You know, there has been talk about should we convene a conversation on race. I haven’t seen that be particularly productive when politicians try to organize conversations. They end up being stilted and politicized, and folks are locked into the positions they already have.
The whole speech is worth a watch, and a read, but this especially sticks out.
And, of course, how did people respond? With stilted, politicized shouting that indicated that we were locked into the positions we already have.
Former representative Joe Walsh tweeted that “President Obama is making this all about race. All. About. Race.” Breitbart.com’s Ben Shapiro called the whole thing a “ginned up racial melee.” On Fox News, Greg Jarrett posed rhetorical-ish questions about whether the president was running the risk of provoking “even more demonstrations, and let’s hope not, but potential violence.”
National conversations, organized by politicians, seldom work.
One of the least productive things you can say about any serious question is: “We need to have a national discussion about this.”
As a phrase, “We need to talk” seldom leads anywhere good. When we, as a nation, talk, the conversation that ensues is too often that the people whose job it is to say the wildest, most unhinged things possible to attract viewers say those wild and unhinged things, attract viewers, and no one’s mind changes. The echo chamber echoes. Foam flecks fly. Then we return to our corners. Much of the opinionating, following the trial verdict, seems like a contest of Who Can Shove His Foot Into His Mouth The Fastest? And that’s not what should come out of this.
How do you have a productive conversation about something as difficult as this? Where do you have it? With whom? Do you have it in public, in an organized manner, with raising of hands and reading of essays? Do you have a day when you gather everyone as a community to talk about it, the way it sometimes happens on college campuses after Something Happens that merits discussion?
Do you have it with your friends? Your real Friends or your Facebook friends?
One of the strange facts of modern life is how many of our private conversations happen in the quasi-public sphere of the Internet, where one person’s Facebook postcan become one of the most publicized responses to the Zimmerman verdict, and where there is always That One Guy Who Is Always About To Unfriend You Who Writes In All Caps Screeds, ruining any polite discussion you have going on. Private conversations about these things stand a chance of going forward, but when you have to have them with people watching, it becomes harder to listen. As we move from private talks to public and quasi-public discussion, where you’re cadging for Likes and Retweets, it becomes a lot harder to be civil and turns into more Let’s All Shout So That Only People Who Agree Will Focus On What We Have To Say.
But in this regard, the president’s conclusion was also striking:
On the other hand, in families and churches and workplaces, there’s a possibility that people are a little bit more honest, and at least you ask yourself your own questions about, am I wringing as much bias out of myself as I can; am I judging people, as much as I can, based on not the color of their skin but the content of their character? That would, I think, be an appropriate exercise in the wake of this tragedy.
And let me just leave you with — with a final thought, that as difficult and challenging as this whole episode has been for a lot of people, I don’t want us to lose sight that things are getting better. Each successive generation seems to be making progress in changing attitudes when it comes to race. It doesn’t mean that we’re in a postracial society. It doesn’t mean that racism is eliminated. But you know, when I talk to Malia and Sasha and I listen to their friends and I see them interact, they’re better than we are. They’re better than we were on these issues. And that’s true in every community that I’ve visited all across the country.
And so, you know, we have to be vigilant and we have to work on these issues, and those of us in authority should be doing everything we can to encourage the better angels of our nature as opposed to using these episodes to heighten divisions. But we should also have confidence that kids these days I think have more sense than we did back then, and certainly more than our parents did or our grandparents did, and that along this long, difficult journey, you know, we’re becoming a more perfect union — not a perfect union, but a more perfect union.
All right? Thank you, guys.
What worried me about Obama’s speech was his reference to “soul searching.” I thought there was SOMETHING that was out of the NSA’s search view. I was wrong.
Conservatives: you miss the whole point of the “remarks” when you latch onto the details of the legal case. If you had been listening all week to professional-level, well-respected and accomplished journalists like Eugene Robinson and Charles Blow, the primeval scream coming from the broad African-American community as a whole concerns the rules of conduct they convey to their sons. As a result of the verdict, all of the rules of conduct all of a sudden got shredded into little tiny pieces and left most members of that community reeling. Mr. Blow put it most poignantly: “Mr. Zimmerman says Mr. Martin was suspicious because he was walking too slow. I’ve always told my son to not run in public. So what pace do I tell my son to walk to avoid drawing suspicion to him?” Ouch! (I’m paraphrasing: check out CNN if you want to see that statement in full. You may disagree with the interpretation of events that night in FL; however, the feelings/emotions are real. Until that is acknowledged by the white community as a whole, we will make no progress.
Progressives: cool the name calling, please!! I know where you’re coming from because I don’t understand the right wing at all; however, when we resort to name-calling, we stoop to their level–and I think most of us are better than that. Instead, we all need to have compassion towards each other, regardless of race and respect above all else. Name-calling is not showing respect.
The next two chats, as I envisioned them, would have been simply Iraq and Afghanistan in which he answered the simple questions of: why are we there at all? Instead we have had a huge increase in covert schemes that now have Us forces and mercenaries fighting in more countries than ever – and still without any explanation from the president.
So yes, the president spoke eloquently about race but to what end? What does he, in his role as chief executive, recommend in the way of legislation?
Five years later, I am very disappointed in this president. he is no FDR and, if anything, he simply seems to be another iteration of George Bush I, vaguely moderate, rational enough, but without any core values or ideas. Sad, considering the hopes he raised for me and so many millions of other Americans.
I trust you mean
Robert Downey Jr
and JK Rowling?
Why doesn’t he comment on tet violence level present tin the black community?
Most blacks are shot by …buckle your seat belt … other blacks.
Despite the relatively easy access to firearms in Virginia we have nothing like the violence levels of Washington, DC or Chicago.