Some of the things I'm wondering amid all the chatter
about the identity of the Boston bombing suspects:
What percentage of Muslims worldwide are "white"? (Although what's white in the USA isn't always white in other places.)
What percentage of Muslims in the USA are white?
Is "white Muslim" an oxymoron to some people?
Why does it matter if the bombers are white?
What, exactly, is an "ethnic Chechnyan"? Does that mean a person from Chechnya is a different ethnicity than a person from, say, Georgia or Azerbaijan? Is this the same thing as an American being a Southerner or a Westerner?
These are not, for me, rhetorical questions. I really don't know, and I'd like to figure it all out.
I got this video from a young woman who read my MLK Day "Color and Character" story
. She is the only black student in her class. "I am standing here today to help you understand the discomfort I have felt," she says. Definitely worth watching.
Another poignant barbershop moment today.
I get my hair cut by a black man who has a shop in a small suburban community that is affuent and almost all white. He's in his late 30s with several children of various ages. He has operated his shop in the same place since 1995. We were talking about dogs when he made this comment paraphrased below:
It's funny about white folks with dogs, man. You know I got kids, I've been had kids. And as many times as I've walked around here with my kids, nobody has ever said anything to me about my children. But if I have a dog with me? Man, I can't tell you how many white people come up to me and want to see the dog, talk to the dog, pet the dog. They will cross the street to come see this dog. I'm telling you, man, we could go outside right now and do an experiment, keep a tally and everything. It's true. All these people want to come see the dog. And I'm like, I have some pretty cute kids, too.
So the columnist Rob Parker questions whether RG3 is "really black" because he "refuses to be defined by race," has a white fiancee, and may possible be (gasp!!) a Republican. Then again, Parker says, RG3 has braids. This is an age-old discussion in black America. But the rug may be int he process of being pulled out from under it due to changing times. Steven A. Smith has (gasp!) some insightful things to add to the discussion. Worth watching to the end.
UPDATE: ESPN just suspended Parker
This should be taught in all history classes:
- 1790: Naturalization Act, which limited citizenship to “free white persons.”
- 1882: Chinese Exclusion Act, which barred Chinese immigrants for 10 years (later extended). This law also prohibited Chinese immigrants from naturalizing. Provisions repealed in 1943.
- 1907: Gentlemen’s Agreement, in which Japan and the U.S. agreed to stop issuance of passports for new Japanese laborers to come to the U.S., but the U.S. allowed immigration of family members of Japanese residents already in the country.
- 1917: Immigration Act, which barred immigration from most countries in Asia.
- 1923: A U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which said Indians from Asia were not white, reversing previous court decisions allowing them to become citizens.
- 1924: National Origins Act, which extended earlier prohibitions on Asian immigration but exempted Filipinos, who lived in an American territory.
- 1942: A presidential order during World War II that allowed the secretary of war to remove Japanese Americans from certain areas; eventually, 120,000 were interned in camps.
- 1945: The War Brides Act, which allowed the entry, with no quotas, of foreign-born women married to U.S. servicemen.
- 1952: McCarran-Walter Immigration and Naturalization Act, which allowed Asian Americans to become naturalized U.S. citizens.
- 1965: Immigration and Nationality Act, which opened the doors for new immigration from Asia. Spouses, children under 21 and parents of U.S. citizens could be admitted without quotas. The law allowed up to 20,000 immigrants per country and 170,000 from the Eastern Hemisphere; family members and some categories of skilled workers were favored.
- 1980: Refugee Act, which redefined refugees more broadly, thus granting asylum to boat people escaping Vietnam.
- 1990: Immigration Act, which increased the ceiling on new immigrant visas, especially for family members of U.S. citizens and for skilled foreigners requested by U.S. employers.
(Source: Pew: The Rise of Asian-Americans)
Shout to the homie Dan Lippman
for the link. Classic material.
Now that President Obama has won a second term, the “Because He’s Black” political argument is trickling down to his administration. (Previous episodes are here
Susan Rice, as you might have heard, is being hounded
for her initial statements that the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was sparked by anger over a film that denigrated Islam. The strongest criticisms have recently come from two Republican senators, Lindsay Graham and John McCain, both of whom are white. (At least 97 of the 100 senators are white. The newly elected Mazie Hirono
of Hawaii was born in Japan. Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Marco Rubio of Florida are Hispanic.)
Some black Democrats are saying, directly or indirectly, that Rice is being attacked because she is black:
“There is a clear sexism and racism that goes with these comments being made by unfortunately Sen. McCain and others,” Congresswoman Marcia Fudge of Ohio said Friday
. She may have been referring to McCain’s comment that Rice, a Stanford graduate and Rhodes Scholar, is “not very bright.”
Earlier, Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina was asked by liberal commentator Chris Matthews why Rice was facing so much “hostility … why do they treat her like she’s someone to punch?”
"That’s exactly right. This young African-American woman, I might say," Clyburn replied
Hmmm. You be the judge.
It must be said: This type of exchange is not new. The infamous “You Lie” moment
is widely seen
as an example of racially motivated disrespect
of Obama. Even things like the debt ceiling debate have been viewed as evidence of racial opposition, by folks like Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee
and Michael Eric Dyson
(whose "the economy in the hands of the black" seems to have been inspired more by Dyson's love of Tupac
Speaking personally, as a black man: It can be difficult to keep the “Is It Because I’m Black”
question out of my head. When I get treated differently than I might like or expect, it’s impossible to know for sure if my brown skin is a factor. But I do know that a certain un-pin-downable percentage of Americans have biases against black people
. What to do with that information? I try very hard not to act on it. Suspicion just makes things worse. And overall, I know that racial bias can’t keep me from the important things in life.
But suspicion seems to work in politics.
: This morning, Clyburn was asked specifically if there was a racist component to the criticism of Rice. His reply
focused on use of the word "incompetent" to describe her.
"You know, these are code words," Clyburn told CNN. "These kinds of terms that those of us -- especially those of us who were grown and raised in the South -- we've been hearing these little words and phrases all of our lives and we get insulted by them."
"Susan Rice is as competent as anybody you will find. And just to paste that word on her causes problems with people like [Rep.] Marcia Fudge, and certainly causes a big problem with me. I don't like those words. Say she was wrong for doing it, but don't call her incompetent. That is something totally different. A lot of very competent people sometimes make errors."
I'm not a huge fan of barbershop reporting--the idea that the essence of the black male experience can be divined from the places where we get our hair cut by other black men. That said, my barber told me something the other day that really moved me.
We were talking about President Obama getting reelected. My barber is about my age, so his story would have taken place in the mid-1970s. This is what he said, more or less:
I was about in the first grade. Someone important came to our class, and he was trying to make some connection with us by going around the room and asking what we wanted to be when we grew up. I can still remember the classroom, what it looked like. I can remember the names of the kids who were there that day. They went around the room saying fireman or astronaut or whatever. When it got to me, I said, "I want to be president!" And the whole room laughed at me. They all laughed. Even the guy who was visiting laughed a little bit.
I'd like to talk to the people int hat class today.
Who among us is without faults? This is why I try to overlook the faults of others. Yet I often fall short of this requirement when it comes to America. As we prepare to vote on Election Day, amid a sea of rancor and divisiveness, this Baha'i
prayer reminds me that for all its imperfections, America is a special place that has been, and still can be, of incalculable service to humanity.O God! Let this American democracy become glorious in spiritual degrees even as it has aspired to material degrees, and render this just government victorious. Confirm this revered nation to upraise the standard of the oneness of humanity, to promulgate the Most Great Peace, to become thereby most glorious and praiseworthy among all the nations of the world. O God! This American nation is worthy of Thy favors and is deserving of Thy mercy. Make it precious and near to Thee through Thy bounty and bestowal.
Even before Matt Drudge linked to it, I knew that my latest story
would anger some liberals and black people. My job is to report what people of all backgrounds are thinking and feeling about race. Many people who find a particular belief offensive—in this case, that some black people vote for Obama mostly because he is black—assume that I share the belief that is being written about, or at least want to promote it.
Here’s one such response I got last night: You should be very proud that your shallow story is being used by partisan Republicans to claim to white voters that black voters are being racist. You could have written a much longer and serious story that might have explored various "dog whistle" (if you do not know the phrase refers to you might do a little reasearch) that Republicans are using against the man they call the "food stamp president". And that pehaps black voters have noticed. Or compare Obama policies versus Romney policies on dozens of issues of concern to black voters and consider whether black voters might believe Obama's policies are better for them in the same way that, perhaps,companies that pollute believe Romney's policies are better for them. Or you might consider whether Supreme Court decisions are important to black voters and they would rather Obama name justices than Romney (you may not realize this, but black voters do know about the Supreme Court.) Or dozens of similar major issues.
If I say you are a lazy reporter, am I suggesting you are black, with the same dog whistle John Sununu employed when he said Obama was lazy? No, I am just saying you are a lazy reporter, which I just did, not knowing or caring about your race, though I suspect some black voters (correctly) were offended by Sununu's dog whistle comment.
Did you send your story to Matt Drudge? Or your editor? Or the Romney campaign?
(a white man who does not appeciate dog whistle politics or stories such as yours).
I understand where he’s coming from—the same place that conservatives were coming from
when they were angered by my piece a month ago exploring whether white people oppose Obama because he is black
. I expect this kind of thing. Maybe I encourage it with my writing style for these pieces, which is factual reporting combined with a heavy dose of analysis (which is prettyclose to opinion). So I’m not mad at the man who sent the above message. We had an email conversation, although he probably ended up madder than when we started.
However, I was mildly surprised that a good number of conservatives, and one or two blatant racists, responded negatively to this article. Like so: Blacks vote for obama because they are inherently dumb. Look in the mirror and then read your own piece believing someone else wrote. Dumb, right? It is the best interest for you and others who still enslave the Black race for your own benefit that you keep them thinking of themselves as a lesser people. Whitey is the evil boogie man.You tell them, your dumb, uneducated because you were slaves, had to ride the back of the bus. Of course 95% of those you convince where never there. Today it is the Black race and Black so called leaders who are the RACIST of the 21st century. Educated Blacks go one of two ways . They get out of the ghetto and Ghetto thinking, become productive and asimilate into the general productive population, or like yourself, they prey on their own race as slave masters.
I hate the N word, but you and your kind are that.
Or like so: I appreciate the overall subject of your article. I reject its conclusion; that it's right, or at least understandable that black voters will vote for black candidates simply because they are black, but it is wrong for white voters to vote for white candidates because they are white. … I don't know your race or background, but I can easily see your politics by the piece you wrote. Whoever you are, you have done a disservice to your profession with ignorant misstatements of historical fact, one-sided quotes and uncrticial thinking. You have perpetuated the false and illogical principle that it's okay for today's American blacks to view politics through race-colored glasses, but it's wrong for any other race to do the same.
It’s believed that people read and remember news/information that reinforces the beliefs they already have
. But what about a balanced story like mine, which presents both sides of an emotional issue? It seems to me that some people can selectively read a single article and extract what they like or dislike, while simultaneously ignoring/debating the information that counters their preconceived notions.
I try not to be that person. I find it healthy to assume that I'm wrong a good portion of the time. That way I can keep searching for truth.