Just Stop Talking About Race!!

I found this video on For Harriett and think it's especially worth sharing.

This blog isn't just about food, but life and current events too. So I try to bring up issues that are important to me and the world in general.

The Donald Sterling saga has many people discussing race and racism again. Hopefully the conversation will continue. Because talking about race is not the problem. It's the beginning of the solution. Are you part of the conversation?
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After just reading this article about Attorney General Eric Holder's recent commencement speech, I feel like I have to add a bit more to this conversation as well. Below is an excerpt from his speech
These outbursts of bigotry, while deplorable, are not the true markers of the struggle that still must be waged, or the work that still needs to be done – because the greatest threats do not announce themselves in screaming headlines. They are more subtle. They cut deeper. And their terrible impact endures long after the headlines have faded and obvious, ignorant expressions of hatred have been marginalized.
I may have shared these personal experiences regarding race on my blog before, but you may have not read those posts, so I'll risk the repetition.

One of my first jobs out of college was investigating allegations of discrimination in credit, housing and public accommodations. I will never forget working on a case where I was talking on the phone with a landlord. He said that he wasn't racist, that he had black friends. He just did not want to be the first person in the neighborhood to rent to someone black. That seemed like a perfectly acceptable response to him. We were speaking on the phone, so he could not see me.

He did not feel like something as fundamental as his deciding where a person could live based on their race could be considered racist. Maybe he did not feel any outright hatred towards black people in his heart. However, he made a decision, a very important decision based on race.

People in power making decisions about other people's lives based on their race is the heart of the problem. This man may have never shown any outward sign of racism, but he made a business decision that impacted a black family. This happens with work and how people are treated in their everyday lives just shopping at a store.

Another instance that I will never forget is a comment made to me by someone who said that she did not consider me black. That is not a compliment to me. My race is not the only part of my identity, but it's a big part.

Many white Americans have strong ethnic identities. If they are Italian, Irish, French, etc. That part of their identity is celebrated. As it should be. It's interesting that we are different. Wouldn't it be very odd to say to say to an Irish-American that you don't consider them Irish? They may be American, but they still have that connection to Ireland.

That is the same way that most African-Americans feel. Except for most of us, based on our history in this country, we have been deprived of knowing our specific African ethnicity. But we are proud of being black, identify with it it and don't want people to ignore that we are black. Just don't discriminate against us because of it. That is all. : )

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alessandra said…
Hey Lisa,
interesting and thoughtful post. I happen to be italian but really I don't identify with my nationality at all, and maybe I would be a bit bugged of being considered "an Italian" because this brings a lot of stereotypes with it. About the person who commented on you probably she meant that she considered you as an individual, as Lisa, with your various aspects and not as being one of the "black people", it's a comment that I feel I could make about one of my friends or a person I quite know, so I can relate to it.
As for racism intended as discrimination, injustice and inequality I can only agree, they are problems that still exist in this world even though I think they shouldn't, and hope they didn't.
Lisa Johnson said…
Alessandra - So good to see you here again! A lot of what I take into consideration is the intent behind a comment and the comment was definitely not meant to offend. The thing about not considering me one of the "black people" is that I am one though.

It's really interesting to hear your opinions on being Italian. There definitely are stereotypes that I can see you wanting to avoid being associated with. Believe me. I get it! But the people who believe them are just ignorant.

Also, you're adding an extra perspective to the mix. I really wish we could sit down in person and have this discussion! You live in Italy right? My own experience is not really feeling my nationality or even regionality as much until leaving it.

Until starting to travel outside of America, I didn't feel as American as I do now. When in another country, I feel it much more strongly. I didn't feel as much a Bostonian or an East Coast person until visiting other regions of this country. Especially when my accent gets comments and I notice that everyone has a different accent than I do.

When I've returned from these trips, I've had really profound shifts in thinking about my identity. I really wish that I could travel more. Not only is it fun to see other places, but I return with a deeper understanding of myself as well. Do you still not feel Italian when you travel?

alessandra said…
So good to be here again, Lisa! You have a point, of course I was born in Italy and lived here all my life and definitely that's what people see from the outside, but it's not what I feel, even outside Italy I just feel an individual. And frankly I feel more attracted to and curious about foreign people than Italians, in fact I even married one. So what does this make of me? I'm weird, I'm different I know and I'm proud to be really. I think that until people will identify themselves with a group, a religion, a nation, a race etc, there will always be differences and there always will be fights.
You know I still don't think of you as black, even though I see your skin is darker than mine, or maybe I'm just paler than you. I just think of you as an interesting and intelligent person.
It would be difficult to discuss in person though as my English is not that good, but we could have a tea and enjoy some Nutella treats together for sure!

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