Archive for July, 2013

Livin’ the Dream

July 18, 2013

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It’s anti-apartheid leader and former South African president Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday today.  He was instrumental in ending South Africa’s apartheid nearly twenty years ago and his birthday is being celebrated are all over the world by people of all colors. We finally live in Dr. King’s world where the children are not judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.  The U.S. elected (and re-elected) its first black president, Barack Obama. My home state of Massachusetts has elected (and re-elected) its first black governor, Duval Patrick. Ahhh, we’re livin’ the dream…

(gunshot)

I want to talk with my fellow non-racist white guys – guys like me. You and I know we’re not racists. We judge people on their merits. We don’t care if folks are white, black, red or green. We don’t think about color – we don’t even notice it – unless we are walking down the street with that black guy follows us. Or we enter a restaurant/club/that-side-of-town and we are the only white folk there.

Have we ever been pulled over for no reason? Ever ask to look at an item from inside a case at the store and the clerk doesn’t let us hold it? Have we ever been told we better fly right because we are representing our white race? OK, two outta three ain’t bad… right?

If you are like me – white – it’s easy to say you’re not a racist because to us race isn’t important. Being white doesn’t get us into trouble and often helps get us out of it. But the browner you get the more you stand out and the more judgments are made about you based on color.

We white folk think that not recognizing color makes it go away. We get a bit uppity about it with our kids. In the grocery when our toddler asks why that man is black we quickly reprimand her by telling her we don’t say that – he is just a man, we don’t care about color. We say it with our voice embarrassedly lowered to a whisper. This man’s most obvious characteristic is clearly taboo. That’s the message we really give: Being Black is something so scary we can’t even talk about it.

In light of the divide created in the Trayvon Martin case I want to point out to my fellow non-racists that it isn’t always the laws that indicate our racism; it is often something much more subtle. “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves…” Laws have changed, individuals have been elected, boundaries have been broken – we have made a momentous start, but it is just a start. Blacks still are more likely to get longer sentences than whites for the same crimes, still less likely to get a plea bargain, and more likely to receive a death sentence.

If there is a positive to be taken from the Trayvon Martin case it is this: It can restart the conversation about race that stopped back in the Sixties. Let’s not whisper, let’s not shout, let’s stop denying that confrontations caused by race based assumptions killed Trayvon Martin and just talk.

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Here are a few links to help get the conversation started:

This Newsweek article is about how we raise our kids and the natural tendency even babies have to categorize their world. It refers to a study that opened my eyes.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2009/09/04/see-baby-discriminate.html

A Cheerios commercial caused a controversy by showing a biracial family. The maker of this video played the commercial for some kids and asked them to find what upset the adults (There is hope here – the world keeps getting better!)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VifdBFp5pnw&feature=share

And for those who doubt Blacks are treated harsher than Whites in America by our justice system:

http://time.dufe.edu.cn/jingjiwencong/waiwenziliao1/004109.web.pdf

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324432004578304463789858002.html

http://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/reports/racial-disparity-sentencing

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