Discussing Race Is Not ProvocativePosted by YaVaughnie Wilkins on Feb 20, 2012 in Featured, Social Issues | 1 comment
After reading the first paragraph of Gwen Ifill’s article, “Black History or American History: What’s the Difference?” (dated 2/16/12), I sighed deeply and tucked the article away to skim at some later date.
For as long as I can remember, it has been a contention of mine to hear and read black intellectuals opine and complain about “the hardships of being black in America”, citing statistics, court rulings, dead authors, civil rights leaders of days gone by, etc. While I agree that our past has had lasting ramifications on our present, I wasn’t in the mood to read past, “I’ve often wondered what it meant that the month we set aside to take special note of African American Achievement is the one that’s usually only 28 days long.” Argh.
But given my deep admiration and respect for Ms. Ifill, of whom I have been a fan since the early 90’s, when I began to follow politics after stumbling across a round table discussion she participated in on Meet the Press, I decided to revisit the aforementioned article (16 days later) before the end of “Black History Month” (out of self-guilt).
As I continued to read the article, I respectfully disagreed with Ms. Ifill’s assertion that our “society overlooks minority accomplishment” because, quite frankly, all Americans overlook the accomplishments of Americans, in general. Admittedly or not, we live in a self-centered, gluttonous, A.D.D.-ridden society that does not pay attention or homage to the accomplishments of any American sect. Therefore, it is a stretch to single out minorities as holding the monopoly on unrecognized achievements. Especially when we hail and honor Americans such as Oprah Winfrey, Reverend Al Sharpton, Lester Holt, Vernon Jordan, Ralph Ellison, Ray Charles, Thurgood Marshall, George Alcom, Jr., Mariah Carey, Andrew Young, Aretha Franklin, Muhammad Ali, Bryant Gumble, Michele Norris, Miles Davis, Sydney Portlier, Michael Jordan, Maya Angelou, Colin Powell, WEB DuBois, Roy Wilkins, Lena Horne, Richard Pryor, Al Green, Chris Rock, Patricia Bath, Michael Steele, Tyra Banks, etc.
I also could not appreciate Ms. Ifill’s assessment that race is not a priority of discussion due to the fact “we fear” the topic. Quite frankly, I don’t go out of my way to discuss race, though I am half black and half Mexican, because it just does not matter in my day to day life. My mornings do not begin with me thinking, “I’m black. I better let everyone know it.” When pumping gas into my car, I am not thinking whether the non-minority next to me paid homage to minority accomplishments today. And I don’t walk my dogs thinking, ‘that white neighbor doesn’t celebrate the accolades of my people’.
Yes, we can all learn from each other if we talk about race. But we learn more from each other when we talk about experiences. My life experiences are quite different from Gwen Ifill’s; her experiences are quite different from Jonathan Capehart’s; and all of our experiences differ greatly from Jesse Jackson’s. All this is to say that “Blacks” come from an assortment of communities, so at what point do we as Americans just share our varied shades of experience and perspicacity?
But towards the end of Ms. Ifill’s article, I began to realize that that was exactly her point. I mistakenly pre-judged her article as ‘another black rant on what’s wrong with America,’ when all she wanted to communicate was that there is so much even we minorities don’t know about our own history as Americans; whether that history is 200 years old or 25 years old. It’s not that we “don’t know” because white Americans don’t want us to know, but rather because we don’t talk about our history with each other. Essentially, discussing race does not have to consist of slavery and oppression. Race – black, brown, beige or white – should be celebrated out of the deliciousness of curiosity, and of all our ancestors contribution to our great country.
Shame on me for almost missing this article. I should have known better because, after all, it is Gwen Ifill, who has earned more respect than I offered.
Article Tags: American History, Black History, Black In America, Gwen Ifill, YaVaughnie Wilkins