Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical (hermionesviolin) wrote,
Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical

I tend to draft these sorts of entries and never post them.

A recent Sophian article opened:
"I am not here as a firefighter trying to put out the flames of this racial incident or to give a Kumbaya-My-Lord-We-Are-All-a-Big-Happy-Family speech to make most people at Smith feel good about themselves," he said. "I am here today to speak truth to power about race matters in contemporary America and, in the process, connect the dots about this 'incident,' an incident and an aftermath which I believe are emblematic about how race works in post-civil rights America."

Those were some of the opening words of Professor Eduardo Bonilla-Silva's speech titled "It's Real! Racism, Discrimination, Color Blindness and Isolated (Racial) Incidents." The Duke University sociology professor spoke on Jan. 29 to a nearly packed house at John M. Greene Hall. The meeting was an all-campus meeting called last semester by President Christ in response to a blackface incident at a Smith party last November.
I only sort of followed the blackface party incident, but I love the opening "I am not here as a firefighter trying to put out the flames of this racial incident or to give a Kumbaya-My-Lord-We-Are-All-a-Big-Happy-Family speech to make most people at Smith feel good about themselves."


Unrelatedly, polymexina recently posted:
Reduced to the Small Screen
Incident, Reaction, Forget, Repeat: Formulaic Entertainment Replaces Serious Discussion on Race

By DeNeen L. Brown and Darryl Fears
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, November 11, 2007; M01
There it was on television one afternoon, another episode in the Great Race Debate. A perky commentator moderated the banter between two intellectuals discussing the Jena 6 case and the debate over racial injustice.

Even with the sound off, it looked like entertainment, says Alan Bean, executive director of Friends of Justice, a Texas-based criminal justice reform organization that began probing the Jena 6 case long before it became big news. Bean was watching the show while sitting in an airport. That's when it occurred to him: The race debate had become theater.

"When I looked at the woman who was the correspondent refereeing the fight between two talking heads, I didn't get the impression she was concerned about enlightening the audience or coming to a meeting of the minds or shedding light on inequities in the criminal justice system," says Bean, who is white. "Her primary concern seemed to be putting on a show."


"I think the media's contribution is to make racism an entertainment issue," says Ted Morgan, professor of political science at Lehigh University, whose upcoming book is about the media culture.

"Television makes politics entertaining by turning politics into polarized conflict between two sides," he says. "The audience sympathizes with one side or the other because they are basically getting entertained. It leaves the public with no place in the conversation."


"From the perspective of the majority group, racism is not a big issue. We don't see it often. When we see it, we can explain it away," says [John] Dovidio, [a Yale psychology professor and] author of "Prejudice, Discrimination and Racism."

"In surveys, 60 to 70 percent of white Americans say racism is a thing of the past," he says.

"From a white person's view, when certain incidents occur that are blatant, it is easy to recognize them, but the outrage is more localized. If you don't believe racism is widespread, you think once you take care of that little event, you can go back to business as usual. . . .


For black Americans, the experience is the mirror opposite of whites. The eruptions do not appear to be merely isolated, but become more dots in the picture providing evidential clarity that racism is indeed real.

"Sixty to 70 percent of black Americans see racism as a continuing problem in America," Dovidio says. "Events will occur and minorities will see it not as an isolated event, but the tip of the iceberg of what they have been experiencing."

There is a genuine reaction not only to one offending event but a whole series of events in the past, says Dovidio.

"It confirms racism is out there and becomes a great way of pointing out racism is out there."

Because black people are aware that the broader society is often deaf to allegations of racism, "We get mad and feel like we have to express that we are mad," says Camille Z. Charles, associate director of the Center for Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

Some black people then want to force society to hear their sense of grievance, thinking, "You have to acknowledge there was a wrong. I'm going to make you acknowledge that," says Charles, who is black.

But some argue that racism has been perpetuated, kept alive by people who benefit from the show. Benefit from stoking white guilt. Benefit from encouraging victimhood.

Robert L. Woodson, founder and president of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, calls such people "grievance merchants whose purpose in life is to racialize every situation conceivable without finding out what the facts are."

"Race is an intimidating issue," says Woodson, who is black. "If you want people to back off, all you have to do is inject race, and all the rules of dialogue, all the rules of comity are set aside. You are either for the people who are charging racism or you are for injustice."

Racism gets boiled down into inflammatory words, thrown like swords. Woodson argues that of course racism still exists, but people of color, particularly those with lower incomes, are hurt by perpetuated notions of their victimization.

Woodson, who worked in the civil rights movement, contrasts the marches of today with those of that era and its goal of fostering unity. "In today's world, the purpose is never to unite," he says. "The purpose is to make cheap headlines in the name of being champions of injustice. They are entertainers. I call them civil rights reenactors. Just like Civil War reenactors dress up and act like we are in still the Civil War."

Black people, as a group, are still beset by intractable problems, says Shelby Steele, who is black. He is author of "White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era."

Steele lists poverty, single-parent families, high school dropout rates. "But what do we do? Talk about Don Imus and Michael Richards and do nothing to explore the 70 percent illegitimacy rate." Yet, when it comes to race relations, he says, the country has made remarkable progress.

"White America has undergone a marvelous if unremarked moral evolution in the last 40 years and racism is no longer the barrier that it used to be," says Steele, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. "That doesn't mean it no longer exists, that it is no longer present. But it no longer stunts the life of black people.

"We have come to the point where we can entertain ourselves with it," he says, adding sarcastically, "Isn't that wonderful?"

On the theme of politics as entertainment: My dad sent me this link.

He also sent me this one -- which is not about politics as entertainment, but rather about politics and hypocrisy.  Interestingly, my immediate reaction was to defend the Left's position -- but yeah, it is one of those instances of "When my side does it, it's okay," which was the kind of thing I called people on a lot at Smith.  (I'm actually not entirely averse to people making the "When my side does it, it's okay," argument, I just want them to acknowledge that that's the argument they're making.)
Tags: issues: race, issues: religion and politics, issues: u.s. presidential race: 2008, rational discourse, smith

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