Archive for January, 2010

January 29, 2010

The Race Card

by MullOverThis

The race card is a term mainly used by whites to denote an instance where a black person cries racism. Typically said in a derogatory manner, the worn-out cliché is usually followed by admonitions for blacks to stop whining and cries of why does every thing have to be about race. There is often the misunderstanding that using the race card is not based on an actual racist occurrence but rather it is a weapon used by blacks to accomplish a particular means (thereby further encouraging racial strife). Both whites and blacks can be accused of racism, yet one thing is clear: white racism is often rooted in fear and fiction. Black racism is often rooted in an acknowledgement of reality and an awareness of historical trends and facts. While I must admit everything is not always about race, and blacks can certainly be accused of pulling the race card falsely and a little too often, the reality is they did not create the deck it was drawn from.

During the slave trade, the race card was pulled by white hands through infusing race-consciousness into the psyche of its participants by way of false mythologies in order to justify the peculiar institution. A good example is the curse of Ham where white Christians used the ancient biblical story to enforce the idea that black servitude was by divine design. Not only was it considered a mandate of God, but also the law of the land as slave-holding states created laws that prevented blacks from participating in society as full citizens. This continued after the Emancipation Proclamation where, although slavery was outlawed, black progress was continually frustrated by overt and covert white supremacists who either believed in the idea of black inferiority and/or feared their white reign of power would end (and reap what they’ve sown). As time progressed, so did racial understanding; however it was only about fifty years ago that there were still “race cards” played…by whites, that is. These race cards read “Whites Only”, “Nigger Go Home”, and “Blacks Served in the Back”. We are not yet one generation removed from race cards that were legally displayed to remind anyone who was not white that the “United” States of America was united in theory, not in practice.

To America’s credit, great strides have been made to level the playing field, but that does nothing to dismantle the myths in people’s minds. Forcing an employer to hire an African-American for the sake of diversity does not change the fact that that employer may think very little of his or her employee’s ability to perform because of their skin color. Laws cannot stop a real estate agent from secretly steering black clients away from neighborhoods that make it clear “their kind” is not welcome. And it certainly does not stop churches from giving missionaries maps of a neighborhood with X’s in certain areas denoting households containing people not desired at their church, or deliberately not wanting to have outreach in underprivileged areas for fear of blackening their congregation (both are true stories). These instances, and more, contribute to a sort of racial self-consciousness amongst blacks because to non-blacks, their color points to more than skin tone. For many people, black means uneducated, welfare, violent, illegitimacy, criminal, ugly, and more. These ideas are why blacks continue to have their own organizations in a so-called post-racial America, not as an effort to segregate, but rather to bring the promises of cultural acceptance and enfranchisement to pass on their own.

Many blacks have a mistrust of all things white and a belief that history will continue to repeat itself. Racial equality often appears to be nothing but the product of disillusioned rhetoric. There are varying realities in this country because everyone’s American experience is not the same. There are many issues within the African American community that need to be addressed, and it is more than fair to say those issues cannot be solved through white guilt, being absolved of personal responsibility, or staying stuck in the past. However, until racial misunderstanding and paranoia are blotted out by an acknowledgment of reality and not the conjured one we often possess when we want to pretend the world is racially sanitized, the race card might very well continue to be the most played card in the deck.

This post was submitted by guest writer, Nik.