Why do I have to stop talking about race?

I just received this opinion piece by Naomi Schaefer Riley in the New York Post…

http://nypost.com/2014/05/29/lets-stop-talking-about-race/

In short, she postulates…

Maybe audiences, black and white, have just gotten tired of these conversations. Maybe they’re done with national dialogue on race. Bill Clinton’s “One America Initiative,” all of the analysis of Barack Obama’s life, all of the panels, the cable talk shows, the harangues by Al Sharpton, the psychoanalysis of Donald Sterling — what if America has no appetite for this anymore?

tl;dr: If someone doesn’t want to hear about race, they shouldn’t listen to stories about race; there are a lot of venues where race is actively NOT discussed. But it’s not fair to deride the conversations other people want to have, and subsequently their experiences, just because its exhausting for some.

No one said you have to listen. Although Fresh Air is unable to garner the listeners, it is important to note that no one is saying the show needs to be cancelled or changed. If the NPR radio audience is shrinking with these stories, then they will stop. But they are not. By the same token, the New York Post audience increases with stories that subsequently complain about the status of racial discourse. Such is media environment we live in; important conversations are simply a marketing strategy.

However, the Riley’s citation that millennials don’t think race exists is not a reason to stop talking about it. Here’s a fun little pop history of what millennials don’t know (via Rolling Stone). BTW, they also don’t know words like “matriarch” and “commodity.” The author claims that Jamelle Bouie’s reflection on why this is problematic, not productive is “idiotic.” Clearly, she has not read the research demonstrating that colorblindness, or disavowing race, has been associated with pro-White & anti-minority biases (Richeson & Nussbaum, 2004), as well as accepting and condoning race themed parties (Tynes & Markoe, 2010).  Furthermore, despite Riley’s autoethnographical research, marriage and interracial babies does not magically eliminate institutional racism; I elaborate further on this point in a recent post.

In my experience, what someone doesn’t know is all the more reason to talk about it, because when people don’t know (or don’t care) about how other people feel, they say mean things.  And when the people who don’t know or care are the same people in power, those mean things have very real consequences.

tl;dr: If someone doesn’t want to hear about race, they shouldn’t listen to stories about race; there are a lot of venues where race is actively NOT discussed. But it’s not fair to deride the conversations other people want to have, and subsequently their experiences, just because its exhausting for some.

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UPDATE: I recently came across this amazing video of Dave Chappelle talking with Maya Angelou about his experiences as a survivor and a commentator about the situation of race in America. The video is filled with amazing images, stories, and wisdom around issues like this. I will be sharing it with my students in the fall, but the most relevant line to this post is the final one. In response to coping with anger and the resulting bitterness, Angelou says…

“Yes, You feel anger. You write it. You paint it. You dance it. You march it. You vote it. You do everything about it. You talk it. Never stop talking it.”

About charisselpree

The Media Made Me Crazy
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