Monday, July 15, 2013

The Youngin Speaks: Not EVERYTHING Is About Race

My son Adam is about to drive me crazy.

Why? Because he wants to teach me about race relations, and mostly I don’t think he knows what he’s talking about.

Here’s how it started.

My husband mentioned that while listening to the radio today a caller and the host began discussing Trayvon Martin’s legacy, and at the mention of the word “legacy,” Adam kind of went a little nuts.

“What legacy?" Adam wanted to know. "His death is tragic, but Travyon Martin isn’t a martyr. He didn’t die fighting for some cause! He’s not in the class of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Ghandi.”

Oh boy.

I’ve deliberately not watched, read, or listened to much about this case, because I just didn’t want to get swept up in the emotion of it. Also, a young man was killed, and as a parent, I don’t know, I feel a certain amount of respect toward Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton and their grief. If Martin had died engaged in criminal activity, I’d feel differently. But he didn't, and I don’t. So I haven’t had much of anything to say about this case. Plenty of other people were talking anyway.

But then Adam gives his opinion, adding something to the effect that while racism still exists that doesn't mean everything is about race.

And I say, “Well, when you’re black it is.”

And this response apparently was not what Adam wanted to hear, because I was then criticized pretty heavily for being “stubborn” and a bunch of other things that all boil down to me being resistant to “progress.”


“Not everyone thinks like you do, Mom,” Adam shouted. “You don’t speak for all black people! Older black people may feel that way, but not younger black people."


“Things have gotten better, you know,” Adam tells me.

Fine, I say. Tell that to the troll who referenced our "trashy, ghetto" neighborhood and accused me of being jealous of suburban whites because I expressed my opinion that US race relations aren’t that great. (Ironic, right?)

“That’s one person, Mom!”

Yes, I know dear.

Listen, I’m all for dialogue, conciliation, and improved relations. But like any relationship, it takes all parties to make it work. And from where I’m sitting, national dialogue about race relations is more or less at a standstill, because the majority of white leaders have pretty much taken their ball and gone home. There is no problem, they say. Or, they say, yeah, racism still exists, but it’s not THAT big of a deal.

Just yesterday, during an interview with CNN, Governor Rick Perry said “our justice system is colorblind,” and come on. Regardless of what you believe about the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case, you’d have to be a fool to think the entire justice system is somehow completely exempt from the bias that affects other societal institutions, such as the educational system.

Well, to be fair, perhaps Perry thinks the educational system is colorblind, too?

And, when I turn on the television, I don’t see much intelligent conversation among people of differing viewpoints. Mostly I see a lot of people of like mind yacking it up. And that’s on whatever channel I’m watching.

So, yeah, I might be a little stubborn. I’d like to think that our systems are free of bias, but I don’t. I can’t. If that makes me less “progressive,” then so be it. 

Sorry to be such a disappointment, Adam.


  1. You're not being stubborn, just realistic. Give your son a break, though, he's of the generation that believes they can enter a job and make it to the executive suite in a few months instead of years. They don't see the truck until it hits them unfortunately.

    1. Ha Ha, Charles! Yes, perhaps they're a little idealistic (and arrogant) about some things. Upon further reflection, I guess it's to be expected. It's just a parent's way to try and head off some things, you know?

  2. Have you stopped to consider that perhaps your son is right? Perhaps his generation has moved on and in his reality, this is how things now are. I applaud him and pray that he's right. Older generations are understandably biased by their experience, or, less understandably, continue to be goaded into, now trite, outrage by the likes of the ever-reprehensible Al Sharpton. I wonder how your son views him?

    1. Hey Anon. Nope, I have not stopped to consider that my son is right. Not for a second. I'll believe it when I see it, and that would be when these youngsters start competing for jobs, housing, etc. and they can do so consistently with more than a modicum of equality.

      That said, I hope he's right, too. Truth be told, this crap is tiresome.

      I asked Adam about Sharpton and got a blank stare for my trouble. Understand, however, that I don't think much about Sharpton either. I base my opinions on experience and what I hear on conservative television, like Fox News. I like my conservative news, but the reporters say some stupid stuff when it comes to race. See a post I wrote a few months back to understand more fully what I mean.

      And by the way, thanks much for your input and insight!

  3. I see your point, indeed, I would have either ignored those stupid comments, or just assumed that they referred to Obama's pre-governmental career.

    I have no doubt that you might, again understandably, see them in a different light, but there's the rub and the discussion that has to happen. Would your son interpret what was said as I might have, or would he have had a similar reaction to you?

    If the former, I am greatly encouraged and optimistic for the future. If the latter, I am tempted to despair.

    Though I have never voted for Obama, being of a more Libertarian bent, I was nevertheless hopeful in defeat that, if nothing else, perhaps his election would put the worst racial disagreements behind us as a country. I've been disappointed in this hope. I think he's more representative of a White/Liberal/Academic community than of an African-American one.

    Your thoughts?

    1. Hey Anon, don't be in despair (or even tempted to it).

      Despite my ire about the situation at large, I'm daily encouraged by the quality of my interpersonal relationships with white people. And I have both liberal white friends as well as more conservative ones. For example, one of my more conservative friends doesn't believe there should be a minimum wage! Hey, your name isn't Mike is it? Just checking…

      No doubt Adam would have heard those comments on The Five and just laughed and then let them roll off his back. I see no reason to obsess over it, but it does strike me as a pretty good example of how some conservatives say the darndest things without any awareness, it seems, of how they're coming off.

      On the other hand, some of the liberal media, black and white, say stuff so nutty I can't even listen to it--that's why I watch conservative news. But then again, some black conservatives sound crazy, too. Sigh …

      Hannity's doing some good stuff with the panel discussions he's been having, and I used to not like him at all. Too abrasive for me even. But I think he's on to something.

      In my view, we need more tempered voices on BOTH sides, and those who keep trying to shut down the conversations should be quiet themselves. In two of my Linkedin groups, people posted stuff about Trayvon Martin, and as soon as people started having some good conversation, someone else posted a comment about how certain things aren't "appropriate." Comments like this just cause more resentment from both sides. If people can be respectful they should be allowed to speak. Obviously people are interested. If you aren't, don't participate.

      I agree with you about President Obama. (My brother is going to kill me.) And, in my opinion, the only thing more scary than what's going to happen in the next three years is what's going to happen after that. The backlash from his Presidency is going to be terrible, I fear. That actually tempts me to despair, a bit.

      All that said, I have faith in most people's abilities to find common ground. It's corny to say, but we are all human. And I have faith in God, of course. But I don't have faith in race relations getting better through a willful "colorblindness." I think improved relationships of any kind involve a conscious choice. But perhaps the younger generation HAS made a choice, and I just can't see it. There's a thought.

    2. Hello I carefully read and reread this post and find it "interesting". To your youngman I would like to forward and experience. I am a father of 6 (4 boys 2 girls) ranging in ages 4 to 20. We live in an upper middle class neighborhood in Southern California. I have always prided myself on being "present" not just in the home when it comes to parenting.A few years back it was my habit to drive my children to school and pick them up on my way in. (Full disclosure, cars are my ONLY vice) One day I picked my two sons up and the older one asked "Dad what do you do?" I looked in the mirror, a little surprised, and asked my son what did he mean. "Amir, you've been to the office how many times? I asked. He said yes, but my teacher said "No, your Dad does something else and asked me "what does your daddy really do?". Needless to say she was gone within a month.
      Second instance My son was at school playing basketball. A caucasian child couldn't guard him so he started taunting my son. When that did not work he called him a "monkey", when that didn't he called my son a n--g-r. My sons friend heard it and went to the playground monitor and reported the boy. The Principal called me and informed there were 2 pieces (problems) he needed to discuss. The first was the incident, the second was that "I think your son is blocking it out". I asked what he meant. He stated "Well he (my son) says he doesn't know what ni--er means" and I'm concerned he's blocking it out" I stated no he's not blocking anything out, it is a word we do not use he does not hear it on my television, radio, in my or my wifes nor inlaws conversations. So why would he know what it means? When I arrived at the school and inquired as to the other childs repercussions the Principal stated "Well he's from a really good family and I'm sure he didn't know what he was saying." I stated "are you implying that my child is not or are you excusing actions because you think it does not effect my son?" "Either way that behavior is either learned in the home or tolerated" But I expect this to be treated in the same way as that child calling a Jewish child a "kike" would be. In accordance with school policy ZERO tolerance.

      Yes relations are improving but the are far from improved. Trayvon Martin will be continually relevant because EVERY father who has a son was reintroduced to the fear of the dangers lurking around every corner for every black young man. We are the only black family in this community and have been from the day it was constructed. My children have 90% white and asian friends. We have potlucks with our community twice a year along with Halloween parades, Easter egg hunts and countless birthday parties. But these incidents are real as is the poison of racism. I have a standing requirement of ALL of my children. DO NOT EVER argue with an adult. If they find themselves in ANY issues pick up your cell and call DAD. If stopped by police PICK UP YOUR CELL AND CALL DAD. DO NOT TALK BACK< DON'T DEBATE, DON"T EXPLAIN, just call me and stay on the phone until I get there. When your son becomes a father he will understand, but not until then

    3. In response to "anon" i find it a little annoying and suspect when one cannot stand behind ones opinions. Moving forward let me be clear, I have not been on the side of those who chase every event attempting to stamp it. That being said what is the difference between Sharpton and Limbaugh/ Hannity? They the 3 chase every incident and see the worst of it and they all use events for financial gain. Hannity and Limbaugh better than Sharpton. So why is Sharpton the "reprehensible" one? Further who is this "older generation" I myself have been pulled over 35 times and ticketed 22, car towed once (returned the next day by the city with apologies from the City of San Diego) in 1 year. Am I jaded? No but I am realistic. Obama spoke words again that only a father can speak to his son. My son Amir just returned from 7 weeks in Europe and asked if he could go to college there. His take is that its so different. My heart couldn't take him being that far away. Anyway the point is nothing Mr. Obama said was wrong. He hit it right on the head. And let us be clear if this child had a been a white, 16 year old girl walking home through Harlem and a dark skinned puerto rican suspected her of say prostitution and she ended up shot dead on a lawn, how do you think the white community would have reacted? The fear of them when it comes to their daughters being assaulted, taken, murdered is the same feeling we have in regard to our young black men. BTW "anon" what defeat are you refencing? I to my recollection seem to remember Obama winning not being defeated...

  4. Ken, you know as well as I that there's a double standard at work here. If I was African-American, I wouldn't hesitate to use my own name, but White people simply don't have that luxury. We have learned the hard way that the race card is too easily dealt. This IS the conversation and people like Reverend Al have stymied it. This is his legacy and the legacy of those like him. Limbaugh and Hannity are entertainers; in it for the ratings and they don't incite rioting and they don't race bait - but this is all besides the point.

    Whether you intend it or not, your first sentences have the edge that makes White people nervous that the card is about to come out. Make no mistake, it's very clear how those so labeled are tarred; by the media and every other entity scared to be seen to be condoning it. Absence of condemnation is treated as endorsement.

    Obama's added nothing to this conversation. He doesn't stand for you and he doesn't stand for me. He's no different from every other self-indulgent, holier than thou Fresh Fields shopper; highly educated and yet knowing nothing.

    I find your analogy quite a stretch. I suspect that the reality of the Trayvon Martin case is that both actors were punks and when two punks encounter one another, there's often violence. The media and our predictable Reverend succeeded in turning this episode into yet another story about racism, but I'm not buying it.

    Go ahead. Deal if you must, but why can't we just have a discussion?

  5. I fail to see what you fear. Point one, I have not played any card, (oddly you are the one introducing it) Secondly your analogy of Sharpton in relation to Limbaugh and Hannity are flawed. Sharpton no position other than "activist". The other two have the almost universal backing of 1 of the most powerful political parties in this country, as well as one of the most powerful and influential television stations. Sharpton has a bullhorn. Point 2, my suspiciousness of those who are "anon" have nothing to do with race. I do not know, nor do I assume your color or political leanings, the fact is you have assumed and thereby limited the dialogue two people with honorable intent could have. Point 3 it is obvious you have a dislike for President Obama which may handicap your ability to see his value to this conversation. When Malala Yousafzai spoke of the horror of treatment suffered by the Taliban was her point if view not relevant? This is a black man who grew up as a black youth suffering the treatment we all have speaking to the world saying this is real and it MUST stop! It pulls back the dirty bedsheet and exposes the stain of ugly bed sores we in this country want to "pretend/ ignore do not exist. Yes it's painful but truth sometimes is...

    To your last point there is no "stretch" to my analogy at all, infact it is spot on. Teenage white girls are treasured by their community as much as our young black men. The manufactured, and mostly imagined fears they have are equal to the fears based in experience and result that we do. Why do I state manufactured? Because of the almost 15,000 rapes committed in this country almost 10,000 are perpetrated my "white males" according to the FBI, and DOJ. You are revealing yourself, (careful)You have now labeled a 16 year and 21 DAY old child a punk. Why he has NEVER been arrested, nothing and no one has stated he was a gang member, trouble maker, disrespectful, misbehaved in school, thief, or criminal. On the contrary the other was clearly "character challenged" and had a "criminal record". So going by fact there can only be ONE "punk" in this tragic event. Last point you again absolve Hannity and Limbaugh from ANY responsibility in "stirring the pot" and make Sharpton the instigator in all things. This is and was deemed racially precipitated by the fact that had this child been white Zimmerman would never have paid ANY attention to him.

    In closing yes I will "DEAL" because I am a responsible father with children living in a world that chooses to excuse racism as irrelevant and will continue to do so until an act of violence and loss of life is placed at their door and the experience of pain becomes real...