Social Question

JLeslie's avatar

Do you think it best to ignore racism and eventually it will dissappear, or to discuss it openly to help get rid of it once and for all?

Asked by JLeslie (54559points) January 11th, 2010

If you have been around fluther for a while you have probably read more than once that generally I feel people are too easily offended. I speak of this related to race, religion, and generalizations about any group.

Recently, as many of you know, Harry Reid’s remark about Obama has received criticism for being racist. But, is it racist, or was he stating facts about how Obama would be received and perceived?

Wouldn’t we have to get rid of the field of Market Analysis and Sociology if demographics and psychographics are now off limits; or, at minimum politically incorrect to discuss?

But, most important to me is my original question. If we cannot discuss racism without the fear of walking on egg shells, how can we have an open conversation and make things better? Maybe it is better to ignore it? Maybe if we just persist on insisting that anything that acknowledges a persons race is racist it will dissappear?

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35 Answers

jaketheripper's avatar

I think anytime we sweep real issues under the rug we are doing a disservice to ourselves and others. But on the other hand you can talk too much about something and that can be detrimental. For instance it seems that a lot of reasonable criticism of Obama is discredited with accusations of racism when they are simply not true.

poisonedantidote's avatar

racists should be openly mocked and ridiculed at every possible opportunity until they quit it.

JLeslie's avatar

@poisonedantidote Do you think Harry Reid was racist in his statement? Maybe part of the problem is we don’t all agree on what is racist?

6rant6's avatar

Racism will not go away if unchallenged. It’s biologically based that we align ourselves with “like” people. But the concept of “like” that is imprinted in our brains does not fit well into our modern lives. We’re quick to label others in the “Them” category rather than the “Us” category. This is doubly true for people who look different than our family. It takes integrity to look beyond those instinctive reflexes and take the time to find out what people are really about. In fact, strangers are more apt to be involved in pursuit of common interests than they are to be involved in opposing us. We have to get to know people to understand out relationship to them.

Even more important, if we allow racism to go unchallenged, that may be seen by third parties as acquiescence or even as support. Though I may prejudge someone occasionally on the basis of race, I recognize that as a weakness in me – not a right or intelligence. When it happens, I appreciate it being pointed out to me. And I point it out to my friends and family when it happens to them.

Nullo's avatar

I’ve noticed that every single time race gets discussed, it reignites the issue: Who’s to blame. Who, if anybody, deserves restitution. How many layers of eggshells. Any of these can lead to resentment of one party by another.
Since racism is a learned behavior, it stands to reason that if we purged it from our records and completely ignored it as a culture, the problem ought to go away. Sadly, this is somewhat impractical.

poisonedantidote's avatar

@JLeslie got a link? i have no idea who he is.

my racism to me is quite specific. a very heavyweight term, i don’t like calling little things racist because i feel it detracts from the seriousness of the charge.

EDIT: listening on youtube now…

ucme's avatar

Racism along with all bigotry unfotunately will never dissappear. There are always going to be extremists peddling their putrid ideals. Fortunately the vast majority of people abhore these redundant morons. They’re where they belong, marginalised & ridiculed. Better still, they’re there to stay.

smashbox's avatar

Racism has existed throughout human history. It may be defined as the hatred of one person by another—or the belief that another person is less than human—because of skin color.
“link” :

What is there to discuss? Knock the shit out of the racist jerks, be done with it, and go enjoy your day.

JLeslie's avatar

@poisonedantidote Reid had commented that he liked then-Senator Barack Obama’s chances because he was a “light-skinned” African-American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” He was discussing why he thought Obama had a real shot at being president. It came up now (what was said a while back) because it is mentioned in a new book, Game Change, that was just published.

poisonedantidote's avatar

@JLeslie “had a real shot at the white house cause he was light skinned with no negro dialect unless he wanted to have one’’

no thats not racist, its ignorant as hell with a racial tribalism element to it, but its not racist. it would have been racism if he has said “i dont think obama should be president because he is a negro” or any other statement that would try and deny him something because of his race.

i can understand how someone would call this racist, but its not racist in my book, its just ignorance from someone who probably happens to be a racist. you need to try and deny the person something or discriminate against them in some form.

it is a little racist what he said, but i reserve the term racism for when it actually comes to ’‘no you cant have this job’’ or ’‘you cant be paid the same’’ kind of statements.

the statement as it is, actually seems in favor of obama, all be it in a crazy weird kind of way. it sounds like something a racist would say in an attempt to not be racist.


i dont know why i said ’‘my racism’’ in my previous post. i think its cause i started to say ’‘my definition’’ and then deleted and started over on what i was saying. so just to be clear ’‘my racism’’ i have no racism. thats just a typo and now i cant edit it.

JLeslie's avatar

@poisonedantidote I just take it as a straight analysis of evaluating some obvious things that might affect his chances in America. We still have racism, we still have people who perceive blacks speaking a certain way (even Whoopi Goldberg on The View today said sometimes she talks black depending on the situation, saying we all know what he means), even many blacks perceive lighter skin color as a more desireable trait, let alone whites feeling more comfortable with it. I don’t think it was a matter of right or wrong to discuss or mention these things, just reality of what is really out there, what might be obstacles.

wonderingwhy's avatar

A little from column A, a little from column B – and a whole lot of willingness from everyone involved.

People do need to be more thick skinned and it has to be addressed. So long as society’s institutions aren’t marginalizing people based on their race things should work out in the end. Unfortunately, I really feel that’s about as far as we can come as some people believe what they believe because it’s what they believe, not because they’re a logic or system of thought behind it that you can point to and try to correct.

On top of that, you have a slew of other issues such as economic status, education, geography, access, etc. that are lumped together with it. Not everyone who is a poor minority is poor because they’re a minority, but that’s too often forgotten which leads to trying to apply a solution to the wrong problem while failing to recognize the root cause. The resulting lack of success in turn leads minorities to feel more marginalized and so the cycle reinforces itself.

Oh, one other thing just to throw out there. Let’s not forget, while racism is often thought of in terms of denying a particular race an opportunity, right, etc. for absolutely no reason than because they’re said race, it works the other way too.

poisonedantidote's avatar

@JLeslie well, i think Harry Reid was certainly entitled to say what he said. freedom of speech is just as important as getting rid of racism. but the use of the word ’‘negro’’ would certainly allow one to read between the lines. and in this case i think that is what has happened.

Harry Reid should be allowed to say this, and i dont think he should be asked to apologize or resign for it. he did not try and deny anyone anything because of their race.

i think, making a big deal out of this is a good example of why i dont call small things racist. when you call a statement like this racist and make a big deal out of it what you are actually doing is making a little deal out of the KKK, linchings, denying people jobs and all the other real serious racist things.

the actions of the KKK should not be put on the same level as this statement, and vice versa.

JLeslie's avatar

@wonderingwhy I agree that all of those issues are wrapped together. Mostly I think socio-economic status influences generalizations and statistics we can make about groups, way more than race, relgion, etc. Seems in America it is taboo to talk about social class AND race though.

@poisonedantidote I agree, I think the use of the word negro might be a problem, probably more to do with his age, but certainly he should know it is not a commonly used term anymore. I would admit he may be guilty of generalizing about groups, I just don’t think he is malicious, or trying to hold anyone back. You are right, he was optimistic about Obama’s chances,a nd was always supportive of him.

poisonedantidote's avatar

@JLeslie well, generalizing and racism have totally different words because they are totally different things. change the word negro for black and i cant really say anything negative about it at all.

someone should have warned him though, to not use that word.

Nullo's avatar

I wouldn’t necessarily rely on groups that actually use terms like “anti-hate” in their URLs for unbiased definitions. Sounds like they have an agenda.

JLeslie's avatar

@poisonedantidote He said it off the record, and someone didn’t respect that. I think most of us can be a little sloppy behind closed doors, without meaning any harm. Anyway, we agree overall. Thanks.

wonderingwhy's avatar

@JLeslie it is taboo to talk about. Often I wonder if that’s because if it’s too openly discussed and acknowledged by society (and perhaps most poignantly the politicians) we will have to take concrete action to begin resolving it, many of which will fail dramatically the first time through… and I have a hard time seeing any political party willingly entering that minefield.

“Hey if we ignore it or throw a little money at it maybe it will go away! Or at least we won’t have to deal with it and therefore can’t be held responsible for it!”...


poisonedantidote's avatar

@JLeslie well, the english language makes it very easy to slip up and generalize. i have found my self doing it too at times.

marinelife's avatar

It should definitely not be ignored. How will open conversations ever occur if society is ignoring it when something may or may not be racist?

wonderingwhy's avatar

@marina sadly people are all too capable of ignoring just about anything if it doesn’t directly effect their daily lives or sense of security and are often just as willing to accept it if they feel confronting it will only make their lives more difficult.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I think it needs to be talked about. Not only to try and get rid of racism once and for all but to also pick people up for playing the “racism card”. Both are equally important because one breeds the other. I have an example:

I do casual receptionist work and one day my colleague (who happens to be Indian) was serving a lady who looked like she was from the far east. My colleague told the lady that she couldn’t do something (I forget what it was now) because the facility was about to close and the woman actually accused my colleague of being racist saying that a white person would have been allowed through. I was gobsmacked at the nerve of the woman. although the situation turned amusing when my colleague turned around and said “have you seen my face” BRILLIANT Anyway, the duty manager (a white, Welsh man) was called and he was treading on eggshells around this woman for fear, he too, would be accused of racism.

Racism and everything it breeds (such as my example) needs to be discussed openly and without fear and the term racist shouldn’t be thrown around willy nilly.

JLeslie's avatar

@wonderingwhy Minefield is right. I was hopeful Obama might be able to positively affect things, but I don’t think he is really interested in doing anythig dramatic on the subject. Regarding blacks, seems Cosby is the most out there and vocal, with Oprah touching on things sometimes and some of her guests. I think their messages many times have to do with conformity which people seem to resist. Going with what read said, Oprah has said things like, “English is your friend. Speaking English well does not mean you are speaking like a white person.” I live in Memphis now and I think this is a lesson people here should listen to. Growing up, outside of DC, my high school was very diverse and this was not really an issue. I will give you an example. A black woman I know, she has a college degree, and a good job, uses the word “stay” instead of live. I stay in Collierville. White people around me say things like, “they us stay, because they don’t know where they are going to be next week.” This is not true typically, they are simply using stay synonomously with live. But, I feel like clueing her in, since she has not figured it out on her own that all the white people around her never use stay.

I tend to learn hard towards conforming. You can do anything in your home and neighborhood. Speak any language/dialect, practice your religion, dress as you want, style your hair as you want. But, when out among the public it typically serves a person well to conform. That is my opinion anyway.

OpryLeigh's avatar

@JLeslie I think I agree with what you are saying (that’s if I haven’t misunderstood). I dislike it when people appear to be not conforming to prove a point (in most cases, there have been some exceptions where I didn’t dislike it but they are few and far between). I am all for being unique but this is something that should come naturally regardless of skin colour and if the only reason that you are not conforming is to prove a point then quite often you are alienating those around which is not helpful when it comes to dealing with racism. Now, I am not saying that people should forget about their roots or act (insert skin colour here) but when it comes to something as silly as Oprah’s example then I agree with her.

Did any of what I just said make sense? I know how I wanted it to sound but found it difficult to put into words.

JLeslie's avatar

@Leanne1986 I was kind of saying a few things at once. Good you commented. One point was what you bring up, to prove a point, like they should be allowed to change the English language and it should be accepted and not judged. I have heard excuses like their native language has different rules so gramatical and conjugation errors are made in English. I read this defense when 15 years ago there was a lot of talk about ebonics. Well, that excuse works for the immigrant only in my book. If the children are born and raised in America there is no excuse. My husband makes a mistake that is very common for Spanish speaking immigrants (He will say thngs like I didn’t went, or I did said, understandable, he is thinking since he is speaking about the past that the verb should be in the past. It is one of the few mistakes he makes, his English is so close to perfect it is surprising he misses this) his niece and nephew don’t, they were rasied here.

Another point is that if I bring this up to the woman I mentioned above, I think she will be very offended, maybe think I am being racist, instead of listening with open ears and really hearing my intention of wanting to clue her in on how she is being perceived. She may not be aware, because I don’t think any of the white people around her are telling her what they are thinking. Does that make sense? I think this is why conversations can’t take place, because people are so easily offended it has become ridiculous.

My husband’s company just came out with a list of phrases that cannot be used when answering the 800 line at his company. Many of which are southern phrases, not specifically phrases black people tend to use. It is his company saying when dealing with the people calling in we have to speak mainstream English. I see nothing wrong with that, they should be easily understood when working customer service lines. I wonder if any of them were offended? Like the big executives are being condescending? Much like in politics today people are attacking the “liberal elite.” There is a backlash against education right now, it is ridiculous. In retail stores I worked in we had to speak English to each other while on the sales floor, unless dealing directly with a customer who spoke a different language. I think that is reasonable too.

OpryLeigh's avatar

@JLeslie Thanks for adding more detail, I agree with every point you made above!

Austinlad's avatar

Not talk??? NO! Only by conversing face to face about a tough issue is there any hope of finding a solution. More importantly, when people talk, we stop being just faces and having “positions”—we get to know each other as human beings who, despite our differences, are pretty much alike.

meagan's avatar

Honestly, I’ve noticed that racism usually comes from the “minorities”. I’ve always been nothing but polite, but I’m always called white girl – and am constantly criticized because of the town that I’m from.

Most racism stems from laziness and trying to make excuses.

JLeslie's avatar

@meagan Can I ask where you live?

meagan's avatar

@JLeslie You can ask. But I won’t tell you. :P

JLeslie's avatar

Not even the region? Are you in the south? That is my assumption, but assumptions are wrong all of the time.

meagan's avatar

@JLeslie Yeah, In the south. Before I graduated high school years ago, I thought… racism is silly! Everyone, get along! But now I’m realizing the insanity of this stuff.

JLeslie's avatar

@meagan Did I offend you that I guessed right? I don’t mean to offend, but I hear what you said quite abot in the south. I also have never met people so PC in public, and racist behind closed door. You should know that the majority of the country is very different. I honestly, after living here (I am near Memphis) understand why whites and blacks feel how they do here, but I find it very disheartening. My friends who have moved here from other states, we all say the same thing, that we were not prepared for the tension and devisive nature of black and white relations in the south. Such an obvious delineation of living standards between the two races. I don’t think I know anyone who has a friend from the other race here. Yes work friends maybe, but not outside of work.

I actually think you might be really able to see my point that people need to not be so defensive, reactive, or assuming people have mal intent. I would guess your statement has something to do with black people assuming you are trying to use them or you are trying to get away with something that will ultimately harm them or take advantage of them. That they overreact, won’t be helpful? Even when you have all good intentions. Maybe I am wrong.

I asked a question on fluther a while back if people became prejudice as they got older. If they had been raised liberally, without racism, and then once in the work place and having to interact in society as an adult, if they actually formed more stereotypes in their heads. I thought of it because I had been talking to someone wo was commenting on Oprah saying that children are taught racism by their family.

I wish I could encourage you to make a difference where you live. and to not focus on the negative that reinforces the idea behind what you said. But, what I really want to advise you is get the hell out of the south for a while, and see how other people live.

meagan's avatar

@JLeslie No, not offended. Not really sure how you got defensiveness out of what I said :P

JLeslie's avatar

You were not defensive. Just checking.

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