Race is one of the subjects that can cause great conversation and not necessarily positive interaction. After a thread discussion on Facebook, I started to ask some questions about people’s thoughts on race and wanted to know others perspectives. So as promised in my “Pre-Post”, this is the first of a series of questions answered by fellow bloggers. I will first introduce them and let them answer the first two questions of the discussion. Please feel free to leave comments and share your own answers and thoughts on the questions asked.
And a very special thank you to the panel for taking the time to contribute to this forum! A few panelists weren’t able to respond to Part I but I look to their responses in the upcoming post.
Let the discussion begin….
Melisa with one S is a Chicagoland-based freelance writer. She is the author of the children’s book Remembering Ruby: For Families Living Beyond the Loss of a Pet, and is currently working on her second book. She has written at Suburban Scrawl, her personal blog, since 2007, and is a contributing writer at two collaborative blogs, The Chicago Moms and The Music Mamas. She co-hosts a livestream chat show called “Suburban WoW” every other Friday, and you can find her on Twitter @melisalw.
Aaron was raised in Cleveland, Ohio he now lives in Columbus, Ohio with his wife Heather and their three children. He is a man saved by grace and continues to lean into that grace every day. “I don’t claim to have it right, but hopefully I’m learning something on the journey.” Follow Aaron’s journey, Inspired by a True Story, by way of Blog, Twitter @aaronconrad and Facebook.
Weasel Momma, is one woman raising 5 kids and one husband and she also co-hosts a livestream chat show called “Suburban WoW” every other Friday. You can find her adventures at World of Weasels and on Twitter @WeaselMomma
Belinda is a 30something, conservative, art lover, poet, runner, extrovert, ethnic by design, South African by nationality, Christian by choice and loved by God. You can find her at Journey with the Son, and on Twitter @BelindaUSA.
Nuke Dad was born and raised in El Paso, TX-moved to North Carolina in 2001. Married for 15 years, Three kids: NukeBoy1 (13), NukeBoy2 (10) and NukeGirl (6). He has been a SAHD (Stay at Home Dad) since 2005. You can find him at Nuclear Family Warhead, and on Twitter @NukeDad.
Dear Mr. Man is just a regular guy. Just like many of us. He is happily married to his wife, Adi, along with two fantastic kids. He accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord a long time ago. However, He doesn’t say that with any sense of piety. He is imperfect and that will be revealed on occasion. Dear Mr. Man can be found blogging at Dear Mr. Man and on Twitter @dearmisterman.
What was your first experience with race?
It was around 1975-76 when I was 7 or 8 years old. I had a really good friend at school, Michelle, who happened to be black/African American. She invited me to her house along with several other girls for a slumber party, and my parents would not let me spend the night there, instead coming to pick me up at some point very, very late so I could sleep in my own bed at home. I remember being very upset by this decision, because I was allowed to sleep over at a couple of other friends’ (white/caucasian) homes, so it wasn’t like it was a fear of not having me home at night. I would like to stress that my parents never said that I couldn’t stay overnight because Michelle’s family wasn’t white (and indeed, my parents, as I’ve noticed over my lifetime, are not bigots and have no outward racial prejudices to speak of from what I’ve seen: I just want that out there! 🙂 ), but that is what I believed at the time, as a little girl in the 70’s. It really, really bothered me and that was the event that made me begin to notice that there were differences in the ways that some people were treated.
Growing up in Bedford, Ohio presented me with a very diverse group of friends. To be completely honest, I don’t know that I ever really dealt with race throughout my high school years. Many of my closest friends, even to this day, have been friends from different cultures and races. It has been always been a natural and easy relationship for me.
When I was in college, I had a very close fried that was, not only a different race, but also the opposite sex. Our friendship grew to something very close. The closer we got the more that race became a real issue. The stress (percieved or otherwise) on our relationship due to outside factors and people became such that it damaged our relationship deeply. I finally witnessed, through her eyes, how the words, looks, rumors and perception was something we could never overcome. No matter how hard we tried to avoid it, it was there and something we could never get through.
I cherish my friendships no matter what race or religion someone is. While our cultures and backgrounds our different, I have learned so much and lean on all friends. My experience in college with my friend taught me that while two people can do all they can to ignore the issue of race, other people and our culture continues to make it an issue.
Having grown up in a very ethnically diverse and self segregated intercity neighborhood, my first experiences with race were that of fear. There were certain streets that we knew were off limits for even walking down. Racial tensions were high even between the Irish and Italian neighborhoods that had learned to co-exist, although as an Irish girl I was still not welcomed to enter certain homes or to date certain sons. I had to be very cautious and aware when walking through the Vietnamese neighborhoods and you did not under any circumstance walk through the black neighborhoods. You would be chased, robbed and beaten or worse. Needless to say, people from the black neighborhoods dared not walk through the Irish or Italian areas for they would be risking the same fate. By my high school years, all the ethnic groups could be ‘school friends’ , eating lunch together, passing notes and skipping class together, but you wouldn’t dare spend time together outside of the school day with the exception of the Irish and Italians. Although many of my Italian friends had to lie about my last name to their parents or grandparents, lest I would not be welcome in their homes. Luckily, with my dark hair and slightly olive skin, I could pass. My generation wasn’t nearly as concerned with race as our parents were, but we had to be concerned with safety.
I am of mixed race, also known as ‘coloured’ – in South Africa. My mother is of scottish descent and my father is of portuguese, african and east asian descent. My parents were not allowed to be wed so my mother changed her race from white to coloured. This practice happened often as interracial marriage was illegal, up until our first democratic elections in 1994.
Growing up during apartheid, one is aware of race from a very early age. You were made aware of the injustice of apartheid almost everyday. We were only allowed access to certain parts of the beach, certain restrooms, restaurants and schools.
One experience remains fresh in my memory. I was seven years old and we were on a train trip to the beach. It was our first time traveling by train and we were so excited. However our excitement was short-lived when a white train inspector verbally abused my father and forcefully removed him from 1st coach to 3rd coach because 1st coach was reserved for whites only. For the entire trip, of almost two hours, we were seperated from my father.
That was the first of many negative experiences we had as a multiracial family.
El Paso is kind of an island unto itself way out in West Texas. It shares a border with Juarez, Mexico and the New Mexico border is close as well. The racial demographic is roughly 75% Hispanic, 15% White, 3% Black, 1% Asian and the rest is classified as “other.” I remember growing up with White kids and Hispanic kids and that’s it. I think it was the 6th grade before I saw anybody from another ethnic group. My first experience with race being an “issue” was probably 1974. That was the year that a housing project opened on the West side of town; where I lived-the “rich” side of town, which was funny, because most of my friends weren’t rich and my family certainly wasn’t. I remember the issue wasn’t with the kids either, it was with the adults. A lot of the teachers were worried about “those kids from the projects” and as the time came closer, they were more loose with their talk which some of the kids picked up on. I remember that the first day of school the year the “project kids” came was tense-for about 10 seconds and then we all ran off and played football or wall ball or whatever else we wanted. It’s funny; the prejudice had started with the adults and had been defused by the kids. We all learned and played together without incident all the way through High School. Some of those “project kids” are still friends of mine today. That isn’t to say that there weren’t problem kids from the projects-there were, but there are problem kids from every neighborhood.
Dear Mr. Man
My first experience with race as a young adult occurred during my freshman year in college. I was a member of the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M University. The Corps is a nationally-recognized Senior R.O.T.C program. The population of the campus was primarily Caucasian. African-American students referred to themselves as “2-percenters” because this was the percentage of black students that attended at the time. Generally, there were no problems when it came to race until…
There was this kid from Abilene, a small town (comparatively speaking to my home city of Houston), who just thought it was humorous to taunt me racially. I tried to ignore him at first. Then I began to warn him that he was crossing the line. He never dropped the “N-bomb”, but he would incessantly make racial jokes and remarks.
One day, as we were performing some military drill involving a guidon ( a small flag bearing our company insignia), he made reference to the “spade” on top of the guidon in relation to my race (some of your more enlightened readers may not know that a “spade” is a derogatory term for blacks). That was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
Out of character, I pounced on him and got a couple of shots in before I was pulled off of him. I remember yelling a flurry of expletives basically letting him know that he got what he deserved. After all, I did warn him. While we both were disciplined (for the violence on my part and the taunting on his), he ceased to tell off-color jokes (at least in my presence).
I never have or will condone any form of violence to resolve issues of race, it was though he was attacking my manhood and daring me to do anything about it. My response was instinctual and guttural and probably been handled in a different way. One man never has the right to try to make another feel that he is less than a man.
What is your opinion of how the media handles race based issues?
First of all, I’m not really thrilled with the way the general media handles ANYTHING. They are masters of the spin, and that’s why I choose to mix up my sources for news on a regular basis. Considering my local news more than other forms of media, they do pretty well with race-based issues. The Chicago area is very, very diverse (which I am so very thankful for!), and it seems to me that, though the news channels can rehash all stories like nobody’s business, the coverage of race-based issues here seems pretty fair. They seem to focus less on color (or any other characteristic) and more on the actual issue, crime, celebration, cause, or whatever, at its most basic level. I think, being in such a diverse area, it’s vital for a news station to be fair; otherwise they’ll lose viewers to another station!
It’s funny to get this question on the heels of the Lebron James issue. Having Dan Gilbert and Jessie Jackson take their feud public brings all of these issues to the front and center again. Sadly I think people want to read, see and hear that the battle still goes on. It sells. I don’t agree with that, but I’m being honest when I say that the media likes to feed the fire. I remember when Lebron appeared on the cover of a magazine with a white women. There was weeks of speculation about how it was a racially biased picture. I just saw a picture. I still don’t understand that but it went on for weeks.
While I hope and like to believe that we have moved forward, even from the media’s perspective, I am just not sure we have. Seeing the comments about LeBron James from people when he decided to leave Cleveland tells me we have not.
What I see in the mainstream media is that racial tension equals a ratings boost. They will invent controversy where there isn’t one and devote air time to people who have made an entire industry and uber comfortable living by promoting racial tension. That is not to say that bigotry and racism don’t exist, but as my generation has turned into 30 and 40 somethings and previous generations are growing smaller in numbers, racism is dropping off by the day.
I am proud to say that my offspring are seemingly color blind. Mr. Weasel and I never introduced them to the concept of race, not because we made a conscious choice, but the subject just never came up. They’ve made friends of all skin tones and back rounds since babyhood and never thought anything of it. We never thought anything of it either, until my oldest daughter, then in middle school, was talking to us and referenced “Uncle John”. We have 2 very dear friends of the same first and last names (although they aren’t related) that our children refer to as Uncle John. One is white and one is black. I asked her which Uncle she was referring to and she responded, “You know, the one with the brown skin”. It wasn’t until then that I realized that she never had learned the term black or African American or any other label for race. Her father and I had always accepted people as people in our adulthood and never by label. Thus, that’s what our children learned, despite media. I believe with the coming generation and their children, we will become post-racial as a society as long as the media stops fanning the leftover embers of the issue in favor of ratings.
My opinion is that the media is biased on how it reports certain stories, especially when it comes to minorities, classism and crime.
One instance is why do we never see or hear about minority kids being abducted or missing? I can list about 5 white kids who were abducted or killed – Madeleine McCann, JonBenet Ramsey, Elizabeth Smart and Caylee Anthony. But I can’t name one african-american or hispanic child that was abducted, whose story made national headlines.
Perhaps african-american or hispanic kids are never abducted or killed? I think not. Nearly 800,000 children under the age of 18 are reported missing each year in the United States, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Of those reported missing, 33% are African-American. So where’s the 24/7 coverage of their stories?
Seems to me that the media are far more concerned about “good murders” than “bad murders”. “Good murders” murders and abductions that make good press – young white girls from middle class. “Bad murders” – murders or abductions of african-americans and hispanics from a poor neighborhood.
Sad really, but I do believe that we can turn the tide by being vocal for equality – writing to media organizations and demanding a change on how they report race based issues!
I think the media does a poor job of handling race and that they are one of the biggest problems with race issues today. I don’t care if you’re a Raging Republican or a Give The Store Away Liberal Democrat, I think we can all agree (or should) that people should be judged by their character and contribution to society, not by the color of their skin. The media thrives on conflict; if there’s no conflict, there’s no story. Isn’t “If it bleeds, it leads” the old saying around the newsrooms? Politicians understand that the only way they can truly gather and hold power is to set themselves up as problem solvers and arbiters of right and wrong; to do that, they have to pit us against each other-then they can always be perceived as being the heroes. They’ve been doing a pretty good job of it for the last 234 years or so. We (society) share the blame as well; it you’re too lazy to investigate things for yourself and take the media’s word as gospel, regardless of which side you get your information from, then you have no business complaining about it. It’s incredibly frustrating for me at times to see the bias that is out there; the blatant falsehoods that are reported as fact, the misleading headlines, voyeuristic video clips, etc.; then I realize that it’s our own fault. We Americans have become too accustomed to getting the “whole” story from a headline and two paragraphs instead of reading the entire article. We like quick little snippets of video that will tell us what we need to know fast so that we can get back to our busy lives. The result is a populace that doesn’t have a clue about what is going on in the real world, but can tell you what Beyonce wore to the Grammy’s. The one saving grace is what you are using now; the internet. Social media has set the media world on their ear, which is both a good and bad thing. As people are able to gather their own information faster and more efficiently, they are (or should be) able to make more educated decisions, but if they choose to continue living in a sound-bite society, then the results could be horrific. The country has never been more informed than it is right now, but it is also close to being more divided than it ever has been. As mass market media companies continue to crumble, you’ll see them adding to the problem rather than reporting on it.
Dear Mr. Man
I believe it is a matter of which media outlet is telling the story. In general, race issues in the media stand out like “Mr. Brown” in a tuxedo factory. For instance, as a conservative, one of my primary sources of news is the Fox News Channel. There are a couple of news stories (the recent resolution by the NAACP to have the Tea Party call out the perceived racism in their ranks and the New Black Panther Party). Both of these stories are worthy of coverage, but Fox has been beating these issues into the ground. Conversely, the other major media outlets have given very little attention to these worthy news stories. I believe that both approaches have their flaws. The continuous coverage may give the false impression that these organizations represent the views, behaviors, and character of African-Americans as a whole. On the other hand, liberal media outlets are shirking on their responsibility to report the news, not just selective pieces that fit their agenda.
Race is overblown in the media and creates fear and derision where none should exist. The media can blanket a race of people (i.e. Hispanics and illegal immigration)with one characteristic that many will apply to the whole. The only way to counter this is to think of the people you know of different races and cultures and ask yourself if the media is providing a fair representation of your friends, neighbors and fellow citizens.
This concludes Part I of the series The Issue of Race. Please give feedback and comment below.