Saturday, April 12, 2008

MSNBC's "A Conversation on Race"

Last night I tuned in to MSNBC's "A Conversation on Race", a forum held at Howard University and moderated by Brian Williams. Along with Williams was a rotating panel of guests, including Professor Michael Eric Dyson of Georgetown University, journalist Mike Barnacle, the wife of comedian Chris Rock, the chief of police of Washington and others. I had anticipated that this might be an true example of the "Dialogue on Race" that many people are calling for between whites and blacks, which would be a worthy idea.

The discussion was interesting and civil. The audience was polite. Yet something was missing. Basically, it was the same conversation we have been having for the last 40 years. It centered around slavery, discrimination and white racism. Most of the participants, particularly Dyson, felt that America has avoided discussing this part of our history.

I respectfully disagree. In my view, our country has, indeed, acknowledged the past. Yes, the residue of slavery is still present today. Yet, I would have liked to see more discussion on the present-day problems that plague black America that cannot be laid off so simply on white racism. It was touched on briefly by Barnacle, who brought up the subject of absentee fathers-something I feel is the single biggest problem today. Dyson responded, but seemed to me to talk around the problem.

My point in bringing this up is that black illigitimacy stood at around 25% 50 years ago in the dark days of Jim Crow. Today, it is around 70%. It is an inescapoable fact that many black fathers are skirting their responsibility. From that, so many other problems arise in the children - drugs, gangs, misogynistic feelings toward women, etc.

Any true dialogue on race has to include the concerns of both sides. Acknowledge the past of course, but concerns must also be expressed about black crime and the constant accusations of racism hurled at whites who dare to criticize. It should have been stated last night that whites are getting weary of the R word being applied constantly by racial hucksters who make a living off the whole Race Industry. Someone should have been on that panel who would have dared to speak out against folks like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Jeremiah Wright and others. Someone should have been there to name the names of true haters like the New Black Panther Party and its leader, Malik Zulu Shabazz. Perhaps, there should have been a mention of Rev Eric Lee, who recently handed out a humanitarian award to a Jewish lady for her work in the inner city, then drove her off the stage in tears with an anti-Semitic diatribe. Yet, many blacks (and whites) argue that only whites can be racists because they have historically occupied the position of power vis-a-vis minorities. I understand the reasoning, but I respectfully disagree.

At any rate, there were some worthy points brought out. One thing, for example, that was brought out was the historical feelings of inferiority that have plagued the thinking of black people themselves, even being conscious of degrees of darkness in their own skin color. The doll demonstration, where black toddlers chose white dolls over black dolls, was poignant and sad.

Nevertheless, I was disappointed. A true conversation on race is in all our interests in trying to bring about reconciliation and an equal society. Yet, if it is not frank-on both sides-then it will only contribute to more "burnout" on the part of whites, who will just give up and walk away. Maybe Mr Dyson has a point. Though the nation as a whole has acknowledged its past, individual whites are, indeed, reluctant to engage in this conversation with blacks. They know that if they speak openly about their true feelings on the subject of race and the state of black America, if they say the wrong word or leave the wrong impression, they will only cause anger and be called implicitly or explicitly a racist. Everone knows that label can ruin a person's career and/or life. If we are ever to have that true dialogue, then that label must be removed from the table.

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