Race in the USA
RACISM! RACIST! The very word sends shudders up your spine. White People are terrified of being called “racist.” Black People are more terrified of being mistreated by racists (while many are simultaneously resigned to it).
When Rush Limbaugh this week called one of the best quarterbacks in football, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb “overrated” because “[t]he media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well,” few were surprised. After all, this is the talk show host who once told a Black listener to “Take that bone out of your nose and call me back.” (The only ones who feigned surprise were those execs at ESPN who were shocked — shocked — that the racist political commentator they hired to announce apolitical football was just as racist when discussing sports as he is when discussing politics.)
But the issue is far, far broader than Rush Limbaugh. The “Race Question” is the defining question of American History: our worst hypocrisy and greatest moral choice. And, I would argue, racism is the sustaining lifeblood of the modern conservative movement. From the “white backlash” of the Sixties to the Election of 2002, the Republican Party has cynically used racism to propel themselves into power.
The questions are endless:
What do Whites think about the fact that a significantly greater percentage of Blacks in America are poorer than Whites? Does that make Whites want to help bridge the gap? Or does that make middle-class Whites instead resent poor Blacks for being, well, poor?
Do Whites believe that most poor Blacks are doing nothing and relying on government handouts? Do they know how hard many poor people work (Black and White)?
Do Blacks believe that most rich Whites are like our President rich solely due to the “old-boy network” of their parents and by fraudulently cheating others? Or do they understand that many rich people, unlike our President, actually earned their wealth?
Do even those rich Whites that earned their wealth understand that they had opportunities that are closed to (or at least far more difficult for) Black People, poor and rich? Do White People recognize that, even with affirmative action, Whites are still more likely to be hired than Blacks of equal merit? Is this due to racism? Or is it itself the result of affirmative action?
And what is the legacy of slavery? Do descendants of slaves deserve reparations? Why has there been no official apology by Congress? Why is there no National Museum devoted to the memory of the worst atrocity of American history?
And what about those who insist that racism is a construct, or at least a false dichotemy? How do Americans of mixed racial heritage address these issues? Or Latinos? Asians? Native Americans? or any of the hundreds of other nationalities and ethnic groups that have combined to create the most diverse country on the planet?
These are difficult — even explosive — questions. Yet if we don’t discuss them publicly, they leave an open, gaping wound. And what is unsaid is far more dangerous than what is said.
Please call in to this very important show. Give me a false name if you like, but don’t hold back on your views, whatever they may be.
My guest is author Cynthia Anderson.
Can any American talk openly and honestly about race? We’re going to try.