Monday, September 03, 2007

Boyz in the Hood

So I was watching some of the endless news coverage about the whole Senator Craig scandal. I'm not here to talk about Craig playing footsie in the bathroom, or his "wide stance" that he uses for keeping his slacks up--this is a blog related to race relations, so I'm gonna comment on something I heard on the interrogation tape...

There's a part when Officer K. is using one of his police interrogation tactics to get the Senator to confess just what he was up to in the bathroom before he flew to Washington. Maybe it should be called the Scarlet Letter strategy, because he was attempting to shame Craig into confessing. Officer K. said,

"I just, I just, I guess, I guess I'm gonna say I'm just disappointed in you, sir. I'm just really am. I expect this from the guy that we get out of the hood. I mean, people vote for you." ( emphasis added )

Hmm...who's the guy that Officer Karsnia gets "out of the hood"? That's right--the black guy. We're you thinking any other ethnicity when you read that? I doubt it.

Ok, as I see it there are two things wrong with this. First, Karsnia is saying that he expects guys that come from the hood to lie to him. I think I'll write this off to Karsnia being a cop--cops have a tendency to treat everyone they come into contact with as a criminal--I think it's the way they're trained. Did you know that if a cop tells you to stop walking towards him or her and you don't, protocol tells them to shoot you--even if you are unarmed? Just FYI...

So, Officer Karsnia is letting us know that if he picks up a black kid in a poor neighborhood, the assumption is that the kid is not telling the truth. This sucks for the black kids that are trustworthy.

But I think that the bigger issue is what he doesn't say. "I expect this from poor black kids, but not a rich, old, white guy such as yourself." Yeah, yeah I get the whole elected official bit. But, in our society, the rich old white guy package that Craig comes in automatically lends him an air of credibility. But why?

We are taught that old white guys don't do things like lie, they do things like make this country great. Even though we have numerous examples to the contrary ( Ken Lay and Richard Nixon, just to name two) When an old white guy does something wrong, we don't say "Well you know those old white guys--you just can't trust 'em." But if a black kid commits a crime and then lies about it, a white person can say with a straight face that they think poor people "from the hood" are less trustworthy on the whole, and few would give it a second thought.

White people have gotten smart enough to not actually say "black," now they just use euphemisms like, "urban" and "inner-city." But we all know who they're talking about. The news program that I heard the tape on certainly didn't say anything about it, and I doubt that Karsnia even gave it a second thought. And I am not trying to brand Officer Karsnia a racist or to even imply that he made that comment with any malicious intent. The whole point of this post (and this blog) is to show white people the subtlety with which these messages are transmitted today. We hear things like that almost unconsciously without recognizing how they affect us. But when we see a black dude strolling down the street minding his own business, who doesn't look like he just came from a day at the office--we get scared.

Is there any wonder why?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

You love my smile, no matter how chipped my toof is.

So a few months ago, my husband I went to Ruth's Chris steakhouse for dinner. I think it was a Friday night, we made reservations, that whole deal. So we go inside, and the hostess begins to take us to our seats.

The restaurant is pretty empty, with lots of tables open. The hostess takes us to our booth, which is in the back of the restaurant right by the kitchen. Hmmm...

My first instinct is to say, "Oh, she's sitting us back here in the colored section." I could get pissed, but I don't want to ruin our evening out, so I let it go.

Then I see the next group that are seated by us: An Asian guy and his white wife. A little later, the table next to them: a black woman with her two kids. The black woman said something to the hostess, and they left our hole...never to be seen again.

Why am I writing about this? I think to just give you glimpse into what my life is like. Our dinner was fine, our server was nice and the food was good. I just think it's weird that the only three parties with people of color in them were in the most secluded part of the restaurant. Was it racially motivated? I don't know...and I'll never know. That's what's so annoying about it, it's not like the hostess would admit that was the reason, even if she was asked directly. Was the hostess even aware that that was happening? If so, what was the reasoning for it?

I think that this is one of those situations that the term "ignorance is bliss" was created for. If I was just someone who didn't pay attention to my surroundings, I wouldn't have been annoyed by this, and I might be a happier person.

The problem is people of color can't go around thinking that everything is cool when it comes to racism, because at some point or another a situation will occur where there is no question, "This person has a serious problem with me because of the color of my skin." You don't want to be caught unawares during that situation, so you always just kind of have your feelers out.

According to sitemeter, people are actually reading this. Awesome. Feel free to leave me a comment :)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

You're what the French call, "Les incompetent"

Bonus points if you know what movie that's from...

There was an SNL sketch many years ago (Jimmy Smits was hosting) where they were in an office and trying to decide what they wanted to eat for lunch. They were mentioning a lot of Mexican dishes, and every time they did, they said them with this really exaggerated Spanish accent. This was during one of SNL's "not funny" periods, so it wasn't that entertaining.

BUT, it did get me thinking-- What makes it weird/funny for people who aren't native Spanish speakers to use an accent when saying Spanish words? When a person uses a French word or phrase, the expectation is that he/she will attempt to replicate the correct French pronunciation. What makes it different for Spanish?

Say my two examples out loud...
Example: Je ne sais quoi. If you know this phrase, chances are you said it much like a Parisian would.
Example: Enchilada. Not so much with this one. What's up with that?

My theory is because French is seen as being cooler and more sophisticated, and Spanish is not. Why? Because white people speak French, and brown people speak Spanish.

Which leads me to a somewhat related topic--Spaniards. When you think of a person from Spain, do you associate them more closely with Europe, or Latin America? Do Spainiards consider themselves "white"? For that matter, do lighter-skinned Europeans consider themselves "white", or is that a concept that stays within the borders of the U.S.A? Inquiring minds want to know.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Good Night and Good Luck

When I first started this blog, I intended it to be a place where white people could ask me questions about black people, white people, racism, etc. The reasoning is this: I know a lot of white people and I like white people. Sometimes they really annoy me, but most of the time they're fine. I thought that would make me a good candidate to ask questions of, because I wouldn't get so pissed all the time. Also, I would be doing my part to help increase awareness and understanding about this very complicated and (for most people,) uncomfortable issue.

So far no one has really asked me anything, so I've noticed that it's turned into me sharing my own experiences with race. I think that's fine because it does the whole increasing understanding bit, but I have to say my intention was for the blog to be a little more interactive. So if you're reading this...ask me a question!

So...what do I want to talk about today? Ah yes... Why does Byron Pitts always do the stories related to black people on the CBS evening news?

For those of you that don't know, Byron is black and he covers a wide variety of stories as their National Correspondent. But you can almost be certain that if it's about black people--it's Byron. James Brown dies? Byron. Ed Bradley's funeral? Byron. Two black coaches in the Super Bowl? Byron.

Why does it seem like it's Byron who interviews all the black people? I just went to the website, typed in "African-American" and lo and behold, every story (with one exception) I clicked on that wasn't from another news source was either covered by Byron Pitts or Michelle Miller, another black reporter.

I can think of two possible explanations. First, people at CBS News think that black people who are about to be interviewed will be more comfortable if they're talking to a fellow black person, so the story might be better.

The second possibility is that the CBS News people don't really like the "black stories" so they give them to the "black reporters." What I mean is that the execs don't care and/or don't think their white viewing audience will care about the story so they say, "Well, since the black people are the ones who'll be watching this--let's put the black reporter on it."

There are problems with both of these ways of thinking. With the first rationale, that may be true that the black interviewees would prefer to talk to a black newsperson. But, how are they ever going to get more comfortable with the idea of talking to a white person if they don't have to? AND, how are white journalists ever going to get more comfortable interviewing people of color if the stories are always given to the non-white people on the staff?

If it's the second reason, that's a little more disturbing. If we live in a country where white people hear about stories regarding black people or see stories covered by black journalists, and become immediately less interested...that's a problem that we have to talk about.

I can venture to say that there are some white people who see stories about people of another race and say "this is not relevant to me, I'm not interested." Whether or not they add the layer of "I don't like hearing stories about people who aren't white," I don't know and can't say. I doubt it because that would be more blatant, and I think most white people like to be very subtle when it comes to their attitudes about race.

That's all for now.. as always, I welcome your comments.