Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Modest Proposal?

On my way home from work I was listening to All Things Considered and John McWhorter shared a "racism in America" version of a modest proposal.

The summary from NPR is this: " In light of the resurgence of nooses appearing in places like Jena, La., and Columbia University's Teacher's College, here's a modest proposal: The next time somebody plants a noose, let's just ignore it. Perhaps paying less attention to these acts will take away their racist power. "

As I listened to it, I felt myself agree with the power shift that ignoring racist acts would have, but I also became very fearful of it as well. The problem with ignoring such things is that they won't go away because you ignore them, which Mr. McWhorter said, there will always be someone doing something racist. However, if we don't show our outrage to something as "harmless" as a noose on a tree, don't you think that these perpetrators will go to the next level? I agree that large media organizations do have a responsibility to the public in how they sensationalize and report these minor infractions, however the grass roots response should not disappear. I fear the lack of response would fuel those hate-filled individuals to take further action. I whole-heartedly believe that if a small town in Kentucky or Louisiana has an incidence of hate, there should be a community response. When that story is picked up by CNN and the Post, I agree that we should take a step back.

I also don't feel that asking the viewers of hate to restrain ourselves in these instances is a fair proposal. I do believe that there is an infallible nature that we all have to compare and judge, but I don't believe we should tolerate it when that nature seeks to hurt/harm others.

I do respect Mr. McWhorter for his proposal as it was very interesting. A few hours later I'm still thinking about it, so that says something...

I am curious about what others think as well. Let me know!

1 comment:

Kristin said...

Ignoring a freakin' noose on your door? Not only is that absurd, it's also impossible. A noose is a death threat and I can't imagine any one person ignoring something like that. And as for the community, I think it would do everyone a disservice to act like it never happened. I don't think that an act like that is done for attention (clearly the coward hasn't shown his or her face), it was a message: "As a Black woman you need to shut up and know your place or you'll be killed."

There has been a huge uproar about this in my department because Teacher's College is considered our "sister department". Our programs are very similar and the professors are friends. My professors and some of my fellow students know Dr. Constantine and were very emotional last week about what happened. It was discussed in most of my classes and in one we spent two hours engaged in a very open and intense discussion about race instead of having a lecture at all. I think the way that mainstream media addresses these issues is usually superficial, but the discussions that happen and the actions that are taken by individuals and other groups are important.

One of my classmates, Christian Cho, started a YouTube blog about race issues a few weeks ago. He hasn't posted anything about the incident at Teacher's College yet, but I just think this is an example of something people can do to fight back. Yes, it gives the acts attention but it also educates people and creates awareness that these acts go on. So many White people live in these "racism is a thing of the past" bubbles and it is important for the health of individuals and communities to make sure those bubbles are popped.

Sorry about the rant, this week has been intense.