My thoughts in Words
Framing the world through a unique lens to provoke different solutions. "The difficulty... is not to write, but to write what you mean; not to affect your reader, but to affect him precisely as you wish" - R. L. Stevenson
I usually do not interject myself in conversations on race. That is not to say that I do not have the conversations, but I don’t usually use social media and other outlets to create “sound bites” of my thoughts on the subject. Since race is a much more complex issue than say … who should win the Word Series, it cannot be compartmentalized into 140 characters for a tweet on Twitter.
In the last 24-48 hours race has become the center of a number of events in the United States. Let’s first head south to Sanford, FL. Sanford, FL ironically happens to be the location where Jackie Robinson encountered a large amount of bigotry, and racism, as he played for the Dodgers AAA team, the Montreal Royals, who had their spring training in Sanford. Now, let’s be honest. Sanford may not be any more racially charged than some other places in the U.S., but with the trial of George Zimmerman occurring there the race conversation now comes to the forefront. Was Trayvon Martin killed simply for being young and black, or was Mr. Zimmerman’s response appropriate? In either case, none of us can influence the trial and we’ll have to see how the “justice system” chooses to write the ending to this story.
Still southern focused, but more widely spread, is the conversation surrounding Paula Deen. The woman cooked good southern food, and people loved her … until it was revealed that she used a racial slur and it has been all downhill from there. She has lost her show on the Food Network, been dropped by Wal-Mart, and Target is looking to phase out her merchandise. Some argue that it was “a long time ago,” while others “don’t care when it happened, it is the fact that it happened.” So now the popularity of Deen is left flailing in the wind of race, and her future is left somewhat hanging in the balance.
Lastly, we have the Supreme Court ruling that struck down a key portion of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The portion of the act that was struck down, ”[required] nine states with a history of discrimination at the polls, mostly in the South, to get approval from the Justice Department or a special panel of judges before they [could] change their voting laws. The rule also applies to 12 cities and 57 counties elsewhere.” It was suggested that these areas were being forced to suffer because of the “sins” of those that lived there before them. Others stated that the law was outdated and archaic in nature, and that “America had changed.” There was also the Supreme Court ruling related to Affirmative Action. So again, race is the fulcrum of the discussion.
Given the dynamics, the demography and the political landscape in the United States, race will continue to be a topic of discussion. When you have a nation with a history such as ours, with an ever-evolving population, race will always be a point of conversation or contention. So as not to make this black and white, the US is also having a conversation around immigration. Please note that, though the current conversation around immigration is focused on individuals coming to the United States from Mexico, there is a larger conversation surrounding immigrants from other parts of the world, not just those south of our borders.
There are those who can have a constructive dialogue around race, where others have closed ears and have no ability to hear anything other than their own thoughts. Race is a sensitive topic. It is personal, multi-faceted and multi-dimensional. It cannot be sliced one way, and no one should try to put all the issues of race in one box – it will not work. I will say that there are certain parts of the discussion on race that, even if they are discussed and understood by others, does not have the same effect as when it is experienced.
I do believe that there have been some positive strides, but there is still a lot more to be said surrounding race in America. I think the danger is if we ignore race now, we could do more damage than good in the long run. As the “cards of race” are currently being reshuffled, and as the “dealer” prepares to deal the cards, we are not sure what kind of hand we will be dealt.
My better judgment leads me to believe, that in the next few years the race conversation may become a bit more “messy” before it gets any cleaner. Let’s not forget that in 2016, this aforementioned voting change will come to light and we’ll see what comes of it. There is a lot more that can be said, but this may be a good stopping point for this post. I look forward to your comments and feedback.
Grace and Peace,
Byron Washington, MPA is a Consultant, Youth Mentor, and Life Coach. He is a graduate of Winston-Salem State University and Princeton University. He currently resides in Shanghai, China with his family. - "Change Without Direction is Chaos"