Straight from the Lip Service Express:
“…there is racism in America. We all know that, because we can’t stop working against it.”
That’s Senator John McCain’s answer on Larry King Live last night to the question of whether he sees “race as any factor” in the presidential race. McCain went on to say that he is “totally convinced that 99 and 44/100 percent of the American people are going to make a decision on who is best to lead this country.”
99.44%. Well, at least he acknowledge that there’s more than a mere 1/2 percent of racism. At least that’s better than the typical 99.9% claim people usually make when they’re in the 99% neighborhood. But beside the obvious question of what the hell are we “working against” when there’s not even a full 1% of racism involved and beside the compelling question of what the hell has McCain actually “worked against” when he himself is practically speechless when asked what specifically he’s done to improve the lives of African-Americans (he was like “duh, duh… uhhhh” then inserted the customary bold-faced lie):
Beside all that (going old school on ya): where is the beef??
It’s quite popular for even people who deny racism is involved or the cause of specific situation X, Y or Z to admit that “racism exists.” It’s real easy to say it does. Lip service is free and easy that way. The hard part is getting people who use (read: manipulate/abuse) that phrase to actually say where racism does, in fact, exists.
More to the point, I know from my experience with people who caveat what often is their denial of a specific charge of racism as factor, cause or motivator by saying “racism exists” that a lot of people are McCainin’: they’re trying to dismiss racism as a significant (f)actor or otherwise diminish it to a size or proportion that says it, racism, is functionally irrelevant, without power, influence or any kind of obstacle.
So, yes, I wonder what Sen. McCain is referring to when he says, in the present-still-an-issue-tense, that racism is something “we can’t stop working against it.”
Of course, he’s not the only one with percentage issues. Senator Obama rightly drew criticism for his odd calculation that the civil rights generation and its hard fought struggles and hard earned accomplishments “took us 90% of the way” to the “Promise Land” of equality or what-have-you. Some speculated that Obama was suggesting that electing him president would settle the other 10%. Amazingly to me, some people apparently think that way: that electing a Black president Obama is a crowning achievement in the civil rights struggle and even the completion or fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream.
Obviously I disagree though I don’t begrudge or question the gravity of the historical moment and all the emotions involved when it comes to the sense of pride and affirmation African-Americans feel in this historic election year. My thing, though, is the incredible lack of sight or eyes on the prize, if you will — i.e. the huge disconnect over what this is all about.
So I’m at the point of wanting to know:
- Are we talking about the same thing when we say “racism exists” and what do you mean when you talk about it?
- How can any racism be seen as insignificant?
- Why would we be content to allow even a “tiny” bit of racism to exist?
To help you understand where I’m coming from, I like the analogy of life as an obstacle course. That’s for everybody because for most/all of us, life ain’t that easy to navigate. Some type of effort is involved somewhere along the line. Again, for most/all of us.
But not all obstacle courses are alike. Some have more curves. Some have more hills and barriers. If not then we would all be born into the same socio-economic strata, have the same immediate, right-there-in-our-community access to all the jobs and resources needed… But we know that’s not true. We also know that history alone has not place us in the same situation. There was never a clean slate or “even playing field” established post-civil rights. Let’s be honest about that.
And that’s what I’d like to have: an honest discussion. No lip service allowed.