Is Ferguson the Catalyst for the Overdue Discussion of Racism in America?

What was the most helpful thing you read about Ferguson?

I have tried to stay away from this topic only because I’m not sure I have anything of real value to add, but the folks at BlogHer brought the question up for Day 3 of the September NaBloPoMo.

Before I get started take a minute and look at both of these pictures. Be honest with yourselves; If you saw either of these young men walking towards you (day or night), which one would you perceive as more or less of a threat?

H94D-S1_Clipper_Cutting_Techniques_for_Black_Men_Vol_2_sample-1 fade-haircut-styles-for-white-men

Have you made your decision? If so, humor me and answer the following poll.

Now on to the BlogHer question. Everything I’ve learned confirms that racism is alive and well and people don’t want to talk about it – both black and white, but more so white.  The question, why do we have to keep talking about this pervades everyone’s face. But we have to talk about it because we haven’t talked about it. And we really don’t understand the ill effects it has on us in 2014 and has had on us — America — for hundreds of years.

Sadly, we can no longer let this issue — the issue of racism — go unchecked. It’s time we sat down and had meaningful and intelligent conversations about race and race relations. It’s time we get ahead of it instead of trying to do damage control when something like Ferguson happens. And still we get no closer to solving the problem. We seem to get more divisive.

Let’s be real there are a lot of people who don’t want to admit that racism even exists and they claim black people are over reacting. I will agree with that to some extent, but the reality is I hear more often than not the phrase or something similar from white people, “Why can’t black people just get over it”. I see the eye roll from some white people and black people too when the topic of race comes up. Along with, “the not this again look”.

Unfortunately, black people can’t just get over it because being black in America is constantly thrown in our faces and very rarely in a positive light. Being black in America is often associated with negativity. And we, both blacks and whites have bought into that negativity of the black man and woman. If you say you haven’t, you’re not being completely honest with yourself. The entertainment industry doesn’t help to dispel this negativity at all. It actually helps to perpetuate it. Shows like Tyler Perry’s “Meet the Browns” and “House of Payne”. Movies that show black men as criminals or being lazy and shiftless or uncouth and uneducated and wife beaters — the list goes on.

The media readily and willingly reports about the black drug dealer or murderer or rapist or prostitute, but how often do you hear about he black man or woman who is doing something good for his/her community? If I never heard any of that or saw any of that I would believe that this negative portrayal of the black community is accurate. But more importantly, if I never sat down and talked to anyone in the black community, I never would have realized the number of positive black influences in the community.

Black men are constantly villianized by society whether they are in a suit or baggy jeans, a t-shirt, and a baseball cap. They are constantly perceived and depicted in the media, far more than their white counterparts as the dregs of society — rapists, robbers, drug dealers, pimps, lazy, shiftless, welfare recipients, uneducated etc. I see and you see on the news and in newsprint on a daily basis the face of the murderous, thieving, rapping, drug dealing black man far more than the face of murderous, thieving, rapping, drug dealing white man; which would lead anyone, including me to perceive the black male as more of a threat than the white male.

Think about it. The next time you sit down to watch the news (local or national) or read the paper who do you see and hear about more? Black criminals or white criminals? I’m not saying that black men are not committing the crimes. I’m saying there is disproportionate coverage of who the perpetrators are that are committing the crimes.

As a black person in America, I honestly try not to see racism in everything; but it’s there. Let’s look at the employment and unemployment rates now. African-Americans are consistently underemployed and unemployed than their white counterparts. According to the August 2014 Bureau of Labor Statistics: The unemployment rate for Whites is 5.3%, while African-Americans the unemployment rate is 11.4%.

So, why is there such a disparity? More than double. And please don’t tell me that it’s because of education and skill level. I know several African-American men that have the skill set and the education, but have yet to become gainfully employed.

Race is a hot button topic in America and it has been for hundreds of years. It cuts to the very core of our being. It hurts. It makes us angry. It scares us. But why? Why can’t we sit down and discuss race? This problem was created long ago and we continue to keep it alive by ignoring it and sweeping it under the rug and hoping it will go away, which is a misguided thought process. If we don’t start to talk about it soon there will be more Ferguson’s.

Are you ready and willing to open up the lines of communication about race and racism? If so, I’d love to have it with you.

17 thoughts on “Is Ferguson the Catalyst for the Overdue Discussion of Racism in America?

  1. Pingback: Blogging 101: Say “Hi!” to the Neighbors | from the sticks to the bricks and back again

  2. I came back to read the comments just to see if it is going to be possible to start “the conversation” that you feel is so necessary to fix the racial issues in America. I am afraid that it is just as I feared….there is going to be a one sided conversation. I am going to continue to hear you say things like: “it’s hard for white people to get in the conversation about race. I think part of the reason is that for the most part white people overwhelming have not experienced what black people have experienced for hundreds of years.” You, as a black person, cannot even begin to understand what I have experienced either. It is NOT about color. I, too, have been followed around a store and watched like a hawk. It’s not just a black thing. Sometimes it is a socioeconomic thing. So what? Let them follow me and watch me. I’m not doing anything wrong, so I don’t care. I sure am not going to make it into a race issue. Because it is not. It is not even profiling, in my opinion. It just might be that stores experiences has been either with black people or poor people stealing from them. I am not sure why, if you aren’t going to steal anything, it bothers people to be watched. Never have I made it into a big issue the way that President Obama or Oprah Winfrey has. I feel it is the store owners right to protect what they have. Based on whatever reason. Also, I have driven and walked in the streets of all black neighborhoods and feel just as uncomfortable (either because they are watching me, or in some cases questioning me as to why I am there, or even outright calling me “whitey). But once again I just kept going and didn’t turn it into a big deal.
    “As far as entertainment is concerned. Let’s be clear on this. You are correct in saying there are more white villains depicted in movies and television shows. 74% of all movie and television roles go to white actors; whereas less than 15% of roles go to black actors and when a black actor does get a role they are more often than not depicted in one of the roles I mentioned. Many Hollywood movies and television shows don’t even have a black person in a speaking role.” Sounds like another excuse to me. I see lots of black people on TV..news anchors, talk show hosts, actors, actresses, in commercials, that are NOT being portrayed as villains or criminals.
    My point here is this: If we are ever going to get anywhere in this country I think it is time for ALL people, black or white, to stop making excuses as to why their race is this way or that way. Come to table with an open mind and see where we get. It only has to start with 2 people. I, for one, am tired of hearing about riots and looting based on a black person being shot by a police officer and then it turns out that no one on either side of the issue really knew a real fact about the case in the first place. I am over the race card being played by ANYONE in America.

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  3. Yes, the country needs the conversation about racism, black/white and also Asian, Latino, indiginous, and all the variations of racism that affect people within their own lives. Unfortunately, every time we have a trigger event, there is a little bit of conversation and then it peters out until the next trigger.

    Meanwhile, I put my hope in progress over time. My daughters are in their twenties and it seems that their generation is less racist than mine; I’m in my fifties. I hope that multi-racial extended families like mine, which has members of European, African, and Asian ancestry, will increasingly be seen as just ordinary American families.

    Another place of hope is among various faith communities. A local pastor who is also a friend wrote a poem about Michael Brown, which I reposted with her permission on my blog here: http://topofjcsmind.wordpress.com/2014/08/28/poem-by-patricia-raube-about-michael-brown/. In Ferguson, we have seen many of the faith leaders in the forefront and I’m sure they will continue their work.

    I truly wish there were a way to end racism now and thank you for having a discussion and pointing out, yet again, that racism does exist. Ignoring or downplaying its existence is probably the least helpful stance in mvoing forward.

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  4. I have posted a link to a young man who speaks to the issues that people who live outside of St. Louis where I was born and raised cannot understand how bad those living in the area are not following up on the death of Michael Brown with stopping the black on black crime.

    This past week there were several murders and a few friends who I grew up with in St. Louis want a protest to stop the senseless killing of blacks on black crimes in the community.

    No media, no call to action by community leaders, no You Tube Videos, nothing just the senseless deaths of several people of color in a community that wishes not to gain the upper hand on crime. This same issue is played out in Chicago, which has the hight number of deaths of people under the age of 18.

    African American, Black American, Colored people and Negros are phrases currently used in the community where I grew up by different generations.

    People of color in the US use the word racism way too much in to gain sympathy for certain situation to their benefit. Racism will never leave the landscape of America when the country is divided by so many labels. Most importantly racism is not limited to just a certain segment of the US.

    The video speaks to how individually it is up to the person living in labeled depressed communities to step up and gain an education and move beyond the ignorance of the issues that hold most people from prospering because they feel and want to be seen as victims of racism.

    The true victim is seeing oneself as a victim. These two videos should be posted for all to see.

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    • Thanks for the links and I will check them out. I’m glad you brought up the word racism being brought up to gain sympathy or benefit a cause. I’m going to generalize here, but I do find that there are many instances in which ‘racism’ is screamed and it’s not that at all.

      You’re right that as long as we see people by the color of their skin racism will forever pervade America. And we will never come to know the individual.

      Black on black crime has always been a problem in our communities and no one really talks about that. I’ve heard some people say if they want to kill each other than let them. But I really think black on black crime from a lack of respect for oneself and for others. Those committing the crimes often times feel inferior and they feel they have to get rid of a perceived threat.

      It’s a pull yourself up by your bootstraps mentality, which I wholeheartedly agree with. If you want to get out of your situation, you’ve got to fight for and I mean fist fight and kill for it. You’ve got work for it and be willing work long hard hours at it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I think it’s discussion we as a country must have, and the sooner the better.

    As a black lady, do you see yourself treated differently by the police/authorities or when you visit stores? From what I understand, and being a white man I may not understand it enough, many of the people who are so angry over Ferguson are angry as much because they perceived that blacks are treated differently by authorities than anything else. For instance, I have a black friend who I see as the epitome of class and good taste (he’s a very high level professional) who occasionally tells stories of having store clerks accuse him of stealing his credit cards. I’ve never had that problem even if I’ve entered a store looking like a bum.

    Why does this still happen in America? I don’t know. The media does it because their audience expects it. Why does the audience expect it? Catch 22.

    Hopefully having people like Neil deGrasse Tyson so visible will help change perceptions, but I guess people have been saying that since before Marian Anderson sang at Lincoln Memorial and Jesse Owens triumphed against Hitler’s “supermen”.

    Of course because of people like Neil deGrasse Tyson and President Obama many people, at least white people, think we live in a “post racial” age. I’ve heard people say if you bring up the topic at all you are racist against whites. These people are actually serious.

    For me, the more I know black people as friends and colleagues the harder it is for me to form racist thoughts about people I don’t know. I see individuals, not stereotypes. But then it sounds like some sick parody of Affirmative Action to suggest everyone needs a friend from a different racial group. “I think I’m his friend just so he can reach his quota.”

    There are no easy answers, but the discussion does need to happen. Sorry if my comment is longer than your post. ; )

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    • Thanks Trent and no worries about your comment length. My replies have been pretty long. And we absolutely need to start the discussion now.

      I have had the ‘pleasure’ of being watched and followed in a store. I turned to the girl and asked her out right if she thought I was going to steal something. She turned a beet red and scurried away and I left the store, wrote a scathing email to headquarters and was promptly issued an apology and several gift cards, which I sent back because I had no intention of shopping there again. Anyway, I digress. I haven’t had any run in’s with the law, so I can’t speak to that. However, I know of several black males that have been stopped as it is commonly referred to ‘driving while black’. They were searched, their car searched, and just overall humiliated.

      Yes, why does this shenanigans still happen today? And why should we want to hear the negativity about a particular group of people? In doing so, does it help people to allow themselves to feel superior and continue to tout that black people are still savages and need white people to save them (being dramatic).

      Oh how I wish we were in a “post racial” age. I don’t believe that if you bring up race and racism you’re racist against whites. You’re simply trying to have a dialogue and gain insight into other people — hopefully.

      I have a pretty culturally diverse group of friends and I think when your social group is diverse it’s harder for you see the color of someone’s skin and you’re more capable of empathizing with other racial groups. And what’s left is the individual, just as it should be.

      And I love Neil deGrasse Tyson! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Neil deGrasse Tyson breaks the stereotype so well. Mothers can point to him and say, “Look, you can be good in math and science and still be cool.” He takes some of the stigma out of the “N-Word”. OK, I’ll say that word : “Nerd”. Sorry, I couldn’t help it – as a bit of a nerd he’s one of my heroes.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I am going to go out on a limb here and speak my mind. But only because you asked. I, as an older white woman, think that whites cannot get into the conversation about race because the blacks don’t want to hear what we have to say. I say that slavery ended way back in the 1800’s yet we are still talking about it. I DO say it is time to get over it. It was not my immediate ancestors or even their immediate ancestors who had a thing to do with the treatment of black people. I have to disagree with you when you say that the entertainment industry shows more black men as villains and criminals. I was a lot (and I mean a lot) of TV and I have seen far more white men portrayed as both. And when it comes to the news media I am very inclined to believe that they under-report the crimes committed by blacks against whites. Rarely is there a big deal made when a black police officer shoots a white guy. But if a white police officer shoots a black guys (or beats him) then entire towns riot and burn and loot their community. Often communities that have more black people in residence than white people. I DO think it is time to have open communication about the race issues in America. But I think both sides have to be able to be heard. The problem is not all about black people. I think those that are sweeping it under the rug are the ones who can’t let go of the past. It’s time for BOTH sides to move on.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paula, I completely appreciate you speaking your mind as this is how the dialogue opens up. I’m going to try and take your comment point-by-point as you have very valid ones. As an African-American, I will agree with you that it’s hard for white people to get in the conversation about race. I think part of the reason is that for the most part white people overwhelming have not experienced what black people have experienced for hundreds of years. I would love nothing more to move beyond the discussion of slavery, but it’s not something that can be done. Yes, the atrocity happened; and sadly the effects of slavery are in direct correlation to a lot of what is going on in 2014. We have to talk about it in order to get over, but we’re not sitting down and having intelligent conversations about it. You’re absolutely right you should’t have to penalized for what your forefathers did or did not do, just like African-Americans should not be profiled while driving down the street in an all white neighborhood or shopping at a store.

      As far as entertainment is concerned. Let’s be clear on this. You are correct in saying there are more white villains depicted in movies and television shows. 74% of all movie and television roles go to white actors; whereas less than 15% of roles go to black actors and when a black actor does get a role they are more often than not depicted in one of the roles I mentioned. Many Hollywood movies and television shows don’t even have a black person in a speaking role.

      The media absolutely under-reports crimes in general. I can’t say that crimes perpetuated by blacks against whites is under-reported because in my neck of the world (the DC metro area) I see a lot of that being reported, so perhaps what’s being reported depends on where you are; which I get. In my naiveté a crime is a crime is a crime. But for so long there has been a disparity in the criminal justice with blacks getting longer sentences than whites for the same offense; so while I completely disapprove of rioting, I completely understand it. People have to find a better way to get their grievances heard and taking to the street via rioting is certainly not the answer.

      You’re right that when the dialogue is opened both sides need to be heard. I’m not sure how to make that happen, but in order for us to move on we have to be heard.

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      • “Paula, I completely appreciate you speaking your mind as this is how the dialogue opens up. I’m going to try and take your comment point-by-point as you have very valid ones. As an African-American, I will agree with you that it’s hard for white people to get in the conversation about race. I think part of the reason is that for the most part white people overwhelming have not experienced what black people have experienced for hundreds of years. I would love nothing more to move beyond the discussion of slavery, but it’s not something that can be done.”

        This is not true. Slavery goes back thousands of years, and has encompassed all races. True, that in America only blacks have suffered, but world wide every culture has. My people were slaves to the Germans and Romans. Jews have been slaves dozens of times. Blacks held white slaves in Africa.

        The difference between all of these instances is that the people involved got past it, and realized it was just a part of their past. Which is why I said before that to hold this talk we need to move past the past. We need to accept that it occurred, but that that time is long over, Do you realize next year it will be 150 years since the end of the Civil War? If we cannot move past that point of our (and I say “our” even though most people in the US never even had family here then) history in 150 years, then we will never be able to have the discussion of which you speak.

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      • If you don’t mind clarifying what you meant by “That’s not true,” I would greatly appreciate it. I’m not sure if you’re referring to the part of my comment in which I stated “white people overwhelming have not experienced what black people have experienced for hundreds of years.” or the slavery bit.

        I won’t dispute that slavery goes back thousands of years, but for the purpose of my comment I was only referring to the enslavement of black peoples in the United States. I don’t disagree with you that we need to move past the past, but what I will say is that the psycho/social effects of slavery have never been properly dealt with. And I think that until that is truly dealt with the past will continue to crop up in present and our future.

        Sometimes you have to begin the conversation at the beginning. And yes the Civil War will be a 150 years old in Spring 2015. However, black folks were enslaved for 250 years. I’m barely four generations removed from having an enslaved relative. My great great grandparents were slaves and because of this I know a lot of the psycho/social effects it had on them and the generations that follow.

        There’s a really great four part PBS special called Slavery and the Making of America, which I recommend.

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      • I thought it was pretty clear, since the second sentence started off with slavery.

        “I don’t disagree with you that we need to move past the past, but what I will say is that the psycho/social effects of slavery have never been properly dealt with. And I think that until that is truly dealt with the past will continue to crop up in present and our future…My great great grandparents were slaves”

        This is where the problem lies, there is not a single person alive today who was a slave. There is not a single person today who owned slaves. Most of America was not part of the population when slavery existed here. What you are asking, and why what you ask can never be done, cannot occur because you cannot deal with physiological effects between two parties who have never been part of the experience. Who are you going to bring together for the discussion? Indians? Mexicans? Chinese? Russians? None of these people were part of the problem, and cannot relate, even remotely, to the discussion. Whites? Irish, Eastern Europeans, Aussies, etc., were not here during that period, we’re all post-Civil War immigrants. My mother-in-law’s family goes back to the Revolution, but they were northern anti-slavery, none of those alive today were part of the solution.

        If there are psychological problems among blacks because of it, it is of their own keeping, and must be dealt with inside the community, because there is no one from the other side left keeping it alive.

        Now, I will agree that there have been problems as late a the 50’s and early 60’s with segregation. But, so far as I am aware, they no longer exist. Nothing stops blacks from moving into any part of American culture that they desire. They are doctors, actors, singers, business owners, scientists, politicians, corporate executives, etc. Back in the early and mid part of my career I ran into discrimination as well, see I am not a WASP. Many companies I worked for would not promote non-Protestants, even one company where my boss was a black VP. My FIL was 100% Irish, and immigrated here at a time when “Irish need not apply” signs were posted everywhere. My grandparents came here because America needed people to go so deep into coal mines that neither whites nor blacks would go, but we were expendable. The Chinese were brought over to work on the railroads because they were cheaper to blow up than horses. My point being, everyone has been mistreated by America, we have all moved on. And none of us can help you because we were not part of the problem that existed before we were here.

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      • Perhaps what I am trying to say is, maybe the Civil Rights movement occurred as much because the makeup of American changed as because of the blacks involved. There were many whites who took part in the demonstrations and calls for justice. Yet, we are still being told that we are as responsible as those who were here when the problems existed. Is that fair?

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  7. I agree with you on many counts, and that is sad to say.

    I do think we need a conversation on it, but with cooler heads. Unfortunately, especially in the black community, there is no Dr. King anymore (at least not one that makes the media), it seems that the Sharptons and Jacksons have won the arena.

    To a large extent I blame neither black nor white communities about the current situation, Sharpton and Jackson excepted, I blame the media. Bad news makes news, and all we ever see, as you said, is the bad side. White kills black makes national, black kills white does not. Black deals drugs makes news, black rebuilds community does not. Black does drive by makes news, black runs successful business does not.

    We have/had a black business owner in my area, owned a local television station. He worked hard, gave money back to the community, bought land and donated it as a park (nicely named after him). Made the news the day the park was opened. To this day, except for those who were around at the time and maybe a few others, no one knows who the man was. Sad. I knew him personally because of his work in Scouting, and was at the ceremony where he was awarded the Silver Beaver (for those who know what that is). Sadly, the work he did in the local black communities passed with him.

    The good of the many is outweighed by the bad of the few. Both sides need to understand that racism will never go away, there will always be Klans and Panthers who work to keep it alive. The rest of us need to work *together* to assure that they are in the minority, and that we can all live together, putting the past behind and forging a new future. Then the Dream will be a living legacy, rather than a faded memory.

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    • I agree with you 100% on having the conversation with cooler heads. I no longer approve of the tactics that Sharpton and Jackson use. It does nothing but stoke the fire.

      I think the reason why black folks get so upset is because our plight has been marred with this type of violence for so long and other peoples don’t understand and there are a great many who refuse to even try and understand it.

      As far as putting the past behind us, we haven’t learned from it well enough to put it behind us. We definitely have to start with the educating ourselves and our young people on the past and the fight. Why was the fight — the Civil Rights Movement — so important? How and when did the color of someone’s skin become so divisive? What do we need to overcome this and realize that we are really and truly the same deep down inside? There’s so much that needs to be talked about before we can forge ahead to a new future. Wounds that need to need to be healed. Until that happens, I fear we’re going to be trapped in a vicious Ferguson-like circle.

      I didn’t know what the Silver Beaver award was until I just Googled it. According to your description of him it was well deserved.And it’s sad that his legacy died with him. That’s something that should never happen. Why can’t the good outweigh the bad?

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