Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Back to the National Conversation about Race

E. J. Dionne Jr., writing in the Washington Post, suggests that, in our latest national conversation about race, we might consider discussing the lives of people other than media stars:
I can't help but see this as yet another example of how we are far more comfortable discussing what certain celebrities say than what we as a society do. We love to talk about "the culture" and what can be done about it because such talk is, quite literally, cheap.
He goes on to recite some facts and figures that are all too familiar, and all too easily forgotten:
But let's look at a few of the supposedly boring facts. According to the U.S. Census, black households in 2005 had a median income of $30,858, compared with $50,784 for non-Hispanic white households. The black poverty rate was 24.9 percent. The white poverty rate was 8.3 percent.
In 2005, according to the Justice Department, 4.7 percent of black males were in prison or jail, compared with 0.7 percent of white males. For men in their late 20s, just under 12 percent of blacks were incarcerated, compared with 1.7 percent of whites. Life expectancy for black men is more than six years shorter than for white men.
Are these stark social realities due to lingering racism? Are they due to social breakdowns in poor communities? And didn't we just have this conversation after Hurricane Katrina?
Maybe we should talk about it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting, when one says we will discuss "race" it is always about blacks we seem to speak.

There are other races. But discussion is most prevalent when we discuss African descendants.

They were not the only slaves brought here. Chinese "slaves" built Western Railroads. Scotch Irish, and later Irish, escaped slave conditions in their homeland to start anew in this country.

Opportunity seems to be a great "equalizer". The Old South spent a lot of effort to "diminish" the opportunity that a black could find. Now we struggle to mainstream Africans into America.

Ironically, with this recent controversy, it is in sports and music that we have done that. It was over twenty years ago that MTV wallowed through the controversy of playing primarily white music. Now, almost all of the popular songs, employ instruments, rhythms, and yes, lyrics, that twenty years ago, would be considered as African.

What needs to happen is that in both politics and education, we need to see African descendants as people, just like all others, who need to excel to succeed.

We need to become color blind as Americans..... What has it been, fifty years since the civil rights movement started? If we are fighting Iraqi insurgents fifty years from now, would that foreign policy adventure, be considered a failure?

Sharpton and Jackson, jumping on this most recent controversy, as "has-been's" do little to advance the mainstreaming of Africans into the economic vitality that all people need to survive. Saturday Night Live, (Hube will appreciate this) put it best in their skit, when Jackson said," Above all, we have proved that we are still relevant.

When I saw that, I said 'You know, SNL got it right."

Far more good was done by Delawarean Charles Cawley, former head of the former MBNA who said "We have such a large labor pool under-utilized right here in Wilmington. Why not use them?"

He did. Most of the houses bought and sold in New Castle County subsequently were a direct result of that decision and the action resulting from it.

I am afraid that what is needed is for the African community to choose to work effectively instead of revel in tongue lashings which although they bring media attention, do little to economically assist those who we all agree. need it.

All agree that education (particularly within the inner city) is where we need to initiate our focus. Not only do we need resources redirected away from wealthy America, shifted towards this problem, but we also need black America to realistically attempt to use education to fit in. One set of standards for all people. The African community needs to instill in their children that blending in is far more important than standing out.

Cawley made great strides in advancing New Castle County African Americans by firing those who did not conform. The US military, our most color blind service of the national government does the same.

Let us examine the results of what will happen if we follow these same principals within our educational process.

11:21 AM, April 17, 2007  
Blogger Tom Noyes said...

Thanks for the thoughtful comments. I have two quick responses:

First the person who put Al Sharpton front and center in the Don Imus controversy was Don Imus, by going on the radio with Sharpton last week.

As for your comments about Charles Cawley, I agree that MBNA's decision to locate in Wilmington and hire city residents had a significant positive effect on the prosperity of the city and many who live here.

I do not agree with your complaint about black leaders who "do little to economically assist those who...need it." It was one such black leader, our former mayor, Jim Sills, who sat down with Cawley to bring MBNA to Wilmington.

Thanks to his success in attracting business to Wilmington, the city's wage economy grew by $1 billion (a robust 50 percent) during the 1990s. While this growth has slowed somewhat (closer to 23 percent since 2001), our current mayor, Jim Baker, has continued this success in attracting business to the city.

12:59 PM, April 17, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would add an additional caveat for kavips. Calling the other "minorities" slaves is not in the least bit accurate. Sure many of them worked for low wages doing hazardous work, but they were not property. They were never subject to the same level of institutionalized racism that African-Americans were.

It wasn't until 1964 that you could even begin to talk about starting the integration of African-Americans into society. And to further that point, still today there is a great deal more racism against blacks than any other race or ethnicity.

2:22 PM, April 17, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two more points:

One: Sills, as well as Baker, is the type of black leader who strives to achieve results. They ran for mayor, and won. My referral perhaps should have said spokesperson instead of leader, to prevent such a confusion from occuring. I certainly want to draw a distinct line between black leaders who do something, and celebrities who don't.

Second, as for other races being slaves, delve more into the history of British/Irish relations. I was not speaking of American immigrants in my comment....American immigrants had it quite well compared to what their compatriots suffered back home. However, despite all that being said, the suffering in the coal-mining towns at the hands of the Robber Barons is an interesting aspect of our nations history that is not taught and has been forgotten. Some slaves had better conditions then those allegedly free citizen who "'owed their soul to the company store......"

1:09 AM, April 25, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to tie up this post with comments, but I didn't want to leave Liberal Geek's last paragraph untouched.........................

It wasn't until 1964 that you could even begin to talk about starting the integration of African-Americans into society. And to further that point, still today there is a great deal more racism against blacks than any other race or ethnicity.

One, the same prejudices that Post Slavery blacks experienced here, were prevalent in California against the Asian immigrants, and used against the American Indians out West, against the "Tallies" in the of railroad camps and coal mines of the Appalachians.

It was the South where blacks suffered worse.

If there is still racism against blacks today, after all that has been done, perhaps they need to look to themselves as to why?

( I was influenced by a segment on Anderson 360, where a vibrant conversation took place on this topic.) The link below explains it in more detail how the "stop snitchin'" movement is leading blacks back to the "darkness" and away from the "light" as one guest put it.



1:34 AM, April 25, 2007  

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