Bourgeois Deviant

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Race Line and the Magic Bullet

It certainly has been a big Labor Day weekend in the news cycle. To try and encapsulate all of its events would be nearly futile as my day job efforts continue to distract me from this outlet; however, I do have some thoughts to share.

Kanye West gave voice to the subtext nearly everyone who is either a minority or liberal was thinking, at least a little. The man has a point, sort of. However, I will be contrary here and say that Bush cares, but only to the extent that his privileged upbringing and executive bubble existence allow him to. The man and probably a majority of this administration plebes more than likely have no clue how to begin to appreciate the magnitude and gravity of what has happened. Nor do they have any real concept of what life is truly like for most people of color in this country. That the poor have been the most affected by the devastation of Katrina is no surprise. That the poor are mostly black and minority is not so much a surprise, but is more telling of the racial problems still saturating American society.

I think the Civil Rights movement in the United States accomplished a Herculean feat in its efforts to break down the walls of racial division, achieving equal rights and considerations under the law for minorities. However, using Katrina’s devastation as evidence, it is more than clear that the progress made by Dr. King and President Johnson and those that followed either did not take root or those roots are still shallow. To the point, inequality in this country has only grown and more often than not, the economic spread is greatest between white and black. Legislation was only the beginning. More needs to be done.

To say that legislation was not enough to overcome a racially divided America is pretty easy. To hear that coming from a white guy like me may be a bit unconventional. More unorthodoxy like this is needed from many more people. I had some friends run for President back in 2000. The Brown/Milner platform was certainly eccentric. However, in its eccentricity, there was a brilliant, if not cartoonish jewel within it. One of their platform items was a proposition for mandatory interracial marriage. This allusion is not an endorsement as much as it is just a rehashing of a cool radical idea. It is always better to deal in facts, but to get outside the box, what if something like mandatory interracial marriage came to pass? Moreover, consider what could be learned about the similarities and differences between people.

At the end of the day, love is going to do what it will and you can’t legislate it one way or the other *cough*. The learning is what is important here. Education is the magic bullet that can solve this problem better and faster than any law ever could. For those of us who had the good fortune to ever partake of a study abroad program or join the Peace Corps or like outfit, how much did it teach you? What did you learn and how much of that still influences you today? It was profound and you couldn’t get it from a book. Right? Experience is the ultimate educator regardless of who you are.

LBJ said, upon signing the Civil Rights Act, that it would kill the Democratic Party in the South for the next several decades, and he was largely right. In the 2004 election, I can’t remember there being any blue states south of Maryland. This cannot flatly be construed as the LBJ prophecy manifest, but it colors the observation. Having technically grown up in the South (shout out to NoVa and Band Camp) I can attest, that with some exception, there is still a color line in the country. Tour around North West DC and take it in, then go to South or North East and tell me if you think there is a color line. I can safely guess that it is similar or more pronounced further south of the Mason Dixon line.

Like love, you can’t legislate culture. Some have tried, but barring something glaring that I am overlooking because of mindless busy work here in corporate America, all have failed. What does have impact on culture, to point out the obvious, is prevailing thought and trends as dictated by art, literature and events on a broad scale. The rift between the races and the economic classes has been somewhat breeched by these things, but not as much as it should or can be. Again, more needs to be done. Certainly we can say again that there are two Americas. Making one America is essential to get back to what the country once was. A place where the streets are paved with gold and the average person can expect that with hard work and tenacity, they can earn the American dream.

So, with mandatory interracial marriage not being a realistic or viable option, what do we do? How do we get the kids from Laguna Beach to realize that their lives aren’t realistic? How do we get kids from the slums of Akron Ohio to see that there is a way out and up? How do we get a welfare kid from South East DC to be friends with a millionaire kid from Potomac, Maryland? How do we get that kid from Potomac, Maryland to realize that he isn’t all that different from the South East, DC kid? How do we get an elected executive that grew up privileged with no cares in the world to see that his life is just as valuable as that of a garbage collector that lost everything he owned and loved in a storm?

These are all highly idealistic questions, but they need to be asked and more weight needs to be given to that kind of idealism. That weight was once there and can be again if our kids are taught to think, question and be a part the community and world around them. If all that starts with Kanye West speaking subtext to power, I am all for it.

Off Topic: Is it just me or is the BBC kicking the b'jesus out of American network news coverage of the Katrina aftermath? Also, has anyone picked up on the incongruity of newscasters, i.e. Katie Couric, broadcasting from these storm pummeled places and the dome in Houston and they are looking flawless? Makeup and clothes are perfect? Does anyone else thing that this aesthetic hurts the credibility of their newscast?

Lastly, if you haven’t read Maureen Dowd today, you should. (TB)

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