Saturday, July 29, 2006
Mary Mitchell of The Chicago Sun-Times continues her blog discussion on race. Click on the essay title above to catch the latest…
WHAT IS RACISM?
Having read every comment posted on this site, it’s clear to me that most of us are frustrated when it comes to race relations.
For the most part, the majority of you are willing to express that frustration without resorting to nasty insults. Despite our reluctance to talk face-to-face about race, even people who said they didn’t want to have this discussion posted a comment. What does that tell you?
Still, in order to have a real conversation about race, we have to be clear about what racism is and what it is not.
The tragic beating of Ryan Rusch in Beverly Park seemed a logical point to jump start this conversation.
Whether or not the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office charged the three teens accused of brutally beating Ryan with a hate crime isn’t the issue. Race is involved simply because this is not black-on-black violence. If it was, most of you would not have heard about Ryan. So that’s the first thing we've got to get straight.
What role, if any, do you think race played in how this crime was covered by the media?
In other words, had Ryan been beaten up by white teenagers, or if he had been a 14-year-old black boy who was attacked by three black teenagers, would this have been front-page news? And if you believe race was a factor in how this crime is being covered, is that racism?
A reader who sent me an e-mail about the recent murder of one of his students certainly believes it is. Alexander Reed, 18, was gunned down in a South Side neighborhood while standing on the porch at his sister’s house.
“There was some type of altercation in the street and one young man pulled a gun. Alex was not involved in anyway, but he was the one who got hit,” the teacher said. “He was in his senior year in high school. It just seems to me that something should have been said at least on TV, a 10-second spot or something.”
In this reader’s eyes, the lack of attention by media “devalued” his student’s life.
“I looked at it as being racial,” he said in a telephone interview. “I feel if he was white, more attention would have been paid to it in the media. I honestly believe that. Just like the young man who was driving the car that got hit by the U-Haul Truck.”
As a member of the media, I’ve seen how these decisions are made, and I can honestly say most of what readers complain is racist, is actually insensitivity bubbling up under deadline pressure. My point is, every offense isn’t necessarily motivated by racism.
So what is racism?
Give me an example of a racist act you experienced, or an incident where you were accused of being racist. And I’m not talking about slights that ticked you off, such as being passed up by a cab or being followed around in a department store. I’m talking about those times you were convinced beyond a doubt that you were being discriminated against because of your race.
And white people, you need to come clean.
Blacks are often accused of seeing racism everywhere--a mantra that a lot of Latinos are beginning to pick up--but many of you don’t see racism at all. If you do see it, you fail to acknowledge it has a negative impact on our quality of life.
Thank you for taking the time to have this chat. Unfortunately, I’m unable to personally answer every comment from readers who have a bone to pick. But you can still drop me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.