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Stupidity or Oversensitivity?

If ever there was a sign of the times, it's the resurgence of racism in the States. Before I go any farther, let me state up front: I find abhorrent any form of discrimination, whether it be based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or politics. This country (the US) was founded on the concept of freedom for everybody, drawing the line at where your free actions cause injury to others (hence laws). The main point here is that you can have your freedom so long as you don't infringe upon the freedom or rights of others. Fair enough.

All that being said, I'm a little perplexed by recent trends.... nooses and other hateful acts being committed against blacks... the Jena 6 ordeal, where black kids were punished differently than white kids... and racist comments made by politicians and free citizens about people, including Barack Obama. What is up with people?!? Seriously, this sort of behavior is just wacky.

Personally, I think the issues that we're seeing are indicative of greater cultural issues facing the country. The past several years, under the Bush regime, have seen a significant swing to the extreme right, putting religious beliefs ahead of Scientific truths. We've seen rhetoric from the White House against all political opponents casting a false division of "we're right, you're wrong." There are very rarely black-and-white areas in social issues, instead supplanted by many shades of gray.

And so I find this article from today's Star Tribune to be missing the gray areas, too quickly attacking stupidity as insensitive or racist:
Blackface costumes cause Hamline uproar

Let me put it this way:
- nooses and hate acts against any racial group: BAD
- hate speech against any racial group: BAD
- drawing conclusions based on race alone: BAD
- painting your face black at Halloween for an African costume: NOT BAD
- referring to blackfaced characters as "spooks": BAD
- assuming that blackface==racism: BAD

Put another way... if a black person were to dress like a white person for Halloween, would the world erupt in a cry of racism? Doubtful. Also, how is it disrespectful to dress in traditional African outfits for Halloween? People dress as ghosts, politicians, athletes, celebrities, cartoon and other fictional characters. Does anybody scream bloody murder? Don't think so. It seems to me that it's only groups who were affronted by previous generations that still bear the grudges of history and insist on taking offense where no mal-intent exists.

My argument: those who immediately leap to the cry of racism are either projecting their personal racism onto the situation, or they're so over-sensitive that anything that could be construed as race-related will be taken as a sleight.

Could we all please just grow up a little bit. To those idiots who are perpetrating hateful acts: stop it now. To those idiots who are reacting to every little nuance as if it's an intentionally hateful sleight: stop it now. Specifically to the administration at Hamline: get the story first, understand the intent and then decide whether or not the issue requires intervention and serious attention.

To the oversensitive that would like to turn everything into a race issue: please, stop, you're making things worse, not better. Have you considered that by turning everything into a race issue, you're actually promoting racism?

And need I remind folks that it seems oftentimes that the same groups who take quick offense over these alleged acts of racism are out front lauding the superiority of their race? Hmmm... hypocrisy is indiscriminate.

Case in point, I'm surprised that Flynn hasn't caught serious flack for his comments about the role of race in his recent book What is Intelligence? In it, he talks about the role of genetics and environment on the development of intelligence and highlights that blacks have been put at a disadvantage over the generations. Though a scientific and non-racist statement, I'm positive somebody will try to spin it as racist.

By the way, let's look at the term "racism" for a minute. How is it define? The primary definition via numerous sources, as listed on Dictionary.com, says:

"1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others."
Source: Dictionary.com

What's interesting about this definition is the inclusion of "superiority" as a factor. While it's true that discrimination based on race is included in other definitions, it's this quality in the first definition that is most interesting.

Putting the Hamline incident into context, let me ask you: how does using black face paint as part of an African tribal costume express a sense of superiority over that racial group represented? How does it demonstrate discrimination? How does it demonstrate hate?

I submit to you that those who were uncomfortable were made so by the over-sensitivities of those hellbent to make racism into a major issue. They'd rather create racism than admit that people are not inherently hateful.

Unfortunately, this issue seems to be no less rational than debates about abortion, religion, politics, or the rift within Islam between the Sunni and Shia. If we cannot settle basic differences like treating everybody fairly and equally out of the gate, then how can we have any hope to provide positive leadership in the world?

Sad times these.

I'll be curious to see if I end up being called a racist now for pointing out the obvious here, criticizing both sides....


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 5, 2007 10:04 AM.

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