Sugary excerpt of the day from Mychal Denzel Smith about America and its pointless conversations about race:
A national conversation on race is pointless if we have to keep starting over. We won't settle the issue in a two-week span of op-eds, cable-news specials and one-off discussions with our favorite black pundits. Doing so requires constant engagement and active listening on the part of those who have benefited from centuries of racism. This isn't about being able to see the world through the eyes of the oppressed; rather, it's about paying attention when the oppressed tell their own stories and believing them. But privilege means never having to consider that anyone experiences the world differently from you.
It allows Jonah Goldberg to write in the Los Angeles Times that racism currently exists only in "pockets," Ann Coulter to compare calls for justice in Trayvon's death to a lynch mob and Pat Buchanan to refer to this situation as an "exacerbation of and the exploitation of racial conflict." To honestly believe any of these assertions requires cultural blindness and a deep misreading of history, one in which the lives of marginalized people do not exist unless they serve the self-aggrandizing agenda of the controlling group.
When racism exists only in the extreme in the dominant historical narrative and the public imagination, it's not difficult to understand why the conversation becomes stalled. We understand racism as the domain of slaveholders and violent segregationists, cross-burning members of the Ku Klux Klan and ignorant Southerners. Racists possess cold, black hearts and eyes that become engorged with blood and hate at the sight of skin that differs from their own. And they can be defeated only by the good-natured and colorblind folks who believe in one race: human.
Of course, that isn't true in the slightest. Racism doesn't require vicious hatred -- only passive acceptance of an idea of human hierarchy based on mostly arbitrary differences. It is internalized beliefs about the inferiority of one group that in turn grants power and privilege to another. Racism is not a battle of good vs. evil, of individual actors of a heroic or demonic nature determining the worth of people. It is a story of subjugation, exploitation, resistance and the messy complexities that make humanity so intriguing. We would know that if we bothered to study.
As I assert too often on this blog, the issue here is that 'race' in America isn't about 'race' and that America/Americans don't know how to have a conversation. Talking to one another instead at one another would involve listening to all viewpoints and actually accept the possibility of not winning the debate that would follow because of the increasing divide among Americans and their deculturation.
To put it bluntly, the one thing that the Trayvon Martin case and all America's conversations about race show is that America is still a prisoner of its history and that hysteria is necessary to nationalize any issue because of its brittle togetherness.