Tuesday, January 04, 2005

How To Talk About Race in America

I write this because I am rather tired of hearing the occasional comments "I don't see race," "Race card," "Playing the race card", and "Race doesn't matter."

About 95 percent of the time I hear these comments, it's from someone white or Asian or Latino, but mostly white by far. Only twice in my life have I heard anyone black say a variation of those words. I can personally pinpoint the origin of the term "Race card:" the OJ trial in 1994.

It was during that "court media event" that I remember that term used. It was offered by a right-wing pundit in a debate and as attempt to diminish the imporatance of race as a factor in the police investigation. The trial itself aside, I didn't like the term then, and I don't like it now.

Today, the single reason why blacks and whites in particular can't talk effectively about race is the use of the terms I described above. As the culture becomes (happily) more integrated by the minute, we have to develop a more effective way of communcating. Thus, here's my primer I call "How to Talk About Race in America."

It's really a simple set of rules to be applied by both white or Asian or Latino persons and blacks when talking about race with each other:

1) First, allow the person to complete their sentence.
2) Avoid talking while the other person is talking, as that is the foundation for the development of an argument.
3) Don't use any term like "Race card."
4) Talk in general terms about race and at all costs don't talk about what you do that's racist or not racist at the start of the conversation. In other words...
5) Start by talking about race in America generally, if only to determine how each of you thinks. So, ask this question: do we have race problems? And follow it up with "What are race problems in your view?"
6) Don't justify yourself by explaining how many black (if you're white or Asian or Latino) or white or Asian or Latino (if you're black) friends you have.
7) If you're white or Asian or Latino, don't say "I don't see race" and then say "I have black friends" because you just admitted you see race.
8) Think of a joke to tell to keep things light, and no, not a racial joke.

There you have it. If you apply my primer, you and America will have gone a long way toward improving our collective culture!

41, 42, and 43

Confused? Those numbers refer to the last three siting presidents. It also points to today's news of the ex-presidents heading a new funding initiative to the Tsunami-ravagged areas of Asia. (See CNN)

Even though I'm a Democrat, putting President Bush I and President Clinton together to head this effort was an excellent move both personally and politically by George W. Bush. The reason, for me, is that it shows that we can remove party lines and bring the best people to solve a problem.

On top of that, it seems to confirm a suspicion I've always has that Clinton and the younger Bush are more alike than people would think. I first formed this idea after watching the ceremony for the Clinton Library on CSPAN. CSPAN is great for presenting scenes of politicians talking together after a ceremony. Such was true in this case. The three Presidents seemed to be sharing a lot of information. I think the matter of the middle east and terrorism, combined with their Southern populist roots, have forged a bound between Bush II and Clinton that should be studied in more depth.

I believe that in their personalities are the keys to what Americans want in the people they elect to be President. In short, they connect with people on a personal level.

I think this effort will be very successful. Moreover, it marks -- in my view -- a turning point in Bush II's growth as an American President and a World leader.

I also think he and Clinton are sharing "presidential secrets." I just don't know what they are.