Thursday, March 20, 2008

Race & Racism

Need there be intent for one to be a racist?

As a white guy, it always makes me a uncomfortable to hear folks talk about institutional racism. For if an institution is racist, then members of that institution, I guess, are racists even though they as individuals may not be. Am I by definition a racist simply bc. I'm part of those institutions and have what folks call white privilege?

Hard for me to accept that one. By accepting the institutional racism concept, I would have to accept the racist label myself. But I don't really feel like a racist. What would I have to do to throw off my white privilege and be accepted as racism-free? It's not such a silly question.

Maybe we need another word bc. being a racist implies that the person so labeled is hateful or has the intent to discriminate or hurt. I guess I could be acting in a racist-like way, but that doesn't mean I have hate in my heart if I don't even know that what I'm doing is hurtful.

The problem with any public dialogue on the subject of race is that politics inevitably interfere. Take this recent case with Geraldine Ferraro. No one can argue that she has a racist history. Quite the contrary. And yet, the minute she makes a political statement about race, she's accused of being a racist and is drummed off the Billary fund raising committee.

Come on people, there's a difference between talking about race and being a racist. If the solution is a dialogue about race, everyone in the discussion needs to stop throwing around the R Word. People won't talk about race if they're afraid that in doing so they'll be called a racist. In Ferraro's case there was no intent to be hurtful, no hate in her heart.

Were her comments hurtful to some people? Probably so. But it also hurts some people to say that the Patriots stunk it up and blew the Super Bowl or that lives lost in Iraq were wasted. The point is that Ferraro's comments, hurtful tho they may be to some folks, do not make her a racist.

The shame of it is that the people calling Ferraro a racist are themselves making political statements, but they deny it, and hide instead behind the issue of race. If you want to solve the "race issue", want to "open a dialogue" on race (which is what everyone seems to agree that we need in this country), you need to stop beating people over the head when they do try to talk about it.

Or else we'll just never talk about it. Accept that in any dialogue, uncomfortable things will be said.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you. And it's inherently racist to think that white people can't understand "black issues" or race issues in general because they are white.