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Will an honest race discussion ever be appropriate?

February 28, 2012

There always seems to be discomfort when “race relations” is discussed. However, as we claim to live in a post racial society, why do we find discussing racial disparities uncomfortable? In my classroom, there is always a mixture of races in attendance. When teaching subjects like ethics or governmental economics, sociological factors typically come into play. Our discussions become very spirited but respectful. I encourage each person to candidly (and tactfully) discuss stereotypes they may have had on their first day of class of other students, or even me, before we all got acquainted. The revelations are always interesting and frequently incorrect.

To me, this is what makes teaching collegiate students so fulfilling. The rewards come from, not just the theoretical learning but also the cultural learning. The fact is blacks were enslaved. Period. This happened at the hands of Africans selling Africans and Whites kidnapping others. The fact is Asians have one of the strongest work ethic of all cultures and a devout loyalty to each other. The fact is there are Mexicans who find America to have more opportunities and a better quality of life that Mexico. The fact is Jews have deep economic control, Whites have a sound infrastructure, and Blacks continue to seek financial security. The fact is the black unemployment rate hasn’t been below 15% since 1951. The fact is the largest employer of Americans is White-controlled companies. The fact is that almost 80% of black inmates committed petty non-violent economic-driven crimes. The fact is that the United States only imported 12% of the total slave population. The fact is America is the most powerful country in the world largely because of the slave era.

These are the facts. Why do we avoid them? There’s enough blame to go around regarding the poor conditions of this country. Throughout history those that claim everything to be fine are usually those who are in control. During slavery, established norms were set, to include the oppression of Blacks and forbidding women to vote. During Jim Crow, norms were encouraged, to include the discrimination of Blacks and the forbidding of interracial marriages. When we look back, we can easily see the wrongs of our ancestors but resist taking accountability for the wrongs we carry today. Honesty is the first step to moving forward without casting burdens upon our offspring to correct.

My focus is often on those who needs the most educational and economic help. Essentially, currently in America, this happens to be Blacks in America. Students of Black families who earn $60,000 and above, scores less on their SATs than Whites whose families earn less than $20,000. So how do we make America a colorless nation if we are afraid to talk about color?

For some odd reason, we can help the poor, the homeless, the displaced, or the sick, and despite these segments carry the highest per capita of Blacks, it is taboo to say we are placing emphasis on helping Blacks. There are protective measures in all cultures to hide our contributions to our children’s stereotypical behavior.

Yes, Blacks have some skin in this oppressive game we find ourselves in. There are some steps that we refuse to take that would help our situations but let’s have an honest discussion of the birthplace of our plight. We should work from there and come forward. But, how can we do that if we avoid the first step: the discussion?

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 28, 2012 9:35 am

    Ironically, there was an discussion of this very topic in a group I am in. Subjects we discusses are society at large, politics, economics, black women and black men mindset in relationships and subjects in general that merits other people opinion.

    Last week Tuesday, the topic of economics and the effects that black people play apart in it arise the question, “do you think being born as white would had been your favor?” Well I tell you that you could had cooked an turkey in that room because the discussion got really hot. The tension lasted till Monday of this week. Why in my opinion? For the reason Professor Robinson is bringing up now in this article. There were three sides in our discussion. One side were blacks who had too much pride to admit we were the source of some of our problems and they were trying to defend the reasoning of why we as blacks are where we are today, putting poor economics factors on the white society. The blame game. The second side were blacks regonizing our own self destruction and trying to get the other blacks to see we have some rebuilding to do with our people that can help our economic growth. The third side were white people and non partial blacks who felt uncomfortable giving their opinion thinking they would be judge the wrong way from either side. These groups of blacks carry “shame, dishonesty, embarrassment and “pride”. This is why to me, its hard to have discussions about race, especially when in the company of white people.

    Not knowing you are broken takes a certain mindset. Having to admit that you are broken and needing to be fix yourself, takes a certain other mindset. Being broken and know you are broken and doing something about it takes another type of mindset. Now take our black people as a whole and the different mentalities that stem from generations of mental imprisonment or coming from a black family that had above normal advantages in society, these groups, unless major change of togetherness as a whole is provoked, will not see the same in discussing race issues.

    I wish this could change, because without change of attitude, seeing the indifferences of others and accepting others opinions and changing the way we, as black people think as a WHOLE, it will be hard to discuss race and “Rebuilding our Black Infrastructure”. Our plight to move forward does depend on our honesty, setting aside our pride and working and thinking together for the betterness of our race.

    Thank you Professor Robinson for bringing awarness that the time is now, and now is the time to set aside the uncomfortableness of discussing race issues and how it affect our black people economical growth.

  2. Se Astringo permalink
    February 28, 2012 7:53 pm

    Similar to religion in politics, races has, unfortunately for some time, also become a very politicized issue. Honest and thus constructive discussions about race (or religion) have therefore become taboo. It becomes more convenient and socially acceptable to ignore uncomfortable facts and shoot the messenger than to truly address them.

    A key solution is to distinguish between constructive and destructive input. Some facts are recited based on hate; others on love. However we can learn from both. If we only choose to hear the messengers and messages we like the only thing we will ever hear is an echo.

  3. March 4, 2012 3:12 am

    Ironically, there was an discussion of this very topic in a group I am in. Subjects we discusses are society at large, politics, economics, black women and black men mindset in relationships and subjects in general that merits other people opinion.

    Last week Tuesday, the topic of economics and the effects that black people play apart in it arise the question, “do you think being born as white would had been your favor?” Well I tell you that you could had cooked an turkey in that room because the discussion got really hot. The tension lasted till Monday of this week. Why in my opinion? For the reason Professor Robinson is bringing up now in this article. There were three sides in our discussion. One side were blacks who had too much pride to admit we were the source of some of our problems and they were trying to defend the reasoning of why we as blacks are where we are today, putting poor economics factors on the white society. The blame game. The second side were blacks recognizing our own self destruction and trying to get the other blacks to see we have some rebuilding to do with our people that can help our economic growth. The third side were white people and non partial blacks who felt uncomfortable giving their opinion thinking they would be judge the wrong way from either side. These groups of blacks carry “shame, dishonesty, embarrassment and “pride”. This is why to me, its hard to have discussions about race, especially when in the company of white people.
    Not knowing you are broken takes a certain mindset. Having to admit that you are broken and needing to be fix yourself, takes a certain other mindset. Being broken and know you are broken and doing something about it takes another type of mindset. Now take our black people as a whole and the different mentalities that stem from generations of mental imprisonment or coming from a black family that had above normal advantages in society, these groups, unless major change of togetherness as a whole is provoked, will not see the same in discussing race issues.
    I wish this could change, because without change of attitude, seeing the indifferences of others and accepting others opinions and changing the way we, as black people think as a WHOLE, it will be hard to discuss race and “Rebuilding our Black Infrastructure”. Our plight to move forward does depend on our honesty, setting aside our pride and working and thinking together for the better of our race.

    Thank you Professor Robinson for bringing awareness that the time is now, and now is the time to set aside the discomfort of discussing race issues and how it affect our black people economical growth.

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