Thursday, March 27, 2008

CAN WE BEGIN AN HONEST DISCUSSION ON RACE?

Barack Obama's speech on race has caused many people in America to begin talking about the subject. Most black people talk about race daily. We function every day on whether any experiences we undergo have a racial tinge to them.
We can wonder, was the service at a restaurant just poor, or did we get poor service because we are black? We notice if the waitress treats others the same way we get treated. Then our minds can rest because we see the same poor service is evenly distributed.
I recently had a cop pull me over after I passed his parked car and looked at him. My mind immediately questioned whether he truly pulled me over for speeding or did he do so once he saw I was black-and then decide to say I was speeding? Especially in light of the fact that I didn't get a ticket.
On and on, in the everyday activities of a black person, we wonder in the back and forefront of our minds what race has to do with it.
The biggest question regarding race is how honest we want to be about it. Sadly, every word uttered in a conversation about race between the races in America is subject to the "racism" charge. Recently, during an interview on a radio station, Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white person." That comment immediately caused a lot of flap.
His opponents and many on conservative talk radio jumped on his use of the word "typical." Yet if you think about Barack Obama's experience in growing up in this country, all of his relatives in this country during his entire formative years were white. His cousins, his aunts, his uncles, his nieces and nephews. All are white. And Barack, because of who he is within the family, was able to see things that no child who only visits or is the adopted relative ever truly does.
But I have to wonder why there was such outrage from some in white America over his use of the word "typical"? Who better than Obama, who has one foot in the white world and the other in the black world and has lived the experience, to truly be able to make an observation and label it as "typical."
Barack Obama also didn't have a single blood relative in this entire country who was black until his children were born. Yet white America because Barack Obama is half-black has completely given him over to black America. Why is that? How is it that Barack's black half has more power than his white half? How is it that someone who spent all his formative years with a white mother, white grandparent and around all their white friends can now be criticized for using the term "typical white person"?
Yet at the same time, he is expected to explain or defend black America-a black America he didn't grow up in and only came to be a part of once he was grown. Those same pundits who raged that Obama used the word "typical" don't seem to have a problem posing questions to Obama to explain a community he didn't grow up in. I saw one interview where Obama was asked to explain black patriotism, as if our patriotism is somehow different.
At the same time, I am not seeing anyone questioning why whites are so quick to vilify and deny someone who is one half of them?
Most whites, I suspect, are very uncomfortable with the race conversation because for many of them it will be the first time in their lives that they have to address their own racial being. I remember having a conversation with a co-worker years ago and because I felt comfortable with her, I asked her if she ever thinks about being white. The question kind of stunned her because, as she confessed to me, she didn't.
So I am curious and perhaps my white readers can respond. How often do you think about being white? If you live in a predominantly white area, do you think about how white it is? When you see your children's class picture and it's filled with other white children, do you wonder why there aren't any black children in the picture? Or do you just accept it as being part of "normalcy"?
If we are to honestly explore the racial dynamics of this country, we are all going to have to get thicker skin. Curious questions need to be asked and answered without fear that one party is "racist" while the other is the "victim."
Let the discussions begin!

19 comments:

Cassandra said...

I live in Oak Park and originally read your commentary in the weekly newspaper, The Wednesday Journal, this morning as I commuted to work. I am a African-American female who totally understood where you're coming from. You hit so many nails on the head regarding my sentiments about this race conversation we may or may not be having that I wanted to share your piece with everybody I know. Thank you for articulating so many thoughts shared by those of us who have spent so many hours, days and weeks of our lives thinking about and living the racial divide.
Cassandra West

bluepoppies said...

So many times I see discussions on race only in terms of 'diversity'.
When my daughter was in high school, there was this HUGE campaign to "CELEBRATE DIVERSITY".
I thought it was ridiculous. Just plain stupid.
For crying out loud...we are all quite aware of the ways in which we are different. We don't need to celebrate diversity.
We need to start learning the ways in which we are all the same.
I am white. I have many black friends. We are pretty open in discussions about race and it always astounds me...even in this day and age, how racist my black friends are! And the thing is, they admit it and are perfectly comfortable with it.
So, I would like to propose that we start learning how we are all the SAME deep down inside.
For instance, I think that it would behoove children to start learning how we ALL feel pain and hurt.
It's true that racism still exists...I see it all the time.
But the thing is, that's never going to change. It's always going to be there.
If there are white people that treat other white people like dirt, how do you think that those same white people are going to be fair to people of other colors?
If I were a teacher of a middle-school age class, for instance, I think that a good lesson would be for the black children to read a book such as "Angela's Ashes" and the white children to read "The Bluest Eye". And then have a discussion about what they learned.
People everywhere suffer. People of the same color cause deep pain to others of their same color.
We are all different in so many ways...but we are all the same in the same ways.
We hurt and we cry for the same reasons.
We need to start teaching young children empathy and to forget about our differences, NOT celebrate them. Let's learn about our sameness. That is where the answer lies.

Pat said...

I am a white woman and I think about being white and what that means fairly often. One reason harkens back to an experience I had at age 19. I was having lunch with a co-worker, an older black woman named Bernice. We went to a diner near our office in Quincy, MA. After we ordered our food and were served, Bernice said, "You know, if I wasn't with you (a white person) I wouldn't have been served." She went on to tell me how on several occasions she sat ignored in the same restaurant by the same waitress for her entire lunch hour. I was shocked. What was significant to me and chilling and why it made such an impression was that if she hadn't told me her experience I would never have known. In fact, if someone suggested such a thing, I would have felt justified in saying no, that couldn't be, I was there, she was treated exactly the same as me. I have always been grateful that Bernice shared her experience as I am grateful to you for sharing yours. Without such frank sharing, nothing will change. I would welcome a chance to engage in further discussion because I think the more we can appreciate one another, the greater the chance for being allies, better citizens and the greater the chance for just becoming more human. Thanks.
Pat Allen

Arlene Jones said...

Thank you all for your comments.

I am on my way to Memphis to commenorate the 40th Anniversary of Dr. King's murder. I will comment more on the race question and comments you folks have left upon my return.

Butch Murtagh said...

My name is Butch Murtagh. I am a sixty-four year old retiree who lives in Oak Park. I do not like being called white, the categorization is too broad, and so for descriptive purpose I am of Irish descent. My grandparents came to the U.S. in the 1880’s. That makes me a third generation immigrant.

I came from a strict Catholic household in Brooklyn New York. Our neighborhood was a melting pot. Within the neighborhood melting pot were strong independent, nationalistic, house-home groupings. There were conflicts but the Irish had the numbers, so the conflicts did not interfere much in our growing up. At home cursing was not allowed; nor was the use of the racial descriptors of the 1950’s (guinea, wop, squarehead, kike, coon, spic, etc.) That rule has continued in my children’s’ homes. My grandparents and parents let the schools teach us the ABC’s, but they taught us respect.

The family’s politics were based on our grandparent’s strong support for Franklin Roosevelt and unions. I attended an integrated Catholic parochial school in Harlem, served in the army for three years, worked in the auto industry for thirty-five, and have been an avid athlete and then fan all my life. Why is my interest in sports important? Most of my personal contact with African Americans in the 50’s and 60’s was on a basketball court. It was a great place to meet. I was raised, schooled, worked, and lived with racial diversity, though not necessarily racial harmony.

I did not emerge from Brooklyn, and the other places I have lived, without racial and ethnic biases. Through my adult life I have battled to keep them in check. The battle has led me to realize that there are thoughts, deeds, and history that lie in my subconscious that reflect racial and social attitudes of different times and different places. The thoughts, deeds, and history that reside in my subconscious, my soul, will not go away. They are as much a part of my body as my blues eyes. So I mull through with a feelings with a simple maxim. Is this right? Is this wrong? I can’t change my subconscious mind, but I can add positive information and values to it. I will never conquer all the biases in my self-conscious, but I will wear them down.

I am disappointed with the outcomes of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s. I am also disappointed with the outcomes of the Vietnam War protests of the 1960’s. My generation thought it was making revolutionary change back then. As it turned out we made incremental change – unsatisfactory incremental change. That is probably why I embraced Barack Obama’s campaign for President. I liked his spirited vision of change when he first ran for the Senate. I did not ask then how he planned on making change then and don’t ask now. Just do it and let the chips fall where they may.

I read your column in the Wednesday Journal and loved it. You are 100% on the mark. The discussion has to begin and it has to begin now. I plan on being part of the discussion though I have not figured out yet how I am going to get engaged. My skin is thick. My heart and mind are open. Let the engagement begin.

Becky Gomez said...

I am a 42 year old women with a Mexican father and white mother. I hope that this nation can begin to have an honest dialogue about racial issues, and racism itself. We Oak Parkers take pride in our efforts to bridge the racial divide. Yet I believe we only fool ourselves. Oak Park is as segregated as other communities. How many black people live on the NW side of our village? To our village leaders, diversity means keeping black people east of Ridgeland and clustered in apartment communities in the mid section of the village. Even though our schools are claimed to be some of the best anywhere, many of our white students attend private parochial schools. Does anyone really believe that happens strictly for religious reasons? Look at the ratio of white to black students at Longfellow and you'll see that I am correct. Many of the white children living in Longfellow attendance area attend Ascension.
But give us some credit. Oak Park is more "diverse" than other areas, and many people here are really trying to their best to bridge the gap. However, I believe our failure to have honest dialogue about the issue keeps us from moving forward. So, in that spirit, here is my attempt.
I was an Obama supporter until the Wright controversy. I was shocked to learn that racism and hate is spewed from the mouths of many black ministers every Sunday. The fact that Obama sat there for 20 years listening to that garbage tells me all I need to know about his character. More importantly, he allowed his daughters to be influenced by Wright's racism, which is inexcusable. Maybe Obama can separate the good from the bad sermons, but his daughters are too young to do the same. No wonder so many black people are so angry. Hearing that message week after week would wash anyone's brain into believing that white people are responsible for every negative thing that happens. Racism is real. It's more subtle than it used to be, but it exists. On the other hand, not every ill in the black community is a result of racism. The black community needs to accept some responsibility for some of those ills. For instance, it is the black community who accuses black children of being too "white" when trying to educate themselves and move beyond the poverty cycle. Education and integration into the mainstream is the only way to break the cycle of poverty in the black community. No amount of additional money to close the "gap" will work if attitudes within the black community don't change.
Mexicans, Polish and others arrive in this country every day with no money, and less education than most in our black community. Yet within a generation or two, many of those families have moved into the ranks of the middle class. Why is that?
We as a nation need to continue our efforts to stomp out racism and poverty. The black community needs to stop blaming the rest of society and join hands with us to rectify those problems. Until that happens, nothing will change.
Becky Gomez

Kelly said...

I am white-lived in mostly predominantly white communities all my life. I didn't start seriously thinking about the issue of race until I moved to the eastern border of Oak Park (the "west side" begins across the street). Living right on the borderline of whites & blacks has raised a lot of issues with me. I first felt fear because I felt llke a minority and felt like I was not liked or welcome. Then I realized that was an overgeneralization and that was my fear talking. Of course like everyone else, I wish we could all live more integrated and without being fearful of each other, but maybe the reason why we haven't been able to do that is because our country's history is tainted with the use of slavery and the terrible racism problems of the 1960s. I wasn't even alive in the 60s, but it really wasn't that long ago and there are obviously repercussions from such atrocities. If I were black, I would probably be somewhat resentful to whites for this reason. It's like I can almost understand why things are the way they are. But it's sad. I heard MLK's speech on the radio this past week and it brings tears to my eyes because we still have problems now as we did back when he was alive. I wish he were still alive to fight for those issues. I am glad I saw this article because I really wanted to address these issues that were coming up in my head after I moved here. I tried talking to my landlord about how I thought it was so sad how segregrated we are but my landlord said that we have cultural differences. How culturally different are we? I don't understand that...... Thanks Arlene for the welcome and eye-opening article. I think just talking about it is a good start.

Butch Murtagh said...

I heartily support Becky Gomez’s statement that: “I hope that this nation can begin to have an honest dialogue about racial issues, and racism itself.” I also commend her comments on Oak Park integration. Oak Park has been a leader in fostering integration, but Dan Haley was right when he comment in the Wednesday Journal a couple of weeks ago that Oak Park cannot rest on its laurel. Barak Obama’s challenge is not an easy one and Becky’s note points out some of the divisive issues that we face in furthering the cause of racial equality.

I don’t agree with Becky on her view that Barak Obama should have left his church if he disagreed with opinions held by the majority – vast majority. As a boy in the 1950’s during the days of McCarthyism and the Iron Curtain, I heard from the nuns in school and the priest in pulpit that atheistic communists (USSR, Russia, etc.) were all going to go to hell. I was about eight or when I heard that. I was aghast. I asked my father if that was true. He told me it was an opinion. That is; he could not tell me if it was true or not. I would have to determine that myself.

In the 1960’s, when nuns left their classrooms and went south and joined the civil rights marches, they were condemned by many people in the Catholic Church. Why? They had abandoned the young souls in their classrooms. I thought the nuns were brave and noble. In the late 60’s, bishops and priests strongly chastised Anti-Vietnam War Protesters and implied that the protesters were going against God. Why? The North Vietnamese were not Christians and they were communists (economic and social policy.) To many Catholics that meant was God was on our side in the Vietnam War. I seriously doubted that God took sides in our country’s wars. In the 1980’s, the Catholic Church became vehemently anti-abortion. While abortion had always been a sin in the church’s eyes, it was announced from the pulpit that not being anti-abortion was also a sin. Things got worse, a lot worse, in the 1990’s with the revelation of sexual abuse in the church. It was not an opinion. I accepted the apologies given from the pulpit with mixed emotions.

The McCarthyism drivel, the attacks on nuns, the pro Vietnam War diatribe, and the anti-abortion threats all came from the mouths of priests, and what they said angered the hell out me. I did not leave the church as a result of what I heard from the pulpit. Why? Because I treated what was they were saying as an opinion. I did not treat it as some divine knowledge that was being passed to me through the lips of the priest.

I came close to leaving the church when the sexual abuse was revealed. I thought long and hard about leaving and decided to stay. Why? After listening to the condemnations of the acts from the pulpit and evaluating the steps the church had taken to stop the abuse, it was my opinion that the pain and suffering to my family and myself by leaving would not be worth the statement my leaving would make.

I have my doubts that people, including Hillary Clinton, who say that they would have stopped going to Pastor Wright’s church as a result of his remarks have not given much thought to what their church is to them. The church is not the pastor or any one of the priests. It is not the liturgy alone, the music alone, the sense of family, the belief in mission, etc. It is a composite of all the things a person is, including family, heritage, and how the religious experience fits into their life experience. The decision to join a church, and stay in a church, is personal. I would not leave my family because my brother had radically different than mine and had been condemned throughout the world. To some, a church is family.

I would hope that if Barak Obama’s daughter had heard Pastor Wright’s statements that they would have asked their father if what the pastor had said was true. I would also hope that Mr. Obama would have looked them in the eyes and said it is an opinion, and that in this country no one should be condemned for expressing an opinion.

I think all of the issue and concerns Becky brought up about things that happen or are perceived to happen in the African American community deserve frank and serious discussion. That will be a start of the discussion list. We then can list all things that happen or are perceived to happen in the White, Tan, Yellow, and Brown communities that are questioned by African Americans that deserve frank and serious discussion. We then can openly discuss the issues before throwing the lists in the trash. Once used for discussion the list will have no value. The lists are a mirror to the past, not a roadmap to the future.

Becky Gomez said...

I know that my opinion regarding the Wright controversy is the minority opinion in Oak Park. All of my neighbors agree with Butch. Yet, there is no amount of debate that will change either of our opinions on this matter. I know for sure that I would leave my parish if my priest continually made racist remarks. I know for sure I would not allow that priest to be my spiritual advisor either. Wright's sermons would have been appropriate in 1965, but were completely inappropriate in 2008. Racism is evil no matter which direction it is aimed. I support Wright's right to say whatever he wishes, and Obama's right to sit and listen for 20 years. I also retain the right to decide how that information will impact my thoughts about Obama, and my vote.
I have a topic that I think about often. I wonder if the rest of you do as well? Why are there no Jewel, Walgreens, CVS or other such stores east of Austin? I believe it is corporate racism. Recently I began conducting my own research by looking at window stickers in the parking lots of Jewel, CVS, Walgreens, etc when I visit those stores. Conservatively I would estimate that 90% of the vehicles in the parking lots have Chicago stickers. We certainly welcome the revenue for our village and welcome all to shop here, but I'm sure people east of Austin would enjoy having those same stores in their own neighborhoods. Jewel seems perfectly happy to take their money if they'll come to Oak Park, but they are not willing to put additional stores where they are badly needed.
The reason why seems clear to me. I believe the black community should band together and boycott all Jewel stores until they are ready to have a discussion about this issue. Money talks, and I'm quite sure a boycott of all African Americans in the Chicago area would cause them to listen.

Arlene Jones said...

Sorry for the delay in responding. My trip to Memphis was emotionally draining.

To cassandra - Thank you for your comments.

To bluepoppies - Black people are no more prone to prejudice than any other group. However to grow up Black in America is an individual experience that can make some more bitter than others. I grew up on the North Side so my perspectives and experiences are different than those who grew up in other areas. My church in the 1960s was interracial and my pastor was white. I was sent to camp to be with children who were white and hispanic.

America needs to tolerate vs celebrate all that makes us different (skin color, speech patterns ie: southern drawl or new england drawl, protestant or catholic, muslim and jew, and on and on. I must agree that we need to celebrate and emphasis what unites us as a country. Otherwise we are headed for an internal conflict no different than those in Iraq where different ethnic sects are battling each other for control.

To pat - your posting brought back memories of a similar experience I had when having dinner with a friend on the far northwest side and watching the disdain the waitress had in serving us. That was in the early 1970s. I am glad your co-worker shared her experience with you so that you can understand her pain.

To butch - I admire your honesty. That is the reason we need to discuss and dialogue on race and feelings. We need to be open to how people feel. It is the only way to begin to talk about race and racial attitudes.

to becky - Oak Park is an ongoing experiement in racial intergration. Not perfect, but at least willing to try and address it.

You question why black people have been unsuccessful in America while other ethnic groups have flourished. It is the reason that a dark sicilian can arrive in America and change his name from Romano to Roman and be accepted, it is the reason a Jew can come to America and change his name from Romanstein to Roman and be accepted, or any Hispanic from Del Romantiago to Roman be accepted and even for Poles from
Romanowski to Roman.

White skin has its privledges.
Those that are non-black get the "white" priveledge. That is why Cicero which was filled with whites who would have murdered a black person living there in the 1960s tolerated the influx of Mexicans. Now mind you, Cicero wasn't a bed of roses. But when blacks couldn't walk in Cicero after a certain hour, Mexicans lived there. How and why was that?

Black people cannot hide our racial being. We cannot change our name and be white. We do have cases where some blacks because of the amount of white blood have "passed" for white. But America is the country which has always declared that "one drop of black blood makes you black".

The success of many ethnic groups in America has always been at the expense of black America. Rather than hire black people, this country imports others. How come? Why is it that an ex-offender cannot get employment while an illegant immigrant can? One has paid the price for his crime the other is actively committing a crime.

As for Jewel, they and other companies know that they can put a store outside of the black community and we will travel to spend money there. It is therefore imcumbent that the black community develope its own business base (which is something I am a huge proponent of) so that like other ethnic groups we can become self-sufficient and not dependant on others.

But let me point out something else as well. When it comes to racial politics, oftentimes things are/have been done so that the black community pays the costs. That is the reason that the black community gets unequal service while paying the same taxes as others.

It is the reason the city will inspect, tax and fine black busineses while ignoring the same situations in businesses of other racial groups. It is the reason that Johnson Hair Care Products had to put a warnign label on their products years in advance while Revlon who was beginning to implement manufacturing black hair care products was given a pass so that they could cut into the money made in the black hair care industry.

This is the reason for the racial discussion that I proposed. Many outsiders look at the black community and ask why don't they have this - or why don't they do that? without knowing/understanding or the history of what has happened. But that's why we can discuss it.

Lastly Becky, you have strong sentiments about Rev Wright. However, what are your sentiments about the Catholic Church considering the number of young children molested all over this country by wayward priests?

Also, if you had seen the entire clips on Rev Wright, he was taken out of context. Dr. King is revered today, but in the 1960s, what he said wasn't always accepted with the reverence that it is today.

to kelly, thanks for the input. Only thru dialogue can we begin to walk in someone else's shoes.

Becky Gomez said...

I have listened, in full, to the four sermons of Wright's that I could find. The racist comments in question were absolutely not taken out of context in my opinion. He wasn't repeating the comments of someone else, or trying to make some contextual point. Those were his words and the meaning he was trying to convey matched exactly what he said. In terms of the Catholic Church, I like most Catholics, am horrified at the abuses that took place. But those abuses were not done by the Church but by men within the Church. Had I learned that my priest was an abuser, I would have left that parish in a New York minute. Likewise, I do not believe Obama should have left his church demonination or faith, but rather he should have left Wright rather than listening to and financially supporting his racist and anti-American sermons for 20years.

I reject the notion outright that Mexicans can simply change their last names and blend in with the white community. There has been a tremendous backlash against Mexican's in the U.S. during the past several years. I have been called everything from spic to wetback, and I was born and raised in this country. The people who called me those names, at least to my face, were black.
I agree that we are importing cheap labor in this country, and I am a strong advocate of gaining control over our borders. In the long term, uncontrolled illegal immigration is harmful to the U.S. and to Mexicans. But I can not blame the immigrants for coming here. They live in horrible conditions and there is no government safety net in Mexico that will provide housing and food for the poor. Hundreds of thousands literally live at the garbage dump in Mexico City. It is not their fault for wanting to escape those conditions but rather our fault for doing nothing to prevent illegal immigration.
Those immigrants often are middle class or higher by the 2nd and 3rd generations. They do not get there by blending in with the white community. They get there by working very hard, supporting each other within their communities, staying out of debt and keeping their families in tact and strong. Eventually they do "mainstream", but they always retain their culture. While Mexicans may not have been killed walking the streets of Cicero, they were indeed killed in many other places, expecially along the border.

Butch Murtagh said...

"CAN WE BEGIN AN HONEST DISCUSSION ON RACE?"

That's the subject, right?

Well we are not going to begin it or be honest with it until we stop looking back and start looking forward.

Saying that "The success of many ethnic groups in America has always been at the expense of black America." is glib. Every ethnic group had successes and failure. African Americans have successes and failure, some of them great. The ethnic groups that came to America because of famine, oppression, and religious persecution did not come with a plan to screw African Americans. They came to work. If an African American was prevented from getting a job as a result - so be it. The African Americans who came to Chicago did not come with the idea of screwing the immigrant. They came for jobs and if the immigrant lost his as a result -- so be it. If anyone pitted immigrants versus African Americans it was industrial giants that hired both of them. It was a great strike-busting tool to keep wages low.

Hispanics find themselves at the bottom of the job tree now. Legal or illegal, they did not come to this country to screw the African American? No, they came for jobs. Is it advantageous for business and corporations to have African Americans and Hispanics going at each other?

Damn right it is! African Americans and Hispanics snapping at each other rather than complaining about wages, working conditions, etc. keeps them both from seeing who is doing the screwing and who is getting screwed.

It is a long proven strategy for business to pit groups at the bottom of the job food chain against each other. It worked in the 19th Century when Catholics were pitted against Protestants, when Irish were pitted against Polish, when Latvians were pitted against Lithuanians. The only beneficiary of the turmoil amongst races and nationalities has been businesses.

Here is the word. At no time in the history of this country has the working man been the natural enemy of another working man. The white, black, Hispanic, Polish, Indian workers were not looking for a fight. They were looking for a wage. All they wanted to do was succeed. Succeeding was raising a family, having a nice home, getting an education. They climbed on each others backs because there were not enough jobs or not enough wages, not because they hated each other. Their hate was reserved for those who offered dirty and dangerous jobs for low wages.

So if the blog is black vs white, Hispanic vs. African American, green versus red, Cubs vs White Soxs, Less Filling vs. Taste, then I think I need to move on. I joined the blog to participate in the BEGINNING OF AN HONEST DISCUSSION ON RACE? I joined the bog to put history behind us and look to the future! Let's get out of the tunnel and see the light.

Arlene Jones said...

To Butch and Becky,

First off, Reverend Wright was the pastor of Trinity Church for over 20 years. The average black church does at least three sermons on Sunday. So if Becky listened to four that takes care of one Sunday - or maybe two at most. Trinity is part of a predominately WHITE church group. So to declare Rev Wright Racist is simplistic. America cannot do evil things and then ask for God to bless us. America has no greater claim on God than any other country in the world.


Race perceptions are just that. How we perceive things. You can argue/discuss and comment on the merits of each person's position. But like Pat who told us of her friend not being served in a restaurant, you two sound as if people made these things up as opposed to attempting to understand the position that each person comes from.

Butch I am confused on your "so be it" point of view. If you happen to always be the one who loses out based on your "so be it" logic, then that is why you have resentment and attitudes in the black community. We have experienced one too many "so be it" moments. How many people have had their dreams deferred not because they didn't want it but because this society is just 40 years into Civil Rights and many of those rights still have to be fought for today. Sure we have had a lot of successes. But when in 2007 you still have in Jena Lousiana the "white tree" that only gives shade to one group and not another, or in many southern communities you still have seperate proms even though they go to school together.

Yes we can sit where ever we want to on the bus, but which community gets poor bus service and which one gets good bus service. And please don't say all you have to do is express one's displeasure. I have spent years on committees and watched with frustation when my concerns were ignored and then incredibly watch when someone who isn't black makes the same comment and if is as if its the first time anyone ever heard about the issue.

It reminds me of city contracts where they set aside 15% for minorities and white men complain about the set asides even though when you do the math, they are GUARANTEED 85%.

An honest discussion on race also means not automatically disvaluing what the other person says. There use to be a TV show that would show the same incident from 4different perspectives. What was most amazing is that as you watched it, each version of the incident did stay the same, but each of the four perceptions was 180 degrees opposite of the other.


Lastly, many non-black ethnic minorites have been given what I call the "white pass". If you check the net, they did the same thing in South Africa, allowing American blacks to be considered temporary whites to perform and stay in hotels.

As to any ethnic group working hard, no one worked harder than my enslaved ancestors. So I don't buy into the "they are starving over there" because America has poor as well. Their are Native American reservations, Apalachian white communities and poor black communities that all suffer in America and before we can concern ourselves worrying about people from outside the country, we must first deal with the American hidden poverty as too many try to pretend it doesn't exist.

Butch Murtagh said...

Thank you for allowing me to participate in your blog and I apologize if I offended you. I wish you the best of luck in your effort to create an honest discussion on race.

My Last Post

Arlene Jones said...

Butch,

No apology needed. In the discussion of race, one of the first things we all have to do and understand is that our perceptions (valid and invalid) color what we see and hear.

But that is how we learn about each other. That was one of the cornerstone remarks in Barack Obama's speech on race that I heard when he spoke. Both whites and blacks have genuine issues and because of who we are and how we grew up in this country it manisfests itself. But our younger generations are changing the landscape so as to hopefully one day eradicate the differences.

Becky Gomez said...

I'm glad that we at least attempted to have an honest discussion about race. We have to keep trying to ever move forward. I was hoping this blog would give ordinary people the chance to freely talk to each other, share opinions on things that really matter and help us each gain better understanding of neighbors points of view. Unfortunately this didn't happen for me.
There was a wonderful documentary on CNN this weekend called "Meeting David Wilson". I won't summarize the documentary in this forum, but I would recommend that everyone watch this documentary. It is the first time I've seen and heard honest thoughts on race from real people. The panel discussion that followed was worthless because it was comprised of academics who essentially agree with each other on every issue. However, the documentary itself was wonderful and I would give it a 10 out of 10.
Arlene, four recent sermons is enough for me to decide that Wright is an anti-American racist. Sorry, but that's how I feel, and apparently how many, many other Americans feel.
As I said early in these discussions, I believe racism is real and impacts our everyday lives. I know this because 12 years ago I adopted a 10 year old boy and 8 year old girl whose mother had died of a drug overdose. These young African American children had essentially been abandoned by their mother, and extended family, their entire lives. There were many nights I sat on the sofa crying with these wonderful children as they made the transition from the ghetto to a middle class neighborhood. When they first came to me neither could read or write beyond the 1st grade level. It was a very tough transition for all of us, but to make a long story short, that 12 year old boy is now 22 and will graduate from Notre Dame next month. That 8 year old girl is now 20 and is a second year student at the University of Chicago. They are the light of my life. During my years with them I have experienced racism up close and personal. I also learned much about the culture from where they came - a culture that had taught them to give up because the "white man" would never allow them to succeed. I learned that beliefs on both sides of this debate are often just plain wrong.
The three of us don't agree on every racial or political issue even now, but we approach each other with love and understanding. We talk to each other instead of at each other. Until that happens on a greater scale within our society, it will difficult to change our society.
I am signing off of this blog for the last time because I do not believe it achieved the intended purpose. But I thank everyone for making the attempt.
Becky

Arlene Jones said...

No offense to Becky, but no one blog or one conversation will be or is the "simplistic solution" to the race discussion.

Even more is the perception that I am getting from her post which is that if "it's not her way, then she doesn't have to or want to deal with it".

How can any group move forward with a discussion when one part only wants to discuss what is most pleasant or they are in total agreement with? That isn't a discussion at that point - it's a lecture.

I can no more know it is like to be a male from just living with one than one can know what it is like to be black in America. Every one's experience will be different. But that's why we discuss.

I am offended that Becky has make such huge generalizations. Sure they are some aspects of black America that put blames (and excuses) on white people. But it's not so broad that you can say tht every black persons feel a certain way.

What individuals like Becky ( and I only use her in general) don't want address is that SLAVERY WAS AN INSTITUTION. It formed the basics of this country. It was ingrained in mindset and law. So much so that if you believe in the 'Willie Lynch Letter', then you can understand how people who were purposely kept ignorant can believe and accept their reality without questioning it. A current general comparison can be made to those young children who were taken from the polygamist compound in West Texas. They and their parents are so brainwashed that their reality cannot be changed by just freeing them from the compound.

The power of brainwashing and then reinformemt from society and goverment laws have left many in black America woefully ignorant of many things. For example the Civil War ended in 1965. But slaves in Galveston Texas didn't learn until 1867! Coincidence that for two years their slave masters kept them working for free or was it done on purpose? Of course it was on purpose.

But I digress. If those of you want to ask questions or talk about it, we can agree to do so. But I don't buy into the theatrics of people who cannot discuss and then declare they are "out of here".

Blogs are only a start for discussion. I had a white co-worker, a God-fearing Republican who was one of few white people I personally knew who was very open to race conversations and having a very honest discussions on race and politics. When he left the company, we continued discussions via email. Then one day he sent me an email and told me I had hurt his feelings and that he no longer wanted to me to email him anymore. To this day I honestly don't know what email he read and what offended him. It was such a loss as his analysis and perspective was valued. But he too when the conversation got brutally honest didn't want to deal with it. And I never learned to this day what angered him.

But whatever it was, it was his lost in deciding to end the relationship.

Life goes on and so will this blog. Not always on race, but acknowledging that race is the undercurrent of everything I say and do.

Becky Gomez said...

Responses to my posting automatically show up in my email inbox, so I did see your last posting Arlene. I couldn't let some of your comments pass without a response.
Obviously my feelings on this subject offend you, and for that I apologize. But, the title of this blog included the word "honest", so I was sharing my honest feelings on some of these topics.
I said that I was logging off this blog because it wasn't meeting it's intended purpose. I guess I should have explained that a little more. What I was hoping for was discussion between people on day to day issues and experiences. I really do want to understand how race impacts people, and the best way to learn about that is to listen to them speak about the issue. However, the discussion turned to more of an academic rather than practical one, which was not what I was hoping for.
I didn't mean to imply that all black people feel the same. I was simply sharing the experience of my two children and community for which they came.
You said in your posting that I don't want to address "that slavery was an institution". How you could have read that into any of my remarks is beyond me. I fully acknowledge that slavery was an institution, it was horrible and it left a lasting impact of this country. Your leap to the conclusion that "individuals like Becky" don't acknowledge this horrible issue in our past is a huge over generalization, offensive, and plain wrong. I'm sure there are individuals who don't want to acknowledge the lasting effects of slavery, but I am not one of them and there was nothing in any of my posts that even remotely hinted of such a position.
No, I do not pretend to know what it is like to be a black person, but raising two black children does give me a unique perspective that many white or hispanic people don't experience.
I find it interesting that over 2000 people have read the postings on this blog, but only four were willing to write comments. They probably feared that any honest sentiments would be met with hostile commentary meant to make them feel an inch tall, and they would have been right. Regardless of your comments, I stand tall and hold to my convictions. My opinions on a variety of topics are open to change with intelligent dialogue, but my perspectives are not invalid just because you happen to disagree.

Arlene Jones said...

Becky,

I appreciate your responses and didn't mean any personal affront to you. I did emphasize that I was not meaning you in particular, but more in general. If you interpreted it any other way, I apologize as that was not my intent.

This blog is about race (only because we can't remove race from the equation) and the westside and Austin in particular. It is an extension of my work for the Austin Weekly News.

As I wrote in my previous posts, we can mean one thing when we write that can be interpreted by others in a completely different manner.

I hope you take the time to watch some of the videos on MSNBC regarding race that was held at Howard University. Very informative and telling. I viewd it and still found some of the guests not as honest as they could be. But it is a start.

Thank you for your patronage and helping to start a discussion on racial issues. As the Chinese Proverbs says, "The journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step". This blog is just one of those first steps.