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Quote of the day

[This is a nice bookend to my post from a few weeks ago, “I’m not laughing at this blackface drag act.]

You’ve seen me blog about race and the struggle to get people to address the matter many times, in many different ways here on the Blend.

I try to carve out a safe space to discuss race. It’s good to see the problem defined and called out in the mainstream media.

Racism thrives in the dark, and it can’t help oozing out sometimes—when we are angry, or drunk, or desperate to win. With the ubiquity of cell-phone cameras (that’s what caught Richards) and streaming-video Web sites, we may see more once private revelations of racism winding up out in the open.

And that’s not a bad thing. Of course, it’s scary to confront race. Beyond polite conversational conventions, we don’t even have much of a shared vocabulary. It’s a lot easier to learn the P.C. rules than confront any biases you might find within. Many whites fear appearing to be a middle-of-the-movie Spencer Tracy if talk turns to crime rates or welfare; many blacks worry that they will sound like an Uncle Tom (if they are tough on other blacks) or a Stokely Carmichael (if they defend other blacks). So it’s come to this: only comedians will name our fears—Chris Rock, Wanda Sykes, Sarah Silverman and Dave Chappelle make people laugh by saying out loud what we’re scared to acknowledge we might even think.
—  Newsweek’s Raina Kelley, “Let’s Talk About Race,” in the December 4th issue — following the Michael Richards debacle.

We all can do more about breaking our biases down — out in the open — without fear of ridicule, or verbal retaliation. This is the side effect of the PC climate we’ve created — a wall built to protect sensibilities — but it doesn’t define a safe space for open discussion.

In the end, everyone loses if no one tries to bridge the gaps of difference because they feel too vulnerable or self-conscious.

Jump headfirst into a thoughtful conversation, after the flip.Ramon Johnson of About Gay Life has more on the swirling controversy about Shirley Q. Liquor, and  Racism in the Gay Community.

In the message forum of the site, an interesting discussion covers the matter of dating outside your race (or not). The perspective on how people articulate a preference is quite telling about racist thinking. For instance, one gay individual wrote:

I personally am not racist but I don’t date black people. Nothing against black people, I’m just not attracted to them. The same reason I don’t date woman. I’m not attracted to them.

The person tosses up the caveat that they aren’t racist because they “have black friends.” Given the range of what “black” looks like, how can this person make a blanket statement about all black people when it comes to dating? Is it a matter of perceived physical features (many blacks who can pass for some other ethnicity), a perceived cultural difference (“all blacks are poor or into thug culture”), etc. There’s not a whole lot of self-examination going on in the statement. Another commenter makes this point:

It is one thing to say that you have just never met a black person that you were attracted to in a sexual and romantic way. But that is not what you are saying.

You have basically said that you discount even the possibility of a relationship with a black person because they are black, and you aren’t attracted to black people.

If you had said that you have just never found any of the black people you have known attractive, but were open to the possibility of a relationship with a black person if ever you met one that you found attractive then I wouldn’t consider that racist.

But when you say you just aren’t attracted to black people and so don’t date them then what you have done is discount the possibility of a relationship with a black person right off the bat for only one reason, that they are black.

It’s an interesting discussion — and full of PC landmines for folks averse to opening themselves up, but it’s one of those worthwhile topics you rarely see aired out.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding