Sunday, January 10, 2010

Stupidity + Race ≠ Racism

In the interest of helping us bridge the divide of race, we need to clear something up. We are burying ourselves in racism accusations. Just because someone says or does something stupid, related to race, a racist does not this make. This is important because there is much more stupidity in the world, than racism.

In ethnically diverse surroundings such as ours, the probability of a person of one race saying or doing something stupid concerning race, which in turn is seen, heard, or felt, by someone of that or another race is pretty good - nearly a sure thing. Many comments about race can be either true or false, and stupid, but not racist. People – we really need to resemble this difference.

Being Black, and growing up around Black people has allowed me to hear stupid comments about race from Blacks, but without concluding the people or the comments are racist – perhaps just stupid. I assume many non-Blacks have experienced the same. As well, I have experienced Whites discussing race and spouting tremendous silliness, but with no honest call to use the R-word against them.

So whether we are talking about KFC soccer ads in Australia, or Nevada Senator Harry Reid talking about a ‘light-skinned Obama who speaks ‘Negro’ when he chooses’, or millions of others we interact with each day, we need to become more discerning about what is racism and what is just good old honest stupidity. Oh yeah, sometimes comments about race (that some might not like) aren’t even stupid, but hey, baby steps.

James C. Collier

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21 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is very interesting how you try and divorce a "racist comment" from a logical assumption of an associated "racist action". People who make racist comments such as your friend Harry Reid, will most likely use that racist mind frame in deciding who to hire, fire, pull over, and shoot (if you are a policeman). If you don't agree, please explain to me what is racism in your opinion? Someone that is ignorant? Yea right......

James C. Collier said...

Anon 4:18, I introduce the notion that racial incorrectness does not always equal racism (demeaning intent). By example, a seventy year-old white man referring to me as a "Negro" is not the same offense as a thirty year-old, even though both would be incorrect.

Anonymous said...

At what point does "racial incorrectness" as you coin it stop being simple lack of awareness and starts to point to a mind frame that considers blacks or other people of color as less than? I am pretty sure the individuals that used to hang Black people from trees and that currently engage in racial profiling use "racial incorrect" language all of the time. Either way you look at it the people on the receiving end of "racial incorrectness"(people of color) still suffer a REAL psychological toll.

James C. Collier said...

Anon 7:02, When words and behaviors reflect codification of demeaning intent assigned by ethnicity, I say slap on the R-word. Codification means establishment of said intent in laws and mores.

Sabra said...

So, are you saying that what reid said was "good old honest stupidity?"

What if Mitch McConnell would have said it? Do you really think that you would be saying that it was just "good old honest stupidity?"

If Mitch McConnell would have said what Harry said the entire membership of the DNC, along with their mainstream mouthpiece's, would be calling for him to be hung. At high noon. In public.

But Harry gets a pass. Just "good old honest stupidity."

James C. Collier said...

Sabra, I don't know, yes or no, if Reid is a racist - but rather that recognizing the significance of light skin and bi-lingualism/cultural-ism does not make him a racist, per se. Same for anyone else.

Anonymous said...

Of course Reid is a racist, a white person using the word Negro in 2010? Gimmie a break.

Anonymous said...

I have come through a couple of times to tell you how you are off the mark but am with you 100 on this one!

Great post because it addresses one of my biggest pet peeves. And that is because race is mentioned it makes the person a racist. That's why when white people are trying describe a black person you have to listen for 10 minutes to every adjective except black to try and figure out who the hell they are talking about so afraid to be deemed a racist. Come on people! Geesh.

What was so racist about Reid's comments. President Obama is light skin and a NEGRO (yeh I said it) and Reid's perception of Obama's dialect is just that his perception. Where is the racism?
So he called him a Negro? Negro is not derogatory.

Oh and just in case this adds to the validity of my statement- I'm a negro.

Anonymous said...

Assnonymous 1:12pm, One of your biggest pet peeves? Yea right, nice try with your attempt to re-frame how racism is operationaized in this country. What really occurs in contrast to your foolish example is that the person who calls out an obvious example of racism, is THEN CALL
RACIST,and thus the incident is ignored, or in the case of tomish individuals such as yourself, stupid rhetorical questions are then asked such as "Where is the racism in that"?? (in reference to Reid's Negro dialect statement). Please explain to me Mr. self identified "negro" what exactly is a "negro dialect"? And if such a dialect exist, I would assume that Whites have their own "dialect" as well. Could you explain that dialect?

p.s. please do not use any racial stereotypes in explaining this "negro dialect".

MK

Ms. Negro said...

Tom huh? Ok. Who was attempting to re-frame anything? Racism exist. In this instance no. In general in general (just wanted to make sure you saw that)Black people and white people have different speech patterns which has nothing to with the "correctness" of how we speak or the range of their vocabulary. Black people have a different tone. Black people use certain word that might be foreign to whites. All this makes a dialect.


oh and that Ms. negro to you.

Anonymous said...

I stand correct Ms. Negro.

MK

atldude said...

First off, great post James. I think there a lot of times when the term "racist" is used way to easily. Remember the tale about the boy and the wolf and be careful using the term or it will lose it's impact.

Secondly, I'm not getting any racism in Reid's remarks. OK, maybe Negro is an outdated term. But, to me, he was basically saying "America wouldn't elect a dark skinned man " - which is a reflection on America, not disparaging of African Americans in any way.

As for the "Negro Dialect", is Ebonics a better way to say that? I'm partially kidding. But seriously, what's the correct way what he meant? (I can't even think of a way to express it without coming off racist!)

Anonymous said...

"America wouldn't elect a dark skinned man " - which is a reflection on America, not disparaging of African Americans in any way."

THIS IS THE WAY HE SHOULD OF SAID JUST AS YOU DID.

REID IS A RACIST, PERIOD.

atldude said...

anon11:28 - he DID say what I said, just used "light skinned" instead of "dark skinned". Is that racist?

sejoseph@aol said...

From Black is Black Aint
The recent comments by Harry Reid, Rod Blagojevich and Bill Clinton point to the centuries old ideology of how blackness is defined by whites. For centuries poverty, servility, immorality, intemperance and criminality have been legal, sociological and ideological “truths” propagated by mainstream culture. This influence is still pervasive in post-civil rights America to the point that recent generations of black youth have internalized this poison. Anyone who has more than a cursory knowledge of black history would know that people of African descent in this country have fought for centuries against these strictures. Although Harry Reid’s use of the Negro is ridiculous the fact that he notes that Obama would appeal to white people because of his “unique” ability to speak standard English and his light complexion is true. As a light skinned, Caribbean immigrant from England, I have boatloads of episodes around this sickening fact of black life.

Whiteness is still defined as normality, proprietary, appropriate and what is standard. The idea that educated, middle class blacks are less black is a fallacy that has it’s roots in centuries of white discourse about people of African descent. This ideology that lightness is better can be observed on any film and television program especially of the subject is female. This white preference for lighter skinned blacks is wrapped up in a legacy of rape, concubinage and miscegenation. This ugly practice has had deep ramifications in black culture and history. Malcolm X, W.E.B DuBois, Adam Clayton Powell Jr, Booker T. Washington were more acceptable to whites because of their visible mixed race physiogamy. A vital component of Dr. Martin Luther King’s success was due to his ability to translate his black oratory skills to a dialect that was palatable to whites. In a society where most whites disavow the devastating history and continuance of racist policies, the idea that blackness is defined by a series of negative traits is tactic that protects against the anxiety that must be faced the fact of when white supremacy breaches our national consciousness. Black culture is reflected in our music, literature, religion, linguistics, dance, painting and many other facets of life we share with African diasporic culture all over the world. The place of African Americans in the social, economic and political status is largely attributable to centuries of racist practices and not to the idea of inherent black inferiority. If America really wants to move forward with race relations blacks have to fight harder for our constitutional privileges and whites will have to go through the anger, anxiety and pain of knowing that white supremacy still holds sway in America.

Anonymous said...

Pres. Obama is not a Black American in the true sense: he has a white mother and an African father; he was raised his grandparents who were white, and I believe he didnt get among American Blacks until he went to college. Michelle, his wife, and his mother-in-law ARE true American Blacks who probably exposed him to the Black culture; most people I know, like Pres Obama BUT not his policies; Im also an African American woman BTW

Anonymous said...

I used to think most conservative white people were racist but I found out that the opposite was true, they dont like Obamas policies and dont understand why blacks are making excuses for Harry Reid and the democrats. Im surprised Harry Reid didnt mention his white mother and the way he was raised{im not against interracial marriages btw im in one and the dynamics are different among the children [two cultures or more] ]

atldude said...

sejoseph@aol, good stuff. while I don't agree with it all, it is definitely thought provoking.

And I think Anon12:50 just proved your (or Black is Black Aint's) point. Calling Obama not "true" black because he is mixed race.

Tough break for Obama. Apparently he's not black enough to be Black or white enough to be White.

(white guy, btw)

eshowoman said...

60% of black males have white ancestry. The idea that genetics precludes black identity is absurd. Millions of African Americans are just as white as Obama.

Anonymous said...

"If America really wants to move forward with race relations blacks have to fight harder for our constitutional privileges and whites will have to go through the anger, anxiety and pain of knowing that white supremacy still holds sway in America."

Yes, the only way race relations can move forward is if whites are punished for what their ancestors did and blacks are rewarded for what their ancestors went through. That will definitely improve race relations.

Ashley said...

Atldude, it is not only because he is mixed race. It's mainly because none of his family is African American and Kenyans don't have the same history as African Americans.