Sunday, April 27, 2008

Thinking on Race

marjorie says...

I've found myself in the midst of conversations with friends and family about the youtube clips of Reverend Wright, and notice an odd resistance on my part to even engage in the conversation.

Reflecting on this, I think much of it is that I don't want to justify what I consider a manufactured propaganda campaign, one thats really intellectually dishonest, against Barack Obama. We've been set up to have a conversation about something really important in the context of something really corrupt. On the one hand, its a moment when on a national "all-together" level we witness in those youtube snippets statements that touch on some real bona fide truth. So the conversation could be welcomed. But on the other, the distortion and the mainstream media framing of the clips so twist the truth of who Reverend Wright is and the nature of his sermons as a whole that having a real conversation that cuts through the B.S. is...well, pretty darn frustrating.

The only thing I really need to know about Reverend Wright is that for decades he's been the pastor of one of the largest African American congregations in the United States. As in, 8000 people. To drive the point home that he isn't an isolated figure, but rather a venerated and central one, he got a standing ovation, a long one, at an annual NAACP dinner in Detroit last night, one that big-wig politicians routinely make a point of going to. If we're going to say Reverend Wright isn't "patriotic" we better get ready to say African Americans in general aren't. And going down that route would lead us down a twisted path straight to our own mirrors. If we're honest.

Any person subjected to the manufactured vitriol he's been subjected to over the past couple of months deserves to defend himself. Despite what many say--that he should be keeping his mouth shut--I don't blame him. And I recommend that you all watch the interview he did with Bill Moyers, which was aired Friday night.

Speaking of Race, did folks catch New Mexico In Focus on Friday? Gene and David took on the subject of Race and it was quite good. David's conversation with Laura Gomez and Estevan Rael-Galvez was really compelling and informative about the history of race in New Mexico.

Then Gene and his panelists touched on the controversy about the anti-racism training that was advertised at Sandia Labs. For those of you who didn't notice the hubbub, a flier circulated among lab employees described a diversity training using classic anti-racism language, and it really offended some white Sandia labs employees who had never been told (or noticed) before that they were inherent beneficiaries of white privilege. I felt you could cut the tension with a knife when Gene's panel discussed it...or rather, as each got their moment to give their position. There was no discussion. And that in many ways encapsulates as far as it often seems to go when this topic comes up in mixed (as in, white folks are in the house) company. It was quite go see for yourself.

Gene brought up the question about whether or not the language used was the problem, and I was glad he took the conversation in that direction. Language is tricky, and Margaret Montoya did a good job of picking up on that and pointing out what to me is obvious. If the workshop had been targeted to those who are already persuaded--then a flier of that nature would not have stood in the way of the workshop and its larger goal, which was to promote diversity in the workplace. But when you target a group that isn't persuaded, and has never been exposed to anti-racism lingo, you're probably not going to get very far with a flier full of that lingo. In other words, if you want to educate uneducated white folks on race--if thats your goal--you probably want to first get them to the workshop. And to do that you'll have more success if you don't distribute a flier saying that white people are inherently racist. Save that for the workshop, where you can explain the structural meaning behind that concept.