Tag Archives: race card

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If You Want to Be My Friend, Don’t Do This

I give a brief hat tip and a shout out to Lynne Childress of The Sweet Midlife, who brought this back up in her Facebook feed the other day. It rekindled all kinds of thoughts and feelings that I’ve been meaning to say for years, but never took the time to do so.
So in the spirit of resisting any further procrastination, here it is…

 


 

If you want to be my friend on any level, please see to it that you never use the phrase “the race card.”

Being someone who appreciates vivid word pictures and solid metaphors, I can appreciate its allure. “The race card” is one of those expressions that is handy for White people who wish to convey their frustration about racial discussions, particularly when they feel that race is being injected into the conversation in ways that it doesn’t belong. It’s often accompanied by the idea that such an injection is an example of “reverse racism.”

But it’s got to stop, and here’s why:

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“Jesus Walks.” And Now, So Does R. Kelly. Will You?


Pardon me if the headline is a tad too bitter, but I was given a rude awakening today as I walked out of the movie theater.

I was turning my phone ringer back on, and I noticed a text message from a friend of mine:

did u hear about r kelly?

I had to immediately hit the Google news aggregator and find out for myself. Standing right next to the double-door exit at the Lloyd Center cinemas, I was trolling for headlines on my HTC Mogul. I don’t know why, but I just had to know.

Now it’s bad enough that the dude was acquitted. I mean, it’s like the one time where you want the brotha to be found guilty, and somehow, he skates.

(I can hear the Fox News talking heads already: “First O.J., now this! What is this world coming to?!”)

But what I found to be most disconcerting was that buried somewhere in almost every news service carrying the verdict, Kelly is quoted saying “thank you Jesus” over and over.

I know that while He was on the earth, Jesus made a habit of associating himself with the outcasts of society, but how exactly did we end up in a situation where the name of Jesus has become the rallying cry for not only the biggest ego in hip-hop, but an R&B superstar acquitted of child pornography charges?

When exactly did we (and by we I don’t just mean Americans, I mean specifically Black people) reach the point of such low expectations that a child porn accusation not only doesn’t kill the remains of an entertainer’s career, but ostensibly enhances it?

I’m just imagining some storefront church on Chicago’s South Side:

“I got a praise report, y’all!”

*organ swell*

“A lot of folks said that it, huh…. wouldn’t happen, but…”

“Preach!”

“But I come to tell you today, that, huh… R. Kelly was acquitted! THANK ya JEEEZUS!!!”

Okay, maybe that was mean spirited.

As a matter of fact, if a White person had written that, it’s possible that I might have been offended.

But that, in my mind, is part of the problem.

Look, I’m not here to throw stones. I know, as Pastor Pops is known to say, that all of us have our own personal hall of shame, and most of us don’t have to read about it in the papers. Robert Kelly is no more or less worthy of forgiveness and redemption than any of us.

I also know that from a legal standpoint, the jury very good reasons for returning the verdict that it did, just as the Simi Valley jury did with Mark Fuhrman and the L.A. cops who beat Rodney King.

But I can’t shake the feeling that’s been coming on for awhile.

That the pride that I used to have in having roots in African-American culture, that pride is dwindling. That what once felt like my people’s firm commitment to Godliness turned out to be nothing more than religious naivete. And that our stubborn sense of loyalty in defending our pop culture heroes is compromising our ability to see the truth, especially when it relates to music and sexuality.

Lest you think I’m blowing this out of proportion, consider that in the Sun-Times reporter’s blog post that I linked to, there is mention of one of Kelly’s defense attorneys quoting Scripture in an effort to curry favor with certain jurors. When Aaron McGruder predicted this outcome two years ago, it was funny. Now, it’s just sad.

Maybe it’s a good thing that this sense of pride has been eroded. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so proud to be connected to a people with such a rich heritage of church life that engages community and helps to fight the status quo. Maybe these small irritations are God’s way of reminding me that He doesn’t play favorites, that churched Black people are just as needy of redemption as unchurched White people. Like with Peter and Cornelius, God can and often does use unusual circumstances to communicate his desire to see all people come to him.

Maybe I’m just feeling especially embarrassed by the misbehaving African-American youth in my own area, several of whom were arrested for brutalizing a White woman riding the light rail train through my neighborhood.

But either way, I can’t just tsk-tsk and move on with my life.

If you can, and you feel led to, then go right ahead. This is not meant to be a guilt trip. If this whole thing is too overwhelming, or if it honestly doesn’t impact you at all, then just walk on, do your thing, and I won’t be too upset.

But I can’t do that.

I don’t know why, but this acquittal has just affected me in ways that I don’t even completely understand. And I have to do something.

So lacking the PR connections to do anything more grandiose, I offer a few observations that, hopefully, will leave us all a bit wiser and more edified. If you so desire, feel free to quote me. You don’t even have to give attribution. I feel that strongly about this.

  • We should remember R. Kelly the next time our favorite celebrity is accused of something unseemly.

Not because their money and influence can and probably will help them resolve the situation and most likely avoid jail time, but because this is the most obvious example of blind infatuation clouding the collective judgment of a fanbase (in this case, African-Americans between 15 and 32). The irony of this is that Black people are often the best at seeing this pattern among White people, especially White fans of Black celebrities (see: Michael Jackson). I had a similar reaction many years ago when Bill Cosby was being blackmailed over paternity results. Not good old Cliff Huxtable… what would Sandra, Denise, Theo, Vanessa and Rudy think?

  • Concerned parents, mentors and citizens must do everything possible to invest a sense of worth in our young girls, particularly our young Black girls, because society will not do it for them.

I hope this point will not get lost amidst plaintive cries from the political right for personal accountability. Because obviously both parties, R. Kelly and the underage girl, bear some level of personal responsibility for their actions. I do not wish to obfuscate this point. Nevertheless, the identity of the girl on the tape is, for the most part, irrelevant, because obviously R. Kelly had underage sex with some underage girl. And it’s likely that he did it more than once, considering how many times he settled out of court in response to previous accusations. What this says to me is that little girls need the love of a father in their life, and if they don’t get it at home from their real fathers, they’ll get it any way they can, even if that “love” ends up being immoral, grotesque, embarrassing, and illegal.

  • Loyalists to any particular cause need to be careful about who they choose to rally around, lest they lose credibility in the eyes of the broader public.

Nowhere is this more clear than with R. Kelly, the man who was honored with an NCAAP Image award two years after being indicted on child porn charges. If nothing else, I hope this will help my people to avoid the temptation to cry wolf when it comes to racism in America.

Because R. Kelly, of all people, got off.

And it’s not like you can use the excuse that a lot of us used for O.J. or M.J., which was, “well of course he got off… he’s a sell-out!” By just about any racial or cultural definition, R. Kelly is not a sell-out. R. Kelly is not beloved by White people in the same way that, say, Michael Jackson was (and in some cases, still is). Robert Kelly is not Barack Obama. He’s R-freaking-Kelly. The man who immortalized the phrase “you remind me of my Jeep” — and guess what, he wasn’t talking about superior craftsmanship, either.

However, he had the best legal team money can buy, and they did their jobs. For him, this is obviously a good thing. But when Black people blindly rush to Kelly’s defense, there is a hidden cost, a trickle down effect, an erosion of public confidence. Eventually, people lose their ability to understand or recognize actual racism. Eventually, complex situations rife with real injustice that is connected to racialized behavior, get shrugged off as just the ramblings a few Blacks with an ax to grind, “playing the race card” again.

This, to me, was the real tragedy of the Don Imus /Rutgers women’s basketball team furor. The lesson that many White people walked out of that situation with was that Black rappers can call Black women hoes all day long, but a White man will lose his job over it.

This, friends, should not be.

Now that Kelly has been exonerated, Slick Rick has been pardoned, and Tookie Williams is gone, maybe my people will stop looking to celebrities for causes to champion. Because no matter how much we think we’re doing our part to support justice, there is always a backlash of opposition. The less credible the celebrity, the louder the backlash. And if you think I’m barking in the wind, check out this website, which purports to refute certain facts concerning the legacy of Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter.

(For the record, I don’t know if Carter is guilty or not, and I don’t so much care, but the fact that there are those devoted to upholding the idea of his guilt speaks volumes.)

In the end it will be Kelly, like the rest of us, who will have to live with the consequences of his actions. And say what you will about R. Kelly, but at least his conduct has proven that he doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk, too. Maybe that’s the one shred of positivity we can glean from his public persona.

So if you want to find a good example of White people using fear and guilt to engineer a wholesale character assassination and bring a Black man down, there are numerous examples of that very thing happening to Senator Barack Obama. (His campaign just introduced fightthesmears.com to counter the rumors that he’s a Muslim and other untruths.) By all means, speak up about it. Be passionate. Stand firm in your convictions.

But leave R. Kelly out of it. Because the last thing Robert Kelly needs is the enabling of more adoring fans.

Since he’s walking, let him walk.

Maybe after his walk, he can take a nice cold shower.

I’m Jelani Greenidge, and thanks for mixin’ it up with me.

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How To Talk To Those With Whom You Disagree

Inspired by my friend Erika and her resolution to be a living example regarding the issues she cares about, I decided to launch a personal crusade to get people to stop using the term “the race card.”

Jon Sanders, Townhall columnist and conservative policy analyst for the John Locke Foundation, was the first person I decided to take to task for using the phrase.

What follows is an exchange that I feel is both insightful and instructive. In short, this is how to have an honest, direct conversation with someone with whom you disagree. If more people did this, they might discover the same thing that I discovered — that we agree about more things than I thought.

Here was my first email:

Mr. Sanders,

I read your column, and if I’m understanding your thesis correctly, I understand — and even agree.

The power of the social construct we know as race has been not only polarizing, but unifying, and while Senator Obama has experienced both intense support and intense backlash because of his ethnicity. The fact that such a relative political neophyte such as Obama could take down stalwarts such as Edwards and Clinton is impressive, no doubt.

But I take issue with your loaded language, particularly your use of the phrase “the race card.”

This phrase has nefarious origins (the O.J. Simpson trial) and it has almost always served to advance the interests of those who wish to disdain any attempt by Blacks or other non-Whites to address instances of racial bias and/or prejudice in whatever forum it might exist.

The idea that as a Black man, my racial identity can be reduced to a “card” that I can play at my convenience is both laughably ludicrous and morally repugnant.

If I could truly use this card (or keep it safely tucked inside my wallet) at my own discretion and prevent my ethnicity from becoming a problematic obstacle during inopportune situations like during job interviews or applications for bank loans… believe me — I would do so.

Unfortunately, that is not the way the world works.

But your use of the phrase “the race card” insinuates otherwise, and I strenuously object to your continuing to use it.

Please do yourself and your readers a service by abolishing this term from your arsenal of go-to phrases. It will elevate your writing beyond the stale and predictable, and honor the complexity and nuance of racial relations in America today.

Thanks for your consideration.

Jon’s response:

Dear Jelani,

Thank you very much for writing and for your courtesy. Let me address your criticism with respect to the issue of loaded language vis-à-vis the phrase “race card.”

I cannot speak for others’ uses of the term, let alone its supposed origins. My use of the phrase – all three, actually; you did not see fit to take issue with “gender card” or “class card” – is to mock what I perceive as ad hominem argument that seeks to elevate or insulate or, conversely, to negate or silence an individual on the basis not of his ideas, but circumstantial matters such as his genetics, his birth, etc.

This inference you have made with respect to the phrase being used to “disdain any attempt by Blacks or other non-Whites to address instances of racial bias and/or prejudice in whatever forum it might exist,” if you wish to suggest that it applies to my column (your phrasing is equivocal), you would be quite mistaken, and I would find the suggestion offensive as well as 180 degrees out of phase.

I agree with you that racial prejudice is repugnant. Because I believe so, I think it is wrong to focus so entirely on people as members of racial groups. My thinking is that one cannot train one’s mind to value someone as an individual if one is instructed in seeking to categorize an individual according to race, gender, class, religion, etc.

You and I cannot change the way the world works, as you put it; people are going to notice these things, and some people simply are jerks. Nevertheless, we can promote the idea of valuing people as individuals as opposed to representatives of genetic (and other) groups. If one has a political objection to Obama, for example, our default assumption should be that this person is telling the truth and really does object to Obama on his stated grounds, not that his objection is secretly rooted in his dislike for black people. (Along those same lines, if someone has a political objection to McCain, our default assumption should be that this person is telling the truth and really does object to McCain on his stated grounds, not that his objection is secretly rooted in a marked underappreciation for McCain’s time in a Viet Cong prison camp.)

Furthermore, I find this deplorable devaluation of the individual compounded in the present political context, where supposed valuations (after first taking pains to point them out, of course) of a person according to his race, gender, and so forth are merely contingent upon that person’s being in political agreement – disagreement leads to the facially absurd contention that the person is not “really” a member of the groups that align with his genetics.

It is a risible notion in operation that I spoofed, for example, in a December column.

You will perhaps object to my title (, which is admittedly sensational but also, I hope you will see, the reductio ad absurdum of that notion. My approach is humor, but there are serious points behind them (as Aristotle said, a jest that will not bear serious examination is false wit), and I trust that you as someone cognizant of nuance and complexity will appreciate them, regardless of whether you will agree with them. After all, people may share the same values and still differ over how best they may be achieved.

Best regards,

Jon

My rebuttal:

Jon,

Thank you for writing back so quickly and eloquently. Yours was a meaty response, which I had to take my time to understand and digest.

(Plus there were two Latin phrases and an SAT word – risible – that I had to look up.)

Allow me to answer some of your questions and statements in the order that they were made.

You are wise to avoid speaking for others’ use of the term “the race card” because you don’t know what others mean when they say it, but that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook entirely.

I have an on-again, off-again relationship with the word “pimp” precisely because it’s still difficult to maintain a consensus on the entirety of that word’s meaning in the vernacular of today. Is a pimp a flashy dresser who is popular with the ladies? Is a pimp an unbelievable lowlife who exploits women sexually and financially? Is pimp a verb, which means to bedeck with ornate accoutrements? Or is it another verb, to aggressively hawk or promote a product?

The answer, of course, is yes.

Pimp means all of those things.

Which means to use it casually in one way could be seen as an affront to abused women everywhere, while to insist on its absolute banishment could be seen as an attempt by the P.C. police to unnecessarily regulate harmless speech.

In my own writing, I’ve chosen to give up trying to dissuade people from saying the word ‘pimp’ primarily because in the general vernacular it’s moved too far past its original meaning. It feels futile to try and lecture someone on the evils of pimping if I first have to explain that Snoop Dogg stole his whole schtick from Antonio Vargas, who played Huggy Bear on “Starsky and Hutch.” After awhile it just feels like too much water has spilled from that particular dam.

But I still don’t use the word much, and I try to be careful when I do. Maybe you exercise that same level of care when it comes to loaded terms, and I don’t know because all I see is the finished product – your column.

I chose to challenge your use of “the race card” because I don’t think that same evolution of meaning has taken place. Your use of the phrase is not AS morally offensive because I agree with your general premise, which means no, I don’t think my characterization of its typical use applies as much to your column in question. Because you were not using it specifically as a bludgeon against the idea of vigilantly recognizing and regulating our own cultural biases — as opposed to the legions of talking heads who use it in the manner I previously described – I understand your choosing to use it.

But like I said before, that doesn’t mean you’re totally off the hook.

I fear your continued use of the phrase will inadvertently lend credence to the unspoken assumptions that some of your readers may mistakenly assume you have in common – namely, that “the race card” is an unfair advantage, the societal equivalent of a “Get Out of Jail Free” card that liberals use to shame regular people into kowtowing to the demands of rabble-rousers and trouble-makers. I understand your need for a comedic device, and I think that one works on that level, but at what cost? Ultimately, I think it lowers the bar more than raises it.

I didn’t call out your use of the phrase “the gender card” or “the class card” because I regard them as derivative phrases you (or someone else) invented to make your point, phrases which are neither as pernicious or popular as the original. If I felt called to be more of an advocate for the poor, or if I were female, I might feel otherwise. This might be hypocritical of me, I don’t know. I just choose to speak up on the things I care about.

Moving to some of the broader similarities and differences in our outlooks on life…

I also agree that “it is wrong to focus so entirely on people as members of racial groups.”

For me, though, the operative word is “entirely.” Having a balanced outlook on our society as a whole requires concurrent understanding of people as both individuals and members of interlocking groups. Family groups, social groups, industry groups, regional groups, even ethnic and cultural groups. I am all for taking the time to stress individual accountability as long as that is balanced by an understanding of corporate culpability. The ramifications of our actions are equally important in both contexts.

By the way, I thoroughly enjoyed the December column you referenced, because I was also entertained (and appalled in equal measure) by Andrew Young’s attempt to disqualify Sen. Obama as not being black enough. That’s part of the reason why I have such a strong sense of personal identification with Obama, because I spent most of my formative years (middle school, high school, and college) trying to battle the horrid fallacy that intellect and analysis is somehow anathema to authentic Blackness. I’m almost ashamed to admit that there were plenty of times growing up when I would’ve traded all of my A’s for a jheri curl and a pair of Air Jordans if it meant I could fit in with some of the cool kids who weren’t as smart (or the others who were, but wouldn’t dare admit it).

I’ve also observed the ridiculous extent to which those on the left have contorted themselves with an Olympian caliber of mental gymnastics when it comes to aligning their political choices to their assumptions about race and class. That’s part of the reason why Senator Obama has been such a lightning rod for criticism on all sides, because his story and political ascent don’t fit into most of the prevailing narrow preconceptions about race and class that have long been unchallenged. This is also why it was inevitable that he would have to part ways with Dr. Jeremiah Wright. A Scripture regarding wine and wineskins comes to mind.

Finally, I also agree with your final statement, which has formed the basis for my wanting to write this blog. People can, and often do, share the same values and goals and still differ on how best to achieve them.

It’s my hope that more people would use the forums at their disposal and be intentional about keeping that conversation going, keeping it respectful, and resisting the urge to let the need for attention hijack our collective capacity for civility.

Holla back…

Jelani

His rebuttal:

Dear Jelani,

Thank you for your well-considered response. I certainly understand the frustration of using words that have slippery meanings. I have, for example, maintained an objection against using the word “liberal” to describe someone who favors a strong central government, but it is nigh on impossible to discuss politics without it and not sound stilted, so normally I will put “liberal” in quotations on first use.

I would suggest, however, that you are overlooking context; a word may have many different meanings, so the context in which it is used becomes an important part of defining it. The English language has a particular tendency toward such words.

I think you have no reason to fear my use of “race card” because it is done in the context of mocking the idea of it being used as a “get out of jail free” card. I doubt I could simultaneously lend credence to something I am spoofing.

I am very precise about word choice. That’s not to say I don’t make mistakes, of course; there is invariably at least one thing in each column I regret or wish I had changed. Sometimes many considerations go into a decision over an individual word or phrase, and I cannot expect you to share them all nor give them the same weights as I.

As for your discourse on having a balanced outlook, I will say that I had set forth a general principle that is intuitive, but one of the problems in trying to flesh out an intuitive principle is that words fail to anticipate what discernment can navigate. My concern in this context is foremost the primacy of the individual, and I ratify the principle that all of us, each of us, are created equal in the eyes of God – we have many differences, of course, but we have the same inner nature. If one hews to that principle, then any prejudicial treatment will be hypocrisy — something counter to one’s belief. On the other hand, racism is the logical end of a principle of mentally sorting people first by race.

I wish you all success with your struggle. You seem to set a strong personal example in favor of your chosen path. I cannot imagine it failing to yield fruit; may it be bountiful.

Jon

So my final analysis is that Jon Sanders seems like a good guy who probably still has a lot of different ideas than I do about public policy, although he is probably a lot more qualified to speak on policy than I am, being a policy analyst and all. He values the primacy of the individual, and likes long walks on the beach at sunset.

He also likes satire, which makes him a good guy in my book.

I’m not sure I achieved my primary objective (to get him to stop saying “the race card”) but I did achieve my second objective (to demonstrate that those who think differently aren’t necessarily idiots).

My only regret is failing to ask him about “Lost” (since he works for the John Locke Foundation.)

This was so much fun, I’m gonna try it again with someone else.


Thanks to Jon Sanders for mixin’ it up with me.

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Don’t Just Complain, Be An Example. (Or: An Open Letter That You Can Write Too.)


(Please forgive my abundant use of Title Case. I just like the way it looks sometimes.)

So I was recently inspired by a post on my friend Erika’s blog, The Margins.

I had just finished laying down a pretty thorough (and snarky) post on why I think the phrase “playing the race card” needs to die a quick, painless death.

And I have to admit, I was pretty proud of myself.

(Proverbs alert!)

But after re-reading it, I came to a conclusion — one that a lot of bloggers, if they were being honest with themselves, would come to.

For serving the purpose of Expressing How I Feel (And Having A Little Fun In the Process), this post is great.

For serving the purpose of Rallying Those Who Think Similarly To the Issue of My Choosing, it’s also pretty darn good.

However, for serving the purpose of Effectively Communicating To Those Who Might Disagree With Me, it is mediocre at best.

Because lets be honest — most people who disagree with me aren’t coming to my blog. They’re probably friends of mine, so they’re going to be more likely to see things from my perspective. And even if they disagree, they can do so in a friendly enough manner so as to engender a good amount of sympathy from me to their side, even if I think they’re wrong. Because they’re most likely friends of mine, they might still be out to lunch on the issue of question … but they’re my friend that’s out to lunch, and that’s a big difference.

Unfortunately, a lot of opinionated bloggers have been socialized by the blogosphere into believing that since the easiest way to attract attention is to be as over-the-top as possible, that’s the best way to communicate.

I respectfully disagree.

Especially when it comes to engaging people with whom I disagree.

The reason why I named this blog “Mixin’ It Up” is because I enjoy the sense of back-and-forth camaraderie, mutual respect, and intellectual stimulation that comes when people can debate with honesty and vigor. And I don’t even mind if it gets a little gutter now and again, as long as folks don’t take things too personal.

A little smack talk now and again can be fun. (Just ask fans of The Jim Rome Show.)

But if you actually want to try to change someone’s mind about an issue (as opposed to just loudly complaining that people aren’t open to your ideas) then a much better idea is to find someone who writes something in the spirit of something you disagree with, and then write them a succinct, yet respectful, response.

Which is what I did with a columnist from Townhall.com, a hotbed of conservative commentary.

After reading The Power of the Race Card by Jon Sanders, I sent this email to Mr. Sanders:

Mr. Sanders,

I read your column, and if I’m understanding your thesis correctly, I understand — and even agree.

The power of the social construct we know as race has been not only polarizing, but unifying, and while Senator Obama has experienced both intense support and intense backlash because of his ethnicity. The fact that such a relative political neophyte such as Obama could take down stalwarts such as Edwards and Clinton is impressive, no doubt.

But I take issue with your loaded language, particularly your use of the phrase “the race card.”

This phrase has nefarious origins (the O.J. Simpson trial) and it has almost always served to advance the interests of those who wish to disdain any attempt by Blacks or other non-Whites to address instances of racial bias and/or prejudice in whatever forum it might exist.

The idea that as a Black man, my racial identity can be reduced to a “card” that I can play at my convenience is both laughably ludicrous and morally repugnant.

If I could truly use this card (or keep it safely tucked inside my wallet) at my own discretion and prevent my ethnicity from becoming a problematic obstacle during inopportune situations like during job interviews or applications for bank loans… believe me — I would do so.

Unfortunately, that is not the way the world works.

But your use of the phrase “the race card” insinuates otherwise, and I strenuously object to your continuing to use it.

Please do yourself and your readers a service by abolishing this term from your arsenal of go-to phrases. It will elevate your writing beyond the stale and predictable, and honor the complexity and nuance of racial relations in America today.

Thanks for your consideration.

Now obviously this man has no ideological reason to respond to this email publicly. But I just might get him to stop. And at the very least, I’ve given him two options:

1. To choose to consider my proposal, or
2. To grudgingly (if only privately) admit that there are people who disagree with him who aren’t liberal moonbats, or whatever the epithet of the day happens to be.

I would hope for the former, but I would settle for the latter.

I realize that even this letter seems to violate part of the spirit of the St. Francis quote that Erika was reflecting on, particularly the idea that my personal conduct could serve as a rebuke to the wicked.

In this case, I’m hoping that my rebuke to the wicked would be a rebuke to the wicked.

Not that I’m saying he’s wicked, but you know what I mean.

And I’m trying to do it with love and respect, which is still a lot more than what you’ll find in many corners of the internet.

I guess its my own tribute to the concept of satyagraha, the firmness of truth that undergirds nonviolent protest.

So if you feel the way I do about “the race card” then feel free to copy my letter, edit out the parts that don’t apply to you, and send it to anyone else who chooses to use the term in print or over the internet. Or if you don’t care so much about this issue, then you can find another that chaps your hide, and take the time to defend your position with grace and humility.

But what’s more important is that you take whatever issue that burns in your heart, and do your best to be the example that the world needs so desperately to see.

And if you track back to this post, so much the better.

I’m Jelani Greenidge, and I’m hoping to see you mix it up with me.

UPDATE: Jon wrote me back an equally thoughtful, nuanced response. I will send him a follow-up email, during which I’ll ask if I can post the exchange on my blog.

(Which is always a good policy, by the way, for those bloggers just starting out. Never assume an email is fair game for posting. You wouldn’t automatically broadcast someone’s voicemail on the radio.)

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Stop With ‘The Race Card.’ It Doesn’t Exist, And Here’s Why.


Charles “MODI” Modiano is now my new favorite columnist, because he just wrote an eloquent eulogy to a despicable term: “the race card.”

His sharp analysis highlights the ridiculous double standard aimed, not only against NY Mets manager Willie Randolph, but any Black person who tries to even hint at the slightest possibility of racialization in these (nominally) United States of America.

His point, essentially, is that by claiming Willie Randolph is playing “the race card,” most of the ESPN bloggers and commenters are blatantly displaying their own ignorance and bias, because Randolph has been the absolute paragon of grace and humility throughout his playing and managerial career. His overall demeanor of quiet dignity stands in sharp contrast to the profile of activists like Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, who are known to court controversy.

By accusing someone like Randolph of “playing the race card”, MODI says, all you’re doing is trying in vain to shield yourself against any charge of racial bigotry, whether or not there is actually any truth to the accusation. Such blanket denials are anecdotal evidence that there’s no reasonable defense against the charge.

This is the main reason why I abhor that phrase, “the race card” — even more than I hate the d-word.

I wish that being Black was something I could just conveniently pull out when it suited me. Because then I wouldn’t have to sweat as much if I get pulled over by deputies in rural Oregon counties. If I could keep the race card in my pocket, and make sure it doesn’t slip out when I’m handing the officer my license and registration, then life would be a lot simpler.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. Which is why, if I lived in the South instead of the Pacific Northwest, I wouldn’t even bother driving through picturesque countryside roads with my Caucasian bride. When you take into account how much we both like road trips, I’d be statistically likely to lose my life before the age of forty.

I don’t really care that much about Willie Randolph or the NY Mets.

But I do hope that as a phrase, “the race card” will ultimately fade away into the quaint lexicon of a less enlightened era, along with other loaded terms like “pro-choice” and “full-blooded Americans.”

Maybe in the future, smart netizens will abide by the old Usenet flame-war rules, where the first person to invoke the “race card,” just like the first person to compare their opponent to the Nazis … automatically loses.

No rebuttal, no appeal, just straight-up GAME OVER.

Is it a pipe dream?

Maybe.

But as long as I’m dreaming, I might as well come up with the ultimate come-back to the “race card” charge:

Homey don’t play dat!

I’m Jelani Greenidge, and thanks for mixin’ it up with me.