O Harry: Because Sometimes Your Friends are Ignorant

It’s always a tricky bit of navigation when your friends say or do something ignorant. I remember a couple of occasions in church, I was attending a mostly white church at the time, and one of the members patted me on head. On another occasion, the pastor compared me to “a faithful dog” from the pulpit. For better or worse, I chalked those things up to well-meaning, but ignorant gestures. Perhaps she didn’t get the memo that the whole rub the head of a black guy has some pretty racist origins or maybe he didn’t get that comparing black folks to animals might not play well considering a history or dehumanization. I often got the “you’re the whitest black guy I know” (which I often heard as “you’re the only black guy I know and I only associate with you because you sound and seem to act a lot like me so you don’t scare me”) because I don’t “sound” black.

Which is why it didn’t exactly shock me that Senator Harry Reid had described Obama—as reported in the new political gossip book, “Game Change” by John Heileman and Mark Halperin—as a “light-skinned” African-American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” There was a steady chorus of people who bought into the idea that “the first black president” is actually not black.* The comments were being made on both sides of the political aisle and from across the spectrum of race. The “am I black enough for you” debate even raged in the black community (Reverend Jesse Jackson says what?).**

Race is the third rail in politics, in the church, and, well, most of our lives. If there is to be any hope of reconciliation, there has to be a sharing and hearing of stories and some of the conversations are going to be tough (and, as a friend of mine points out, you can’t have a conversation about anything by starting it with “Your voice doesn’t count.”) Now, I know some Republicans want to make hay of this incident, calling folks on the seeming-hypocrisy of Senator Trent Lott having to step down over his comments versus the gymnastics folks do to defend someone they like. And they’d have a point, except that conversations about race shouldn’t happen in a vacuum, but rather have a context. (Though, seriously, Senator Lott, how do you think trying to spin someone’s segregationist past is a good idea or that it wouldn’t get you into trouble? But again, if you have built up a lot of good will, you can step into such firestorms to make the point you thought you were making because friends can have those kind of tough conversations. If you don’t have that kind of good will built up…]

Every few years we have these sort of dust ups, so we were about due. Not too long ago we had Don Imus referring to the women of the Rutgers basketball team as “some nappy-headed hos.” After so many offenses, he rather struck me as an equal opportunity offender, but it led to the conversation about how there are some words and phrases “off limits” to certain folks in certain contexts and the situation resolved by the offended parties speaking up and reprimands given.

We also had Kelly Tilghman, play-by-play announcer for The Golf Channel’s PGA Tour broadcasts, while bantering with Nick Faldo about young players who might challenge Woods suggesting that they “lynch him in a back alley.” In short, it’s stupid and you can’t say it. However, I don’t think she should have been suspended. I think her apology should have stood on its own, she should have been simply reprimanded, and the conversations had about why what she said was a poor choice of words. We can’t police every bad sentence, because that would stifle conversations that still need to be had.

“I’ve apologized to the president, I’ve apologized to everyone that within the sound of my voice that I could have used a better choice of words,” Reid has said. Apologies happen for a reason. Sometimes folks simply don’t get that what they did was hurtful or demeaning and their apologies should stand and be accepted on their face value (even if the incidents themselves aren’t forgotten because we know that forgiveness takes time). Just like folks ought to be judged by their deeds and track record.

Just because folks are your friends doesn’t mean that they aren’t capable of saying and doing ignorant things. Just like I’m sure there will be another RaceFail conversation in the genre fiction world as we muddle through what it means to live with one another, deal with the history of hurts with of one another, be different from one another, and respect one another.

*Now, I can’t wait to see the gymnastics folks do if President Bill Clinton’s alleged comment about President Obama—“ a few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee.”—prove to be accurate. After all, President Clinton was widely held as our “first black president.”

** Better to discuss this than the reality of what it means to be black in America, dealing with what W.E.B. DuBois called the “double consciousness” of black folks. How many of us may “act” or “speak” one way when we are in professional settings and then another when we’re at home or in a “safe” place.

[That and sometimes our “friends” are just too ignorant for words: “I’m blacker than Barack Obama. I shined shoes. I grew up in a five-room apartment. My father had a little laundromat in a black community not far from where we lived,” ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich said to Esquire Magazine. “I saw it all growing up.”] With a h/t to the blackfolks LJ:

Post-Racial Church: The Myth and the Hope Part II: So what can we do?

[click here for Part I]

David Mills directs us to Larry Auster’s comments regarding “The only hope for the betterment of the black race (and the white race)”:

“The solution cannot be in the ‘horizontal’ dimension, that is, in the relationship between blacks and non-blacks, because blacks will always be behind on the level of earthly functioning, leading to unjust racial resentment on the part of blacks and undeserved racial guilt on the part of whites.

“The solution can only be found in the ‘vertical’ dimension,” he continues, “… in the relationship between each black person and God through Jesus Christ, who will put each person’s self in true order and true freedom and remove the focus on the ‘horizontal’ differences and inequalities.

“Each black person will then live and perform and fulfill himself as a human being according to his own aspirations and abilities, without comparing himself to whites.”

Um, yeah, so the solution is for us to pray for us to forgive white folks and leave our resentment behind. I do believe we need to keep having conversations across the racial divide, and I’m as “We Are the World” as the next brother, but this would be considered a conversation fail. Note, while there is some truth in the statement, the onus was in what black people need to do. We can get sidetracked and bogged down by so many conversations that dance around the true issues at hand, and still manage to enflame all the old passions and lingering resentments. Conversation does not mean confess your guilt to a Negro. Don’t confuse institutions of black survival (the black family, black church, and black schools) with institutional or reverse racism.

Sociologically speaking, I’ve learned that we can have the language of sorry, but we don’t have the practice of sorry. My two boys, Reese and Malcolm, have been known to on occasion fight. We, the parental figures and ruling authority in their lives, have been known to make them apologize to one another. Without fail, the initial apology is done through gritted teeth and is essentially worthless. But it is a start. If I’ve learned nothing over the last few months, I’ve at least learned that “sorry”, or rather, repentance, needs to be lived out. And racism needs to be repented of.

Institutionally speaking, the church doesn’t need to program diversity, it needs to be diverse. One of the myths about the Great Commission is that Crossing cultures is a step beyond the general mandate. This myth is that only select missionaries are called to cross cultures in order to make disciples. The rest of us should only focus on people like us, in our culture. The problem with this myth is that the actual Great Commission commands otherwise. Incredibly, Jesus gave a commandment to his mostly Jewish audience to go to a mostly Gentile people and make disciples! Jesus commanded his Jewish followers to go to all people groups (all ethnos, the Greek word for “nations”). In other words, the Great Commission itself is a mandate to cross cultures!

So we start with the individuals. Church folks concerned about multi-cultural church or the state of race relations, looking at your FaceBook friends list is a natural moment to examine the demographics of your life. If the diversity is my sister and I, you may need to color up your lives. I’m not saying take out ads looking for black friends, I’m saying take some steps to break out of the comfortable routine of your life.

At the same time, diversity isn’t the goal. Diversity isn’t the mission. We’re to be missional, advance God’s kingdom here on earth. Strive to carve out a foretaste of what heaven’s supposed to be. In my experience, most times conversations about race in the context of church devolve into spiritual circle jerk. Churches may talk about wanting diversity, even making token statements about wanting to see it reflected from the top down, yet their leadership remains a white, sausage fest. We hear plenty of talk and have attended many conventions, now we need more.

Too many people’s idea of being post-black (post-racial group of choice) means leaving their heritage behind. As we move forward, no one should have to leave their culture for the the sake of coming together. I mentioned in my previous post about how my formative years were spent in another (the dominant) culture. It is part of a journey I’ve spoken about before. As a result, I was a perpetual other: never a part of the dominant culture and often looked at askance by my own. In order to navigate my circumstance, and keep some measure of cultural sanity, I developed a third culture mentality.

Church should be a third culture experience. Countercultural. Church needs to serve everyone: hungry is hungry, widowed is widowed, orphaned is orphaned, the least of these are the least of these. Pain knows no color. Diversity can be a measurement of how well we’re doing our job. Not something expressly sought after, but a by-product of how well you are serving your community. Your whole community.

Are we really living out our core values, the things we say we’re about or do we once again have to learn to be patient and give the church another chance to get things right (and forgive it its slowness)?

Church is a bigger place than one building or one community. I’ve come to realize that one particular body might not meet all of our needs and may fail us on occasion. And we’re quick to measure our experience with the church by a particular body. But it is all of the Christians who make up the church. Our mission is to be about loving, learning, worshiping, and serving together and one another. But we can’t be that until we’re willing to enter the discomfort. In any culture, despite pain and discomfort that may come. We have to risk our safety and taking on pain. We need truth tellers, bridge builders, and risk takers. We need to be the church.

Post-Racial Church: The Myth and the Hope Part I: Coming to You

It would be cool for someone to do a documentary called “Being Black In Evangelicalism” the sub-title would be “The Only Black Person In The Room” (or vice-versa). Evangelicals, as members of the dominant culture, have no idea what it’s like for a black person (esp. a black female) to be the only black dude in a room full of whites. It’s hard to describe unless you’ve been in that position but it’s always a bit uncomfortable no matter how nice and welcoming people are. I’ve been at evangelical stuff where the room had a few hundred whites and I’m the only black guy. And no one ever really seems to notice.

In light of the Jim Crow still being alive poolside incident, I’ve been thinking about race and wondering if things are any better in the church. With some of the talk about the new post-racial era that we’re entering, the question has come up about whether the church can become post-racial. That’s the hope, but I’ve been coming to terms with church being as fallen as the people who make it up.

Too many about race inside and outside of the church begin (and end) with “I don’t see race” as if that’s a triumph of societal acceptance. While I understand what the sentiment attempts to get at, what my ears often hear and how my heart reacts is “No, you see people (culturally) like you.” The bulk of our interchange of life, most of our interactions, is largely within the same race of people. So of course there’s no need to talk about race. You don’t see race if you’re fully emerged in one story. And we’ve lived with our comfortable situations for so long we’ve become inured to it and don’t want to change things. We’re content with life as it is and don’t want to do or say anything which may make waves in our lives.

Color blindness is not a virtue, it’s a disservice. Color effects how I experience the world. Color effects how I’m perceived by the world. So your “color blindness” negates my identity. I look back on my history whenever I have attended a majority white church. Most times, me and my family were the entire black experience for a lot of folks. And we made it easy for “them” to get to know us because we go to “them”. Here’s what I mean: we grew up in mostly the white/dominant culture. It’s where we went to school, it’s where we went to church, it’s where we go to work. Minorities in the dominant culture have swum in those waters all of our lives, so it’s easy for us to be “safe” because we’re used to adapting to that culture.

I can always tell when friendships with me reach a new level of depth. Those friends come to me. They go where we go, do what we do, be it Black Expo, step shows, or Kwanzaa festivals. They take an interest in us and our culture, wanting to get to know us and understand us better. Without wanting to co-opt it. Without condescension of “wanting to relate” or “have a black experience.” Without the denigration of calling it “weird”. (I’m reminded of when a group of “friends” asked me to take them to a rough area of the city. They were thrill seeking and wanted a ghetto tour guide. I took them to Carmel, a suburb north of me. I told them that me driving through there at night was all the thrill I needed.)

So no, white church, you don’t know me. You haven’t taken the time to get to know me. You’ve invited me in with your “Negroes Wanted” signs and hoped that I wasn’t too different from you so that I wouldn’t make you uncomfortable. So that you wouldn’t have to come face-to-face with the everyday consequences of a history of humiliation suffered by a black male, the powerlessness–without even the power to keep our own names, being exploited, the dreams shattered, the justice denied, and of being dehumanized.

So the anger builds. I’ve absorbed the humiliations as part of the cost of the “privilege” of being with whites. And the hatred builds. The hatred of myself. The hate I’ve been taught, the hate I’ve learned, the hate I’ve internalized. We all have walls and race and culture is simply another wall we have to navigate. So I guess we’re wondering what can we do?

[continued tomorrow …]

RaceFail ’09 – Feedback II

I’ve received a couple of really interesting responses to my RaceFail ’09 – Why Horror Ignores the Elephant blog. I thought I’d share a couple. Today is from a comment left on my blog a while back which I wanted to give further exposure to. As always, I look forward to your comments:

Hello, Mr. Broaddus,

I have been keeping a somewhat distant eye on Racefail ’09 and found your blog and the relevant bingo cards via a simple google search. I am not a writer of any professional leaning, nor am I immediately aiming to be.

What I am is a woman of the Indian/Caribbean diaspora who spent some time teaching in Japan. While I was there I was immediately adopted into a tea ceremony club when the teacher decided I was just the right size for her to practice tying kimono with. She gave me lessons and my first yukata and I gave her saris in return. I wear my yukata on occasion and my teacher wept tears of joy when I gave her the first sari, so there’s no doubt about appreciation on her part. I can eat with chopsticks, knife and fork or just my fingers and view the respective table manners as useful skills under my belt.

There are things on that Bingo card that I might say myself and racefail has raised uncomfortable issues for me. Is it only cultural appropriation if it involves caucasians? If there’s a history of exploitation between groups? How much effort must go into understanding another group before people can agree it is actual cultural exchange and understanding rather than appropriation? Where is the line drawn, who draws it and why? Should I have said something to that African American girl I saw on the bus during college, wearing a bindi upside down?

My own heritage is a mishmash and a jumble, thrown together on an island and forced through a sieve of colonialism. For better or worse, borrowing and lending, adopting and sharing, adapting and evolving has been my cultural experience. Everything I am says there must be some avenue to explore this varied earth, that an upside-down bindi is a chance to educate rather than rail, but the sentiments arising from Racefail seem to acknowledge no possibility at all. Along with that is the sneaking suspicion that my post-colonial education brainwashed me better than I thought.

I hardly expect that you’d have all the answers but I am interested in any thoughts you might have on the matter. Thank you for your time.

RaceFail ’09 – Feedback I

I’ve received a couple of really interesting responses to my RaceFail ’09 – Why Horror Ignores the Elephant blog. I thought I’d share a couple. Today is from the mailbag. As always, I look forward to your comments:

My name’s Hunter Eden, and I’m a young writer just new at this whole “forging the English language into something meaningful” thing. You and I corresponded very briefly a year or two ago on this same issue of race and horror, but I think I dropped the ball in responding to you, for which I humbly apologize. Point is, I had no idea that there was some kind of speculative fiction-based dust-up over race (or perhaps lack thereof).

Facts up front: I’m a white male of mixed Jewish/German-Norwegian (Hebrew Viking) descent. I don’t actually write about that many white characters, though. I finished a novel (currently with an agent but no publisher) describing the war between two ancient Mexican gods in a world where Europe didn’t conquer the Americas and Aztec gangsters smuggle contraband alcohol into Incan Cuzco. The only white character is the reanimated corpse of Charles Darwin, who probably isn’t (within the context of the story) actually human. My first story appeared in City Slab and was written from the perspective of a Mexican cabbie in a very Cancun-like city. I’ve got a story due out in Weird Tales about samurai fighting dinosaurs.

I’m not trying to brag or show off when I say all this, just that I wrote these characters because I wanted to. I hate when writers pull the Last Samurai card and go to the trouble of researching a whole different culture, but then don’t have the courage to actually go ahead and write someone from that culture as the main character (The Last Samurai particularly pissed me off in this regard because Tom Cruise becomes a better samurai than the Japanese characters).

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m conscious of race (who in today’s world isn’t?), but I think the key (and I’m really not trying to land on any bingo squares here) is to remember that in the end we’re all human. That’s not to whitewash, but just to say that whether I’m writing a character who’s Mexican or American or even a Jewish Aztec mob boss, we’re all motivated by the same needs. I think a lot of speculative fiction pussyfoots around race. I especially hate the way that fantasy, even fantasy written by American authors, always seems to go back to the same Anglo/Norse/Celtic pseudo-culture. Reading Imaro by Charles Saunders was great not because it made me feel like a Racially-Enlightened Young American but because it was something new. I loved the fact that somebody had taken a part of the world as vibrant and culturally complex as Africa and given it a fantasy treatment. (The fact that Imaro is a hardcore Maasai bad-ass who fights demons and necromancers was just icing on the cake).

I think a lot of speculative fiction’s difficulty with confronting race is based on two factors in writers and readers very much contrary to the spirit of the genres–cowardice and laziness. I guess these points have been made before, but they bear repeating. I think a lot of white authors and readers are scared to step out and confront the Elephant because they don’t want to be labeled as racist themselves. But then, there’s also the tendency to fall back on the same garbage we’ve grown used to. If there’s a fantasy culture, it’ll be based off somewhere in northern Europe because Tolkien did that. If there’s a non-white culture, it’ll probably be based off Japan or China or some fusion of the two. Maybe, if we’re really working, we’ll get some kind of distillation of the Arab world filtered through a heavily fantasized verneer with genies and carpets and sultans with veiled concubines. But Zanzibaris or Aztecs or Australian Aborigines? Not a chance. If Aztecs appear, they exist to either be heinous blood-sacrificers or a conquered and oppressed people (don’t get me started on Apocalypto). It angers me profoundly as a writer, and I’m not in the least bit Hispanic in my descent. It’s an affront to the imagination, and frankly, an extreme marginalization of a powerful and advanced culture.

Extreme words, I realize (and don’t get me started on Ancient Astronauts, either). I guess the reason I feel strongly about this is because it’s just more evidence of total lack of imagination in what is supposed to be the most imaginative set of genres we have. I guess my thoughts on writing the Other is that this doesn’t need to be some sort of birdwatching exercise. I’ve got friends from a wide spectrum of religious and racial backgrounds and I don’t stay friends with any of them so I can write minority X better.

Sorry to carpet-bomb you with this, but I’m glad somebody is confronting the whole issue and doing it without kidgloves. Personally, I’d love to see more speculative fiction written by people who aren’t white and JewCatholiProtestant. Thanks for confronting the elephant (or shoggoth?) in the room.

Sincerely,
Hunter C. Eden

RaceFail ’09 – Why Horror Ignores the Elephant

A few years ago, I was speaking to a fellow black horror writer and she told me that she didn’t write characters of color in her work. She didn’t think it was important, even as a black writer, for her to write black characters (and descriptions of characters with dark hair and brown eyes was enough). It was more important for her to write for her chosen audience, who she perceived as white and she didn’t want to in anyway alienate them.

This is how badly issues of race have infected and confused some people.

Yes, there is a current brouhaha brewing in speculative fiction that has since been dubbed RaceFail ’09. It started when Elizabeth Bear wrote a piece on writing the other which was then openly disagreed with. The hilarity ensued (catalogued here). I, too, wrote a piece on writing the other (in a response to something Jay Lake had written, mind you, both pieces came out a few YEARS ago) and have stayed out of this round of self-examination except to offer up a play along cultural appropriation bingo card to go along with the “fantasy/science fiction no racism edition” bingo card. And yet, as Chesya Burke laments, such a discussion has largely not reared its head in the horror community. I don’t expect it to, frankly. Not to be too pointed about a race discussion in horror, but the genre largely amounts to white folks writing about white folks for the consumption of white folks. In other words, horror circumvents the issue of “writing the other” by … not.

With a few exceptions, race isn’t discussed much in the horror genre. Most folks are afraid to discuss it or admit there is a problem. With good cause: the last horror brand RaceFail discussion involved the release of Brandon Massey’s anthology series, Dark Dreams. The bulk of the discussion revolved around the series being the equivalent of reverse discrimination (because, you know, there are no all white, even more specifically, all white male, horror anthology series) or writer affirmative action (because obviously writers like Tananarive Due, L.A. Banks, Wrath James White, Eric Jerome Dickey, Zane, or, I humbly submit, myself, can’t be published elsewhere).

In some ways, I can see why RaceFail has gone on within the science fiction and fantasy genre/communities. By the nature of those genres, they explore (and are allowed to explore) big ideas. Horror too often prides itself on being the “lowest common denominator” genre, not built for rigorous idea exploration. “I’m doing an analysis of man’s inhumanity to man” usually amounts to puerile masturbatory fantasies of rape and torture justified by someone getting their comeuppance in the end.

Let’s be honest, there are two kinds of writers/readers. The first don’t want to be challenged. They essentially want Stephen King redux, rearranging the deck chairs on a familiar cruise. They cling to their comfort zone of base elements, slaves to the tropes, as they await the playing out of the ensuing hilarity. Rarely is there an examination of the human condition, existence, or the exploration of a big idea. For every Gary Braunbeck there are hundreds of … pick your blood splattered cover.

The other kind looks for a new experience. They want to go to a new place and think about things they haven’t before. Yet, when I hear horror writers talking about their craft in term of such artistic terms, there is a chorus decrying such lofty literary ideas or critical analysis. How many times have even best of the mid-list writers complained about their publisher neutering their work for the sake of reaching their market? Their lowest common denominator audience.

Right now, the genre can barely handle a discussion on women in the genre. That discussion breaks one of two ways: who are the women who write in the genre (so the discussion becomes a listing of women writers) or it centers around “can women be scary writers?” (and yes, that discussion is as ignorant as it sounds). And that’s before we talk in general about sexism in the genre or its conventions.

I was reading Kelli Dunlap’s post on diversity in the genre. Normally, when someone tells me “they don’t see race” it sets off a red flag of suspicion with me because that typically means “as long as all the people of color act and think like me, we have no race problem.” But I’m in her peer group, I look around our close circle of writer friends and I see the guests for Mo*Con, and I, too, see the diversity. I’m tempted not to engage in a discussion about women in the genre because I’m surrounded by fierce women whose talent I’d question at my own peril. But then I have to wonder if this is a chicken or egg dilemma: was there diversity in the genre to begin with or did we, The Others adrift in the sea of The Majority, simply reach out to each other?

So could horror handle a conversation involving cultural appropriation, the concept of white privilege, or even the idea of racism in the genre (much less among its writers)? The fact of the matter is that I could probably name the prominent writers of color in the horror genre, know most if not all of them, and I don’t often hear them discussed in the various horror communities. What I hear is how race doesn’t matter, all readers care about is a good yarn. Though I suspect that’s true as long as that yarn doesn’t stretch them too far. And that’s the ultimate RaceFail.

Bingo Day – Cultural Appropriation Edition

Since I’ve already written on Writing the Other (which, if there’s been any evolution in my thoughts it’s been the realization that everyone is other to me, including other People of Color)–and for that matter, my thoughts haven’t changed much since I wrote on Sexism in the Genre–I’ve decided to forego this latest round of hand-wringing over cultural appropriation.* Two years from now during the next go around, I’ll try to add something new to the discussion.

Instead, I’ll leave you with today Bingo (joining the “Fantasy and Science Fiction Bingo” and “Stupid White Folks Bingo”): Cultural Appropriation Bingo!

(thanks elusis!)

*To get caught up on this round of the debate, see the redux and the redux continued.

***
If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.

Not in My Lifetime

I watched an old black woman laughing. Crying. Laughing and crying and saying joyfully “I’m glad I lived long enough to see this! Oh God! I’m glad I lived long enough to see this!”

They looked like people taking their first breath and really enjoying it. I didn’t see the haggard, submissive expression. I saw enthusiastic joy, free from restraint. If you saw it, if you heard it, there’s no way that a human being couldn’t be touched by it. How many people last night and this morning took their first real breath?

A friend of mine recently commented that she’s “just a white girl from a small town” but she just doesn’t get the near-messianic expectation surrounding Barack Obama being black and elected. Not why people broke down and cried, not why folks danced in the streets, or stayed up so late. Or why my cell phone blew up election night as every black person in my directory called or got called, all sharing a similar refrain. It boiled down to four words “not in my lifetime”.

Being just a white girl means, directly or not, she’s lived in the comfort of being in the majority and of white privilege. It means she’s never had to worry about being excluded from a system or the feeling of being targeted by that same system. It means she never had to live under a government whose constitution saw her as 3/5 human. It means you haven’t had to exist in the toxic mentality of “you can’t do that if you’re black”, “white people are against you”, and limited opportunities leaving you half-defeated before you start. It means you haven’t had to deal with images of you, in television and movies, leaving folks saying/thinking things like

You gold-teeth, gold-chain-wearing,fried-chicken-and-biscuit-eatin’,monkey, ape, baboon, big thigh,fast-running, three-hundred-sixty-degree-basketball-dunking spade Moulan Yan. Go the f*#$ back to Africa

It means that all no matter how false you think the majority of that mentality and stereotypes are, we’re still left with the reality of our history and experience: slavery was during my great-great-grandmother’s lifetime, segregation during my grandfather’s, the Civil Rights struggle during my father’s, the Tuskeegee Experiments during mine.

We still live in a world of rampant drug use/trade, a lack of educational opportunities, ghettos, and people incarcerated at alarming rates; however, progress has been made. At least my kids won’t have to face the dilemma of whether or not they should “pass” and forever hide and be tacitly ashamed of the fact that they are half black (“Daddy I’d be white cause it sounds easier.” –Malcolm Broaddus when I tried explaining to my six year old the idea of segregation).

Most important to the Obama victory was the long struggle of black Americans to be incorporated in the public sphere. No, President Barack Obama won’t redeem white people from the sin of racism (or whatever else some folks might imagine the import of his election might mean). But he represents a beacon of hope and the promise of change. His election might portend a true shift in our culture and how we see and treat one another. That is the root of the expectation: the hope of a better tomorrow in light of our many tragic yesterdays. Something many of us never thought we’d see in our lifetimes.

Edited to add this:

My Country
The Day Before, January 19, 2009
By Linda D. Addison

Here we stand, breath held,
sweet land of liberty
of thee we dream,
land where my ancestors
sleep easier now, freedom
will ring brighter in coming days.

Stars and stripes forever
red, white and blue
bringing us all home
finally, willing to be
responsible, each person finally
willing to be American.

History confronted, the stain,
violence, oppression faced
in the light of today, moved aside
for the Grace of Presence,
allowing forgiveness to begin,
the dissipation of karma.

Here we stand, breath held,
the day before liberty
dances, full and bright,
a land of humans, each
needing hope and peace,
willing to be American.

–linda

Obama, The Rooney Rule, and the End of Racism

So Mike Singletary has been named as the coach of the San Francisco 49ers. Jim Caldwell has fulfilled the chain of succession from Tony Dungy with the Indianapolis Colts. Perhaps in President-Elect Barack Obama, we’ve embraced the Rooney Rule on a national level and have turned the page on racism. Haven’t we?

The Rooney Rule, established in 2003, requires National Football League teams to interview minority candidates for a head coaching opportunity. The rule is named for Dan Rooney, the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the chairman of the league’s diversity committee, and is often cited as an example of affirmative action.

Coach Tony Dungy joined Chicago Bear’s coach, Lovie Smith, in making Super Bowl history by being the first black coaches to lead their teams to the Super Bowl. One more barrier broken, another cultural advancement achieved – and another step toward this not being an issue. Forcing owners to interview minority candidates smacks of affirmative action to some. In fact, I’ve heard some quarters ask if the Rooney rule meant that the 49ers or the Colts had to interview a white candidate.

Ending ways/legacy of racism (and dare I mention, white privilege) puts race front and center of the discussion. If I’m a team owner, I’m going to resent being told who I have to hire … but I’m also probably not going to change if I’m not “forced” to do so. If there’s a Mike Shanahan or a Bill Cowher available, any interview I do when they are part of the mix is strictly a matter of me going through the motions and everyone will know it. So will that do any good? Well, at the very least, any minority candidate interviewed now hits other teams’ radar and they get practice interviewing.

It’s a little too soon to declare racism dead based on the fact that a couple black coaches got to the head coach position without much of an interview process. You can’t even argue that the Rooney Rule is no longer necessary. At best, we can see recent developments as another hopeful step.

Now if we can only get the NCAA to realize we have a racism problem

Bingo Day – Racism Edition

Thanks to Nick Mamatas for pointing me to thewhich only reminded me of the Bingo from the BlackFolks LiveJournal community

And today’s not even militant Monday. Carry on.

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