Archive for November, 2013

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Is it time for a Euro-American Engagement Office?

November 30, 2013

The “African American Engagement Office” officially opens next week as an outreach initiative by the Michigan Republican Party. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky) will take leadership of the Detroit office to “target minority voters.” Presumably, this will help Republicans understand how “those people” think, thus guiding them to understand why they should support the Republican party.

This makes me realize how valuable opening a Euro-American Engagement Office would be to understand how white people think. For example, how is it that Rand Paul, a Euro-American, thinks he can be an outspoken critic of the Civil Rights Act, criticize government requirements for businesses to serve minorities and still lead an effort to sway minority voters to vote his party?

Or how does one explain how Rand Paul describes freedom?:

“The hard part of believing in freedom,” he has argued, is that it requires believing companies should be free to discriminate on the basis of race, religion, or sexual orientation — even though he personally opposes such discrimination.

Wow! We white people; we are so puzzling. We say one thing and do another. What is wrong with us?  Perhaps the Euro-American Engagement Office can find out.

Following the lead of the Republicans who have opened the office in Detroit, which is nearly 83% African American, I suggest The Euro-American office be opened in one of the five whitest cities in the United States: Pittsburg, Cincinnati, Providence, Minneapolis or Portland.  While I am sure that there are some Euro-Americans that would insist a Euro-American should lead this effort, others are not really sure they are capable and so a search could be launched for a leader who is a person of color.

A Euro-American Engagement Office; think about it.

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“Race Neutral” is Fiction

November 17, 2013

Jelani-Race-Matters-Cover

“Race neutral” is fiction at its worst.

There is no race-neutral situation in this country. Race is a part of every encounter when racial differences exist. It may not always be the main part, a bad part, or the determining part, but it is always there. People of color know this; white people generally do not.

White law professor Ron Bretz, a professor at Cooley Law School and former criminal-defense attorney, was asked for his opinion about the recent Michigan porch shooting. Nineteen-year-old Renisha Marie McBride, a black woman, died on November 2nd when a suburban Detroit white homeowner, Theodore Wafer, shot her in the face as she stood on his porch just before dawn. The homeowner was charged with 2nd degree murder last Friday.

Bretz said both sides would be wise to keep to a “race-neutral” strategy

“Don’t go there. Keep it on the facts.  Who wants to bring race into it? Everybody else. … The defense doesn’t want that. And the prosecution doesn’t want to bring it in. I don’t think they need to.”

Bretz doesn’t see that “keeping to the facts” means we acknowledge that racial difference existed in that encounter. Refusing to acknowledge that race was one part of the whole story can skew the search for truth.  If the five white women on the Zimmerman jury had talked about race, justice might have prevailed for Trayvon Martin.

It is true that deciding to charge someone with a crime is based on the facts of law; not facts of race.  It is also true that our unwillingness to name and talk about race has led to charges not being filed when they should have been and verdicts being unjust.

In my experience, nobody runs faster from a discussion on race than white people. We are scared of it, don’t know how to do it, and are deeply hoping that our colorblind ideology – “I don’t see color when I look at people” – will somehow turn out to be true.

It is way past time to do away with that fiction.