Saturday, February 21, 2009

My Thoughts on the Eric Holder Race Speech and Rebuttals

Our new Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech Wednesday on race relations in the US. He spoke about people selectively segregating themselves. I thought it was a great thing for the top prosecutor of the country to speak so plainly. I also expect him to enact the policies that compliment what he said, otherwise he's just whistling Dixie out his butt. These things needed to be said though. I found one important aspect that seems to have gotten lost in shuffle: he called for Blacks to be more open to expanding their social networks as well. A lot of Blacks are very reluctant to leave the confines of their immediate neighborhoods and mingle with other people of different classes and races. 

I grew up in a very segregated area that admittedly was designed that way for exclusionary purposes, but I always made an effort to seek out a variety friends. It was awkward and I didn't quite understand what compelled me to do so. No one in my family was actively encouraging me to do so either. I just knew ultimately it would be good for me. Growing up I had always been encouraged to do well in school and I loved to read. 

I had a core group of classmates that I sometimes socialized with after school. We all had similar goals of no babies out of wedlock and college. They were in fact in a higher income bracket than my family. So when I came into contact with some other students in high school who didn't have the same background I had to "deal" with them. They only hung out with other Blacks from the lower classes and were defiantly anti-intellectual. After being called "white girl" one too many times I confronted one female with a pop quiz in Black history: 10 easy questions I think every Black American should know. She couldn't answer one question and that forever silenced her and her crew as to who was "Blacker". 

I told her if she didn't even know her heritage she could not define "Blackness". I have never wanted to be white by the way I just wanted to be myself. That included listening to the Cure and buying my clothes at a thrift shop. So what Eric Holder mentioned is of great importance to those that isolate themselves and miss out. This is especially true for Black women who refuse to widen their dating pool and seek out marriageable quality men of all ethnicities. Black people especially need to get out of all-Black settings because they all too often lead to an extremely warped view of what it means to be Black. 

Also because we need to learn how to navigate our lives in many scenarios as well as be equipped to work around racism when we can. The ally or mentor we need to progress career and life-wise may NOT be another Black person. Go chew on that! So I was really surprised by Dr. Melissa Harris Lacewell's Op-Ed piece blasting AG Holder. She says:
"But ultimately, Eric Holder's discussion of race in America was a failure. It failed because Holder spoke more like a grade school principal than like the attorney general of the United States. He framed our nation's continuing racial work as a struggle to feel comfortable, be tolerant, and have "frank conversations about racial matters."

I appreciate the sentiment, but I would prefer Holder use the Department of Justice to sue those who illegally discriminate against racial minorities rather than holding encounter sessions in the lunchroom. 

Eric Holder has something more. He has the law. I don't want my attorney general to scold me about having conversations; I want him to tell me the lawsuits he plans to file against those who continue to practice educational, employment, and housing discrimination."
I understand she wants systematic racism acknowledged and addressed and I completely agree. I also think this is the same argument that fuels the Civil Rights Industrial Complex and promotes too much of a victim mentality amongst the masses. It's why the focus is still on white cops who shoot Black men who may or may not have criminal backgrounds. It's why the NAACP only takes up the cause of a Black man that's been harmed by a white person. Black women are rarely part of this call to arms to protect and support. Black on Black crime and the murder rates are completely ignored. The protectionist attitude of "saving the oppressed Black male" is seen as the only perspective. 

It fuels the Obama as Messiah perspective. It's not realistic, not happening and it encourages people "to wait" on the benevolence of others. It promotes being passive instead of active participants. Laws can be changed to be favorable one decade and punitive the next. I think enough of our ancestors have paid the ultimate price. It's time for a new strategy. 

Also this doesn't address the internal motivations of many who will not step into their power and pick up the mantle of leadership. There's a bit of a destructive element going on in the Black community where people are turning on each other - except when it's to decry "racism". The focus cannot be solely on that. We are stronger than that. We can do better now. It's a choice we can make. 

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