Wednesday, May 24, 2006

On Race

I woke up today thinking I'd blog about something that happened in the park yesterday. I really didn't think it was interesting enough last night and then C.I. called me after my post went up and asked why I didn't cover it. Honestly, I didn't know if it was serious enough. C.I. said, "'Go Your Own Way' Cedric is taking a pass on this!" And I had laugh too. (That's a reference to
"Into the e-mails.") Then I spoke to Ty this afternoon and he said, "That would make a great piece for our fiction edition this summer." (At The Third Estate Sunday Review.) I was already excited about the special edition and think it will work there. (It will also probably be better if it has some fiction to it and we can all input.)

Then, today, I read Samantha Power's "Why Can't We?" and thought I could write about that. I phoned Mike and suggested we both grab it. But I get home and go to Mikey Likes It! and read his "Michael Hayden, FCC and spying, and more" and there's nothing left to cover -- he's done a great job. I can't even think of anything to add to it.

So let me talk about a special on KPFA today called "Tim Wise Special" and co-hosted by Andrea Lewis of The Morning Show. What's The Matter With Kansas? Is that the name of Thomas Frank's book? We're all supposed to love it. I read it and didn't love it. I don't know a lot of people who read the book but one (C.I.) who did didn't care for it.

Tim Wise talked about it and put it perfectly. This isn't about teaching people to vote in their own interest (which is pretty "paternalistic" as Wise noted). It's one more thing about "We must bring the White Male back to the Democratic Party!" They're spitting on women already by running these anti-choice candidates. (I'm offended by that and I am pro-choice but I won't pretend that an issue which has to do with women's bodies could offend me more than it could a woman. I'm pro-choice and will say so loudly and clearly. But for women, I think it has another level since it is their bodies.) But it's also about, "Forget you African-Americans." Because African-Americans didn't abandon the party.

They didn't need to "learn" their interests. You can toss Condi on one side of Bully Boy and Colin Powell on the other and it's still just window dressing.

Does Kansas have no African-Americans?

This is another thing about how "We will get the White Males back! No matter how much we have to water down the issues." That was really a great special and you probably could only hear it on Pacifica Radio so if you have the money to donate and you haven't donated already, donate Thursday.

I don't want to pick on someone I've noted before has a White view. I think she means well. But she pushed that book like crazy. And I kept thinking, "Does this magazine have no African-American readers?" Wise made a point about a book and Lewis emphasized that after his speech was over. There was a period of time when Black Like Me was selling second only to the Bible. Why was that?

A white man takes some pills to be Black and suddenly it's worth reading to find out about African-Americans? Were they unaware that African-Americans had been writing about what it was like to be African-American for some time already?

I'd be willing to guess that most African-Americans have a better idea of what it's like to be White than than most Whites have an idea of what it's like to be African-American. Not because African-Americans are more aware by "nature" but because the White culture is the one that's all over the place.

I think Andrea Lewis was talking about something that had happened to her and not something in the speech Wise gave. (If he noted it, I missed it. I was listening at work so it's entirely possible that I missed it.) So she said that this man was just insisting to her that Columbia University had gone Black. 'They' were all over the place. Lewis gave a figure (under twenty-percent) to the friend about how that wasn't the case. But he was White and he sees five African-Americans and it's one of those 'They're taking over!' moments.

They weren't fifty-percent and he wanted to argue with her about her source for the figures (Columbia was her source) because when he looked around, what he saw made him feel like it was at fifty-percent.

I'm not making fun of him. I'm saying that this happens. It has to do with impressions.

I'll mess up (not spoil, mess up) the speech if I try to go into it more but if race matters to you, check it out. Because race does matter. Someone can whine, "Oh, you're playing the race card!"
Am I ABC, NBC or CBS? No. But they play the race card in their programming or maybe people don't notice how few African-Americans are on TV?

What does that say to kids growing up now? They can watch a host of White families, they can watch a ton of White lawyers and investigators. It's like we've dropped back to pre-I Spy and pre-Julia these days.

African-Americans are not in competition with Latinos and any who think they are should correct themselves. But it is true that the dominant society encourages us to think that there will be one lucky break extended so we all better fight for it -- all of us on the bottom, nonWhite rung.

So those are my thoughts for tonight. If I can, I'll blog tomorrow.


KPFA's The Morning Show tomorrow will feature another discussion on race. Make a point to listen if you have the time (and a computer that allows you to hear streaming audio if you aren't in their broadcast area).

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