Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Hurricane Race

When am I going to hear a sane voice on the issue of race? One the one hand you've got Kanye West saying that "George Bush hates black people" and on the other hand you've got the famous pictures of white people "finding food" and black people "looting."

I hear white administration officals saying that "we are doing all we can," while I heard one black male say that he knows for sure that the government intentionally broke the levee in order to drown blacks.

I have to believe that the reporting has to be somewhat responsible for this charicature of the general population. So, in my attempt at sanity on the topic of race, I have to conclude that George Bush does not hate black people and the response to the disaster has been weak.

What most damages race relations in a situation like this is the extremes taken and the huge publicity those extremes get via the media. What is covered as the race problem is not actually the race problem. So, let's think about this, if the percevied problem is not the problem, then the real problem gets ignored. That's a problem that pertuates the problem.

There is really very little overt and intentional racial hatred in America. There is the occasional murder based solely on race, but nothing like Rwandan genocide. However, that does not mean that there is not a serious problem. We're not off the hook. What lies under the surface is what is quite disturbing.

I like what Janet says about race from Larry James' blog.

I have done quite a bit of research on "invisible" racism. It is interesting to me that, as I conduct my interviews, White people continuously say "it's not about race," yet, later on in the interview will make a prejudice comment. I don't believe their comments are intended to be ugly and mean. It's actually acceptable in our society for some of those stereotypical comments to be made--especially when we're around other people who look like us. However, even though those comments and assumptions aren't intentional, they still lack the knowledge of what is truly happening in our society with people who are poor (and Black...and Hispanic). It is one thing to go this weekend and talk to someone and hear the pain of what they are experiencing. I would suggest that we go even further and use this tragedy as a wake up call to build relationships with and get to know people within our communities who are struggling on a daily basis. Perhaps once we know them and hear what they have to say, we will begin to feel the pain of our neighbors and friends and begin to do something more than blame them.

I think that what she is saying is that there is a kind of "accidental racism" that emerges within a population from a lack of diverse personal experience. Most Americans, especially white Americans, have a second hand relationship with "people of color." We see an extreme through the media and then slightest personal experience reinforces the pre-existing (and perhpas unknown) bias.

What needs to happen is for people of all races to become personal stakeholders with people of a race not their own. This is not some kind of charity or hand out relatioinship. I mean a stakeholder - someone who matters in the person's life when it is going great and when it is going badly. I guess the word "friend" would be better than stakeholder.

Transracial friendships are not just a neat idea or some kind of "good deed." It is necessary for healing to come to our nation. There needs to be a redefinition of "us" and "them." When a group says, "us," it needs to mean something other than a racial distinction. There needs to be a multiracial voice to that "us." When that happens, there is going to be a lot less chance of racial offense to the "them" that "us" is talking about.

The problems in New Orleans as it relates to race did not appear with Katrina - but they can be healed in her wake. Well, that's a little optimistic. There can be a healing process beginning in her wake.

Tens of thousands of New Orleans residents have been displaced. 67% of the population is black. Over 70% of Americans are white. This is an unpreceidented chance for racial reconciliation, for racial healing and for the "Great American Melting Pot" to actually do some melting.

However, efforts to "whitenize" (a term I heard once) blacks will only be met with resistance and further widen the racial gap. This huge displacement of epople could be a total disaster on the racial front. It has not gotten off to a good start.

This is going to be one of the greatest challenges in the category of race since the 1960's. We'd like to say we've come a long way as Americans on race, and legislatively we have. But how far have the hearts of people moved since the 1960's? Since the 1860's?

If you havhe a chance to house someone of another race, then do it. If you have a chance to serve, to listen (MOST OF ALL LISTEN) then do it. Enter the world of the stranger and feel their pain. It will be awkward. It will feel strange. It might get uncomfortable, but do it. This may be the one chance you get to connect or make a friend from a vastly different culture.

May God bring healing from so much pain.

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