Sunday, July 11, 2004

Please pass this list of questions along to others:

25 (or so) Questions About Race in America.

1) Races are not biological constructions, as there is more within race variation than between race variation. How might it serve white supremacists to believe that race is not socially constructed?

2) What percentage of your information about blacks do you get from TV? Do you think that TV depictions of whites are true to life? What patterns of narratives do you see blacks acting out on TV?

3) If Jim Carrey said that white teens stole things and wore expensive tennis shoes, do you think he’d get as much news play as Bill Cosby and be as much of a darling of conservative pundits? Why or why not?

4) If a group resorted to terrorist attacks, private schools so they could legally not let you in, and outright murder because you wanted equal education and equal jobs, would you be comfortable if that group was left to the honor system in terms of access to jobs and education? Would you think that changing laws would have changed attitudes?

5) If you think Ebonics (real name: African American Vernacular English) is a sign of a lack of education, why do you not think other dialects such as Standard Midwestern English (often used by newscasters) are signs of a lack of intelligence/education? Are you aware that many educated blacks also use this dialect? Why do people ridicule this dialect, but not other dialects?

6) Some people have called the NAACP racist. Why is forming a group to defend against racism considered racist? What about groups that are all black and were formed when whites did not allow us into their organizations? What would be the advantages and disadvantages of organizing in a black led organization?

7) Whites are the majority of drug users, but blacks are the majority of the drug prisoners. Why do you think this is?

8) Do you think police have choices in whom to arrest? Do you think that the District Attorney can choose which cases to prosecute or not to prosecute? Do you think juries can choose whether they think a defendant is guilty or innocent? Do you think personal feelings ever affect these decisions?

9) If your grand parents not holding slaves makes you not responsible for slavery, why are excuses made for it? How might making excuses for slavery help whites in the present? Do you think that America could have become such a rich nation without so many years of free labor?

10) If locking people in camps in terrible conditions merits reparations, why does committing atrocities against people, and removing their civil rights for all but possibly the last 40 years not merit them? Do you notice a certain narrative being pushed on reparations? Why are they thought of as ‘ridiculous’ or beyond the pale?

11) If it is not ok to fly a Nazi flag, why is it ok to fly a Confederate flag? Why did the Confederate battle flag fly at both Klan rallies and above state houses when the fight against integration started?

12) The same act of killing someone can have different consequences based on the defendant’s mens rea (the criminal intent). Whether a murder was premeditated or not has a big effect on sentencing. Given that, why do people ignore that in the case of hate crimes? How might terrorism in the service of race help non-violence using whites?

13) When you go to Blockbuster or whatever rental chain, what do you see reflected on the boxes of the black movies versus on the boxes of the white movies? What percentage of your information about blacks do you get from movies?

14) When a white person complains about reverse discrimination, do you ask them to prove it? Do you ask them where they heard this story, or whether their brother’s roommate’s cousin’s sister’s best friend’s cousin’s husband has any proof? Do you think the idea that if a white is rejected for a job/school and there is a black person working/studying there, then the black person got the white person’s job/spot unfairly makes a certain amount of assumptions that may or may not be true? Does the obsession with ‘merit’, despite legacies and people who get in because the school needed an oboe player, remind you of poll taxes and literacy tests at the polls? Why or why not?

15) How can blacks not want to work and prefer welfare handouts to getting a job, and take all the white peoples’ jobs, at the same time? Especially when you consider that blacks are about ten percent of the population?

16) Whites are the majority of people on welfare, and people in charge of large corporations that receive handouts from the government. If they are the majority of people receiving handouts, why are they not stigmatized as not wanting to work?

17) Why is straight hair and light skin considered the standard of beauty, so much so that the majority of nappy haired black women straighten their hair with chemical relaxers, and the majority of black actresses are in the lighter skinned range?

18) Why do you think a community with its own banks, hotels, insurance companies, colleges, which do turn out doctors and lawyers, restaurants, magazines, book publishing companies, churches, radio stations, community groups and more, which has a larger percentage of teens that want to start their own businesses than other races, such as whites, get tarred as lacking get up and go or being dependant on whites?

19) Why is the fact that whites commit more crimes than Asians not considered a white crime problem? What does the lack of focus on pathologies in the white community tell you about the position of whites in this society?

20) How might the model minority myth, in which Asians were oppressed as badly as blacks, but rose to prominence because they worked hard serve to keep both blacks and Asians in their places? What assumptions does this myth make? Do you think the eliding of the facts of immigrant professionals from Asia and poor Asians in general are intentional or unintentional?

21) Why is the meth epidemic not racialized as the crack epidemic was? What different narratives do you see in the reporting of these problems?

22) Ninety percent of the people on earth are people of color, i.e. non-white. Is that reflected in the narratives you see on TV, the classes you take at school or the books you have on your bookshelf?

23) Do you think that Latino Studies, Black Studies, Women’s Studies, etc, are ‘useless’ fields of study? Why? Is your perception of the value based on the amount of money that can be made? Can basing the value of the field of study on monetary rewards lead to skewed values?

24) Why do you think that the US Government felt comfortable in injecting soldiers in Alabama with syphilis and leaving them untreated? Why did the apology come only twenty-four years later? (The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments started in 1932 and ended in 1972, President Clinton apologized in 1996) Does this have any similarity to Nazi experiments? Why or why not?

25) Why do you think Africa is thought of as one big homogenous mass? Can an entire continent be summed up in the thirty seconds of a TV news report or a Save the Babies commercial?

26) There are a wealth of books discussing racial topics that have analysis beyond ‘blacks are inferior, case closed, whites off the hook”. Why do people refuse to read them? How complicit are whites in their own ignorance? Do you agree with the phrase ‘pale skin never kept anyone out of the library”?

27) Why are African ethnic groups called ‘tribes’ and not European ethnic groups?

27) Why do people complain about feeling guilty or blamed over racism? How might that be an ineffective strategy? Why can’t people take responsibility instead of making excuses?

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