Wednesday, May 14, 2008

None of My Best Friends Is Black

I had another one of those "I'm not a racist, but...." conversations with a conspecific this morning. He was adamant that the plight of black folks was not his fault and that much of it is due to their want of the values that he and the "standard white family" hold. For instance, he reckoned that black families do not value education as he and his family do. When I suggested that, even if this were the case, perhaps education is less valuable under their circumstances what with its not in all cases producing the kinds of outcomes that he and his family were likely to enjoy, he pointed out that there are black CEOs who succeeded thanks to valuing education. My conspecific is not a CEO, but he attributes that to his circumstances, whereas black folks who are not CEOs owe their condition to character deficits. Any black person can be a CEO if he tries and gets an education especially since all the laws are "stacked in their favor".

I pointed out that everything he was saying was, in fact, "racist" and that he seemed to me to be about as racist as most middle class white guys of his age and background. He denied this and pointed out that his next door neighbor is black. They don't socialize or anything, but would he live next door to a black family if he were a racist?

I opined that racism was part of the structure of our society. Otherwise, 12% of my neighbors would be black as would 12% of the members of my church and 12% of my close personal friends. I would probably have black relatives if society were color blind. Clearly it is not color blind, and my conspecific and I can go about our lives and avoid black people almost completely without any effort or intention on our parts. My conspecific's main concern was not to appear racist or to admit that racism was such a powerful factor in society, so he insisted that the separation between races was a matter of preference for both races. How this assertion was incompatible with the thesis that racism obtains eludes me.

In the end, he started to admit that he might be a little racist. But the plight of black folks is still not his fault.

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