From Jenée Desmond-Harris at The Root:
If we’re going to have this “national conversation” again, can we set some ground rules?
So, if we’re going to have a “conversation on race,” I offer this nonexhaustive list of ground rules and reminders. It’s based on my hope that we can retire some of the predictable talking points and misleading themes that do nothing but derail the type of dialogue that’s been called for once again.
1. Talking about race isn’t racist. Don’t say that. Vilifying people who discuss race and point out racism — making them the bad guys — is one of the ways racism is maintained. So is acting as if “blacks suffer from racism” and “whites suffer from reverse racism” are equally valid points of view.
2. Yep, sometimes there are different standards for black and white stuff. You are going to get a different reaction for White History Month and Black History Month. A black person making a joke about race is different from a white person making a joke about race. To accept this requires letting go of the idea that this is really simple and thinking a little deeper about context and history. Please give up on the “But what if the races were reversed?” line of thinking. That type of analysis makes conversations simple, but it also makes them totally unhelpful.
4. Remember that while “race” itself isn’t real, racism is, and our country’s long and well-documented history with racism has very real, lasting effects. Therefore, being “colorblind” is not helpful because it cripples our ability to deal with the tangible effects of racial inequality in just about every area of life.
5. Black people shouldn’t have to fit your definition of what’s respectable to deserve equality or justice. It’s silly and unfounded to blame inequality caused by institutionalized racism on, say, sagging pants or rap music. If you want to celebrate black people who are educated and high-achieving and defy persistent stereotypes, great, but that can’t be a requirement for fair treatment. We got into trouble with this type of thinking when evidence that Trayvon Martin was a normal teenager messed up so many people’s impression of him as a sympathetic victim.
6. Don’t defer to people like Bill Cosby about their theories about black people, any more than you would defer to a miscellaneous white celebrity about how white people are doing. If you need guidance, look for someone whose background offers evidence that he or she had the incentive to spend some time seeking information and thinking critically in a professional capacity about whatever it is the person is discussing.
7. Individual racism and systemic racism are two different things. We should care about all the structures that maintain racial inequality, not just individual actors. (This is why it’s not unreasonable to jump from George Zimmerman’s impression of Trayvon Martin to racial profiling by police.) That said, individual acts can provide strong reminders about larger attitudes and problems. Ahem, Paula Deen. Ahem.
There are some others but I think you get the gist.
Imagine going to marital counseling and being told that only your spouse gets to talk. That’s pretty much what Ms. Desmond-Harris wants the rules to be. Patterico tried to engage her in a civil discussion on Twitter and she blocked him.
My rules are a little simpler:
1. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
2. No one is entitled to their own facts.
3. You cannot tell other people what they think or want.
4. When you are not talking, listen.
5. If you disagree with someone, attack the argument, not the person.
6. Fix the problem, not the blame.
Obviously my list is “nonexhaustive” too.
I am encouraged to see more people speaking up and deviating from the politically correct dogma. Half a century ago we made a lot of progress on racism in a fairly short time. Now it’s time to finish the job.
So let’s talk.