Thursday, February 19, 2009

3 Reasons Americans Are Cowards About Race

In a speech given to the employees of the Justice Department, President Barack Obama's appointed Attorney General, Eric Holder called America, "a nation of cowards" when it comes to discussions of race.

Mr. Holder, in this case, is correct. We are a nation of cowards. We do self-segregate. Our churches are divided along racial lines in addition to denominational differences.

But how did our nation become so fearful about discussions of race? I offer my X reasons.

1. Americans Don't Want to be Called Racist

The last thing any American wants to be called is a racist. Perceived racism has been wielded against the American public so many times that it has become fearful in social situations and comical behind closed doors.

I think Omarosa from NBC's "The Apprentice" illustrates the situation nicely.

Skip to 2:10 or so.

In case you missed it, Omarosa says to one of the other girls, "You're emotionally unstable."

To which the girl replies, "That is like calling the kettle black."

Omarosa's reasonable retort is, "See? There you go with your racist terms. What was that you said about black people? Try to contain your prejudice, okay?"

This is the first reason that American's are fearful to enter into discussions of race: because the politicians, community leaders, and pastors, have gotten people so on-edge about race that even the most tangential (or nonsensical) reference to race is understood to be bigotry.

2. Race Politics are Powerful

The social playing field is constantly shifting such that the rules are never very certain.

For example, then Senator Joe Biden said of Senator Barack Obama, "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean that's a storybook, man."

And Biden went on to become the Vice President alongside that "articulate, bright, clean and nice-looking" African-American.

But liberal blogs claimed that Sarah Palin was racist for using the term "hockey-mom." Seriously.

So racism at this point in time appears to be something only white conservatives are capable of achieving.

Need more evidence? Look no further than the benediction at Obama's inauguration.

You're standing on the steps of the capitol. An African American has just taken the oath of office. And you're still looking for the day when "White will embrace what is right?"

This just proves that racism will never die because it's too powerful of a political tool to put it down just because it no longer exists to any significant extent.

3. Fear of Accidental Racism

In 2001, Jennifer Cundiff was working for Southwest Airlines which is one of the few successful post-9/11 airlines and is known for it's laid-back attitudes. Ms. Cundiff was a flight-attendant and was helping people get to their seats, since Southwest does not have assigned seating on its flights.

In order to encourage the passengers to move more quickly, she said the most racist thing imaginable: a modified version of a children's nursery rhyme.

"Eeny Meeny Miney Mo, Pick a seat we've gotta go."

Louise Sawyer and Grace Fuller heard the inflammatory comment and filed a complaint with Southwest Airlines, who refused to take them seriously. So they sued the airline.

Oh yeah, Louise Sawyer and Grace Fuller are both black.

Wait. What? What's racist about what Ms. Cundiff said? Well, apparently, unbeknownst to Ms. Cundiff, the rhyme had a racist version associated with it which dated back to decades before she was even born.

So Southwest Airlines, and Ms. Cundiff dealt with the impact of those ten words for the next three years as the case worked its way through court. Fortunately, reason, a term not often associated with the judicial system, won out and neither Ms. Cundiff nor the airline was found liable for the comment.

But if you can be labeled racist for saying something on accident, potentially costing your company thousands of dollars and perhaps even your job, it isn't cowardly to associate primarily with people of your race, it's strategically wise to do so.


So why are Americans cowards when it comes to discussing race? Americans don't want to be called racist, they don't want race used as a political sledge, and they don't want to accidentally say something that may be interpreted as racist.

But I think the real reason conservatives don't discuss race very often is that conservatives, in general, don't view people in terms of race nearly as much as liberals do. Liberals see the country as divided into groups of races, genders, and classes. We conservatives view the country as a blending of individuals who are all Americans, which is what I think Dr. King's dream really was striving for.

Perhaps in the future we will not discuss race because it won't even be a topic on our minds. You'll look at me as an American and I will look at you as an American. We will have cultural and ideological differences, but our appreciation of our shared God-given freedom and our championing of the freedom of all mankind will be the forefront of our thoughts.

That is change we can believe in.

For further reading: Check out Michelle Malkin's fine article on Holder's comments.

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