Saturday, September 19, 2009

Racism's Role in Health Care Reform

Earlier this week, irrelevant former President Jimmy Carter said in interview with NBC Nightly News of efforts to oppose socialized medicine:

"I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he's African-American.

"I live in the South, and I've seen the South come a long way, and I've seen the rest of the country that shares the South's attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African-Americans."

Full story here.

Other people disagree, including Michael Steele, the first African-American to chair the Republican National Committee. "President Carter is flat-out wrong," Steele said in a statement. "This isn't about race. It is about policy." (From the above story).

While Bill Cosby agrees with Jimmy Carter (and this is inexplicable given his comments to the African American community with regard to self-reliance and self-determination), President Obama does not.

"Are there people out there who don't like me because of race? I'm sure there are," Obama told CNN. "That's not the overriding issue here."

Younger people seem to get it: to a large degree, our generation's thought processes aren't dominated by race. We have moved closer to Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream of a society that judges not by the color of one's skin, but by the content of one's character.

In listening to Andrew Breitbart this week, I heard him express the progress of our society quite brilliantly. He said, in essence, that the fact that cries of racism are such bugbears in our society is a wonderful commentary on the fair-mindedness of our current mindset as a nation. Racism is so repugnant to us that accusations of it are seen as nearly as horrible as accusations of child molestation. We see racism as a wildly incorrect ideology unacceptable to us as a people. That speaks to the color-blind functioning of most adults in our country today.

In discussion of the subject, I heard a gentleman suggest that if most of us aren't racist, then accusations of racism shouldn't bother us, since they're baseless. That's true, and they do, but it doesn't make the charge just. If we're innocent of any wrongdoing, why would we object to warrantless wiretapping, or why object to police asking to have your fingerprints and DNA on file? The answer is that in our society, we don't punish the innocent for the actions of the guilty, nor do we place the burden of proof on those who have done no wrong. Further, we don't accuse people of wrongdoing just in case they might some day give basis for that accusation.

Based on the above concept, the false accusation of racism, especially categorically against an ideological group, should be as repugnant as racism itself.

Others suggest that only minorities can fairly define racism. I contend that all races have a voice in the process. We handed the task over to ethnic studies professors and they defined it so unfairly that what Kanye West did this week (a convenient example) can't be called racism by their definition. This despite his past statements indicating that his opinions and many of his actions are racially motivated if not flat out anti-white. So, I reject the definition I was given in my ethnic studies class and insist on a say, despite my skin color. Judgments and biases by a member of one race that marginalize, denigrate, or unfairly characterize another race are racist.

One of the strengths of humanity is that we are capable of building relevant categories that speed our thought processes. Wisdom dictates that when those categories are irrelevant, we should discard them. Racial classification is irrelevant. It's easy to name-call and finger-point based on race, and that's probably why it's still done. If we're interested in progressing, we'll need to put forth a bit more effort and look beyond color to concept and character.

No comments: