph Mengele... knowledge, it's worth noting, that the medical community at large has decided it is immoral to even use.

    What other catch phrases do you think should be eliminated from discussion of race?

    Well, I sort of got ahead of you on that, but I guess in addtion to "reverse discrimination," I'd like to add to that, "culture of poverty" and "ghetto mentality", both phrases are almost invariably used to blame people of color for their position in society and to ignore the impact of systemic racism. Additionally, I'd like to see the elimination of all the terms that indicate someone isn't "black enough", like "Oreo" or "Uncle Tom", and along with timmer, I'd like to see "White Bread" go away too.

    The problem with the 500 year deal is there's no guarenteeing that 500 years from now my people would be better off. No one has that crystal ball. They might be. They might not be. What they will be is without roots, without a history of a secure family structure, without a history of community self-determination, without education, and with a legacy of rage.

    Anyone who says yes to this, please email me, I know a nice bridge in Brooklyn I could make you a great deal on.

    Finally James, since we're talking more about Shelby Steele, I'd really like to hear your thoughts on white guilt, and ask you if "black rage" is it's logical corolary?

    Black rage is an interesting phenomenon to me because for years, I only vaguely acknowledged it's existence. After reading a lot of black blogs over the past several months, I read on particular post that left me positively seething. I mean I was so mad I wanted to kill people. Lots of people. In bloody, messy, and not-quick ways. And it suddenly struck me, that - as unlikely as it would seem - I was experiencing black rage, or at least something close to it.

    I realize your blog is hardly written solely for my edification, but if you have time, I'd appreciate feedback from your thoughts on those last two paragraphs.

    Also, one of the things you wrote in the comments to your original Steele post was the importance of talking about racism. As you know, I agree. I wish there were a forum where we could all come in, lay our cards on the table, and get a real dialogue going (Diane continues to hint that James needs to start an e-zine). In the absence of that, have you ever considered making the "Ask the black man" a regular part of your blog?
  12. James Manning Says:

    I honestly have never heard of the phrase "black rage" and a mindset until I started reading black conservatives. I haven't the slightest idea as to what they are talking about. I have to do some research on it.

    As for white guilt - I think Timmer and others really hit the nail on the head with that. I understand that term I think Shelby Steele over sold it to sell more books.

    It might work.
  13. Cynthia Says:
    Diane S: I believe there is a lot of Black rage floating around. But, if anyone was mistreated and marginalized as long as we have, I think they would have rage too. Having said that, the hatred many Blacks have, have been turned inward upon ourselves and not upon others and this can be reflected in some of the things said by those who are in the Black Conservative movement.

    FYI - I just wanted to add, I think something we need various types of terms to prevent us from describing certain situations each and every time we talk about them.
  14. Diane S. Says:
    I should probably mention that it was on Cynthia's blog that I had my epiphany of black rage.
  15. Daydreamer of Oz Says:
    In future if you are going to take carefully selected quotes, argue them and link to my blog, I would appreciate it if you could respect me enough to inform me.

    In any case, you are all arguing against a case I was not making. I never have defended slavery. I made an observation (of fact). Nothing more. If that caused James or anyone else to feel defensive, that is not my issue.

    My primary point to James was the hypocrisy. I'm told equality is the purpose of this discourse. Yet no one cares about the millions of modern day slaves. No one cares about indigenous Americans who have a lower standard of living than anyone else in the country.

    Don't tell me you're about equality if you don't really care about any racial group save your own.
  16. James Manning Says:

    What is your issue. I've bent over backwards trying to appease you yet you continue to come at me with your bitterness. Look, I link to a lot of other folks and I don't make it a point to tell them each and every time. It's the way it is.

    Did you actually read my post? Did I in any way say that you defended slavery? No I didn't.
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  18. Daydreamer of Oz Says:
    Read my comment. I told you exactly what my issue is. I also link to a lot of people without informing them. However, if I wrote an entire post disputing what someone had said and linked to them, I would inform them in that case. Common courtesy really-doesn't require any 'bending over backwards'.

    I am unclear on how you have 'bent over backwards to appease me'. When you got out of line, I called you on it. You did the only decent thing and apologized. That's not bending over backwards. It also wouldn't have been outrageously difficult for you to merely alert me that you'd written an entire post about me.

    You're mistaking my capability of making an argument which is supported with evidence for 'bitterness'. I'm sorry you have interpreted it that way and assure you this will not happen again.