Thursday, February 28, 2013

Race, Relation, & Relevance

Earlier this month I watched a program called Open Court on NBA TV. They were doing a Black History Month Special. On a panel of ten people, eight were black and former basketball players while the other two people in the room were white, Steve Kerr who once played in the league and the moderator of the debate. One of the things that I found interesting about this panel, despite the lack of diversity, was the perspective from Steve Kerr. During the debate, he made an interesting comment, (this is me paraphrasing) “at least black people have a month; white people didn’t get anything.” Which was in response to Charles Barkley saying the joke, does Steve feel guilty that black people were given the shortest month. This statement triggered my train of thought down the following path.

I have always wondered how white people feel when they see something like Black History Month, Martin Luther King Jr Day, and the Black Entertainment Television (BET) channel. Because what is interesting to me – this is a story that I have never told anyone else – but while working at a department store I overheard two of my white co-workers talking as I walked by the television department and one of them said, “if white people had a channel like that (similar to BET, I guess a WET) then other races would be up in arms.” Although I did not say anything and kept on walking, that conversation has always remained in the back of my mind (this happened ten plus years ago).

I think that if white people had a WET or a white appreciation month it would not be perceived well, to say the least. Without a doubt, other races would scream bloody murder. Hispanics, blacks, and Asians would probably feel as though their worst nightmares are coming true because these races perceive that the world is already dominated by the white man. If we look throughout history, Caucasians have basically taken whatever they wanted and claimed it as their own; they already have the twelve months of the year and they own the history books.

What I don’t understand is how white people see the world. White people, I think as a collective group doesn’t realize the fact that – although some of them may not be Warren Buffet or Bill Gates – they still have an upper hand on every other race, especially black people, and especially in America. I think, white people don’t understand that by being born white, they are given the benefit of the doubt and that is something a black man never has. I’m not sure what the first thought is that a white person has when they see a black man but I am almost certain that it is more closely associated with a negative image rather than a positive one.

With that being said, I know for a fact that some black people look at other black people and they will think something negative first as opposed to opening welcome arms to your brother; but don’t get me started on black on black racism because I feel as though that is a much larger problem and a topic for another day. I mean seriously, how can we expect other races to take us seriously when we break our backs to perpetuate stereotypes and continue the “crab-in-a-bucket” mentality. I believe that part of the reason for this is because white people have controlled the narrative and the headlines for so long that black people have taken the stance of “don’t bite the hand that feeds you” which throughout history has been someone with white skin. Therefore, black people will put down other black people just to have a seat at the white mans table. How can we combat this, for one stop looking up to celebrities as if they are the saviors of the world. Secondly, the African American community needs more positive role models besides seeing the same tired images of black people on television. Thirdly, we need to value education more, which is easier said than done.

Lastly, as a side note, when are we going to stop idolizing celebrities and entertainers and start valuing the hard working business man or the quality teacher or the two parents that are still together and putting their child through college? When are we going to give regular people a chance to tell their story? Everyone has a unique tale to tell, not just sports heroes.

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