Harry Ried’s “Racism”? T’aint So!

What he said, ain’t racism. What he said arose from cultural ignorance. He never had the course in “intercultural communication”, proceeding in his remarks only from his experience, which is evidently anecdotal and not systematic. I am as sure as Obama is that he meant well and thought he was being descriptive. Trouble is, he was describing surfaces in a language that was not culturally astute (which, as I have defined elsewhere, lacks political correctness—now don’t get your b__s in an uproar on reading that word. PC is a very important concept, and if you do not understand it, then you, too, need the course of study I prescribed. Cross-cultural relationships, especially in a national, mass-media, federal-government, high-level context of political diplomacy, are of hot-wire importance, affecting our national image and problem-solving capabilities in a political arena.)

The man was ignorant of what word to choose when he wanted to say a “light-skinned black man”. Also, the whole drift of his idea was probably disastrous from the start. But what and how he said it is not racism. The word “Negro” can be a racist term which is not used anymore. I believe the senator did not know that. I wonder how he could have been so sheltered from learning that. He would probably use “boy” and “you people” in interacting with black people without awareness of the emotional load those words carry. He meant well. It is, however, up to Pres. Obama to take some initiative in confronting this issue, as he did once during the campaign. Could not the President have a “fireside chat” about it, with friends and scholars perhaps?

I remember Hillary Clinton taking some heat for her attempt to mirror some dialect of what she took for a “black English” style when she visited a church where black people were the majority. The “black style” of singing in church shows up regularly now in public singing, such as the singing of the national anthem before ball games. That style has certain spiritual riffs away from the straight melody showing an added weighty lift of emotion in the meaning. White people who want to “rap” are called “wannabes”, but many white folk have really taken over and adopted that style. “Imitation is the sincerest flattery.” “‘Tis the most pleasing flattery to like what other men like.” I, personally, do not like all those spiritual liberties taken with the melody, but once in a while I am affected by it. Meaning, some are truly artful, but most are truly not.

I, and every white person, could use some “sensitizing” treatment to ease the discomfort, constructively and substantially, about race in our society. Once was not enough. The issue has powerful legs still. Some have said this was a “teachable moment” (a phrase which recently has shown up on a list of words that should be labeled archaic). Who better to teach than the professor who is also the subject?

The senator was just culturally ignorant. Poor Harry.


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