Thursday, February 21, 2013 3:18 am Daniel J. Summers
Another American election year has come and gone. Four years ago, many thought our nation made a great stride in electing our first black president, and that we had eliminated racism. We didn't get very far into the following year before we realized that no, there was no substantive change; anyone who was opposed to the president's policies must be motivated by racism. Would 2012 bring any changes? I believe it did, and not the way we could have predicted at its start.
We are at a point in this country where the accusation of racism is a joke. (Read that closely - the accusation is the joke.) “I don't like my coffee black.” “RACIST!” (As it happens, I do, SO THERE!) There's even an entire meme based around it. More and more Americans are seeing these over-hyped charges of racism, looking at the actual thing accused, and realizing that the racism just isn't there. Noticing differences among ethnicities and cultures is not racist; in fact, if we don't notice these differences, how in the world are we going to incorporate them into the American melting pot/salad bowl?
Alfonzo Rachel, host of ZoNation, made an interesting point in his video released after the Republican National Convention in September. The whole thing's good, but the crazy part starts at 3:01.
If you can't watch the video, it's a clip of MSNBC's convention coverage, starting with a soliloquy from Touré.
But more to what I want to talk about - two main points. You know, he loves this line of “our rights come from God and nature” which is so offensive to so much of America, because for black people, Hispanic people, and women, our rights do not come from God or nature. They were not recognized by the natural order of America, they come from the government and from legislation that happened in relatively recent history in America. So that line just bothers me to my core.
You want to talk about offensive lines, sir? You just dropped one. That has got to be some of the most ridiculous talk I have ever heard. It's almost like you believe that the Constitution created God! God-given rights are rights whether a government recognizes them or not, and this is not limited to America; our founders merely recognized these rights that are inherent to all humans.
Let's square that with Dr. King's famous speech:
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I've been to Georgia and Mississippi pretty recently, and I'm pretty sure I saw people of all races living, working, and playing together harmoniously. I don't see anything in that speech about government being the grantor of rights; in fact, it almost looks like he's referencing the white-guy-written Declaration of Independence as if it's a good thing. Huh. If Touré wants to stand on the shoulders of a legacy, it certainly isn't Dr. King's.
The race card has been overplayed, to the point where it has lost its value. That, I believe, is a good thing; the only people keeping racism alive in this country today are those who claim to see it lurking in the shadows of every conservative's innocent words. However, these continued accusations run the risk of causing a backlash, and becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. There's a guy I know who says “If I'm going to be accused of something, I want to be guilty;” if the innocent are going to be accused of racism, they may find little motivation to even try to be sensitive of those of other ethnicities or cultures. This could lead to the further coarsening of our societal debates, which would be a bad thing.
May modern-day racists continue to be exposed for the fools that they are, as the rest of us see Dr. King's dream lived out in our nation.