Posts Tagged ‘race and racism’

Why We Still Need Racial Tension

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Reading Amy Ta’s “Race, Rage and Reality in America” article on was intriguing as authors Ellis Cose and Eugene Robinson discussed their books outlining 2011 perspectives on race and racism in the U.S. But as is so often the case, the really interesting stuff was in the back and forth of the comments that followed the article. There were a variety of arguments being wagered—most passionate, many hard to follow and others even harder to take seriously. Most ironic in all of it was the incongruence between the rhetoric of those who declared that race was no longer important, and the vitriol with which they proclaimed it. The commenters “doth protest too much, methinks.” This disconnect between message and delivery reinforces the fact that in the midst of the traditional race debate, we’ve begun to forget why racial dialogue is really important.

The tensions surfaced by race talk actually represent our struggle with inequality, discrimination, and privilege in our modern society. Race talk in the U.S. is, in part, dialogue about dealing with the plight of an historically significant minority population and the ongoing impact of many decades of discrimination. We could have similar conversations about indigenous people in the U.S. (as one commenter noted) or about gender, or immigration. Each of these conversations is unique as the issues that arise have unique origins and present-day dynamics. The black-white race discussion has had particular heat about it for many reasons and has served as a focal laboratory for this most critical societal conversation.

But the critical conversation is not really just about black and white people. Whether the race problem is solved or not is not the only thing at stake in race dialogue. It is also a conversation about how we come to terms as a society in dealing with injustice, discrimination, privilege, and forgiveness. The issue of black-white race differences may someday fade into the background of society. Racial difference may someday no longer dictate how we live with one another. That was certainly Martin Luther King’s dream. But that does not mean that we will not still be challenged in how we deal with inequality and inequity. I think it unlikely that all bias and unfairness will somehow be eradicated. History suggests that the odds of that are not in our favor. So for today, we would do well to remain engaged in racial dialogue as a way of continuing to learn about ourselves and our society.