Speak Your Mind, Honesty Will Follow

by Guest Contributor Big Man, originally published at Raving Black Lunatic*

While cruising through the internet the other day, I stumbled across a blog post for a major publication that was shocking because of its blunt honesty. Those of you who consume the mainstream media know that on certain topics, particularly race, there is a lot of hemming and hawing, but very little blunt honesty.

Anyway, the post, which you can find here, was about the hurdles Obama will have to jump to get votes in areas where folks can’t fathom supporting a black man for president. It’s a topic most of us are familiar with, and it’s one that’s been discussed rather frequently in this campaign.

Here’s an excerpt from the blog where the reporter is talking to a guy in Kentucky about Obama’s chances in the state. The guy is explaining he won’t vote for Obama.

Race,” Patrick said matter-of-factly. “I’ve talked to people—a woman who was chair of county elections last year, she said she wouldn’t vote for a black man.” Patrick said he wouldn’t vote for Obama either.

Why not?

“Race. I really don’t want an African-American as President. Race.”

What about race?

“I thought about it. I think he would put too many minorities in positions over the white race. That’s my opinion. After 1964, you saw what the South did.” He meant that it went Republican. “Now what caused that? Race. There’s a lot of white people that just wouldn’t vote for a colored person. Especially older people. They know what happened in the sixties. Under thirty—they don’t remember. I do. I was here.”

Not that’s some blunt honesty for your dome.

Black people commonly say that we would rather an openly racist person to one that hides in the shadows, but, man, when you see that crap out in the open it is pretty jarring. I mean, it’s one thing when somebody is racist and they have no power over your lives, but an openly racist person that can affect your life is a frightening prospect.

For me, the scary part is that once you’ve established that someone or some people are just blatantly racist, what’s your next step. Can you really appeal to the better nature of a racist? If you become angry and denounce their racism, will they even care? They may try to avoid the public scorn, but will it affect their hearts in any way?

It sounds good to say that open racism is easier to combat, but really combating any injustice depends on the person committing the injustice feeling some shame, or having the power to get vengeance. I’m not sure either of those dynamics exist in a case like the one involving the guy from the New Yorker article.

How do you battle entrenched racism, particularly when folks believe that their racism is justified and reasonable? This guy, and many like him, clearly believe that black progress is a threat to the livelihood of white folks, and nothing anyone says will convince them otherwise. No statistics, no experts, no personal anecdotes can convince most racists that their racism is an incorrect emotion.

So, I wonder how we as a country, particularly we as black folks, should proceed. Clearly, we cannot afford to isolate ourselves and hope that racism will disappear on its own. Not only do we not have the resources to do that, but studies have shown that some prejudices can be erased with exposure to new experiences.

But, is it worth our time to engage and discuss racial issues with people who have clearly embraced a way of thinking that will never allow black folks to be full and equal members of society? How are we supposed to hold a conversation with someone who has clearly stated that they believe that black politicians are only out to help black folks? Even if we ask them what that says about white politicians, will they even care?

In the black community, we often liken ourselves to crabs in a barrel who pull down any other crab attempting to escape to a better life. We ruefully chuckle that this mindset is a “black think.” Yet, clearly, that’s one of the biggest lies every told to black people or told by black people. It’s a human reaction to view the progress of others as a threat to our own progress. It’s perfectly human to react with fear and lash out when we feel that chance for the “good life” is slipping away?

Obama has argued that if we improve the conditions of all Americans, we won’t have to worry as much about racial strife because prosperity breeds unity. Yet, I wonder if the prosperity only hides the fault lines that have existed and may always exist. I wonder what it takes to change the core of a man or woman.

Honestly, I’m just wondering.

*Latoya’s Note – I originally spotted this on TPM, so I linked there, not knowing that the real author of the piece was not the TPM poster.