The Race Card

17 02 2008

FeaturesI first saw Richard Thompson on The Colbert Report of all places. He was interviewed recently for his latest book, The Race Card, which deals with accusations of racism where there either is none or is not reasonable amount of evidence to suggest that racism is involved. For more information on the book, visit the New York Times book review.

The ideas offered by Richard Thompson reminded me of an incident several months ago that provoked a similar response from me. At Miami University in Ohio, an art student placed seven nooses in a tree above a tire swing in such a way that the nooses could only be clearly seen from the swing. It was meant to juxtapose life and death. It had been previously accepted by the art department and was to be on display for less than twenty four hours very near the art department’s building. However, by the end of the day, police had turned the area into a crime scene, the officials at the university were considering what penalties should be handed to the students involved, and the news across the U.S. was depicting the completely innocent students as racially insensitive.

noose

Interviews with students yielded commentaries on the events:

“I feel really disappointed because I’m a minority here, also, and this action shouldn’t be on campus,” said Weiying Wang, who is from China.

“Especially on a campus that’s dominated by white people and it’s only a few black people,” said Nick Winbush. “It’s probably only three-percent black people. I don’t think it’s acceptable.”

“Anytime you see something like that, you think of all the lynchings that were done,” said Towns, who saw the display before it was removed. “For anyone who is black, it depicts a time that you don’t want to relive.”

I argue that all these people are being completely unfair, if not absurd. First of all, this was done only days after Halloween; the atmosphere of Halloween should have been enough to take the ropes seriously.

Second, we know that the project was not racially motivated. If it was racially insensitive, and I insist that it wasn’t, it still was not a hate crime. The students should not be punished for society’s faults, for seeing too much good in people. I can’t imagine how I would feel to have to stop and consider the racial consequences of my every action. That isn’t to say I don’t try to act in a most respectful manner toward all people. I just don’t make an extra effort for some people based on the color of their skin or the nation of their heritage.

Third, nooses do not symbolize lynchings of black people. They symbolize death (as was their purpose in the art project). They have been used for thousands of years on people of every race in most every country. They have been used on people of every race and nationality within the U.S. itself. Furthermore, they have not been used in the recent past in the U.S. for much other than suicides. Minorities who suggest that nooses are racially insensitive are being racially insensitive. They are thrusting aside the deaths of millions of people and telling the world to focus solely on their struggles, and if not theirs, then their parents’ or grandparents’ struggles.

Many minorities cry that racism hasn’t gone away. Perhaps at some point they should look at themselves and ask why they aren’t letting it go away.

I’m not suggesting that there aren’t many real racism problems in the U.S. On the contrary, there is still a lot of work to be done. I’m simply suggesting that as long as minorities insist on others’ racist motives when there simply is no evidence to suggest them, racism can’t and won’t go away.

If I saw a noose hanging from a tree on campus, I would be probably be a bit concerned. I might wonder what is going on and what its reason for being there could possibly be. However, I would not immediately consider the possibility that it was created as an insult to minorities. There simply isn’t enough evidence to suggest that. If death by the noose is racially insensitive, then why the heck am I just as scared by the thought of be hanged as anyone else? Death is not simply black or white.

For further reading on this issue, please visit the following sites:
Everything isn’t about race
Academics’ artistic freedom only protects left wing provocateurs

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