Eric Holder, A Nation Of Cowards, And I'm Not Half An American

Monday, February 23, 2009

I just thought I'd speak a bit on last week's news about Attorney General Eric Holder and his comments that we're a nation of cowards when it comes to race, and the ensuing media blacklash that came from it.

And The Truth Is

We are a nation of cowards when it comes to talking about race. It doesn't mean we don't always try, or we don't give some effort at times, but when it comes down to it - a lot of times - we shy away from real conversations because we're afraid of the implications. The fact that we elected a black President, while it shows some things, doesn't speak to everything - it can't speak to everything - because electing a President Of Color doesn't quite hold the same consequences when it comes to race and racism in our everyday lives.

Sometimes we're afraid to call out our friends (of all colors) on their own prejudice, bigotry, or ignorance because we don't want to confront them. We want to give them a pass, even though we know that we shouldn't. We're afraid of losing their friendship. We're afraid that we won't be able to come to some sort of middle ground with them. We think about it. But a lot of times, we don't do anything about it. We just say to ourselves "If that happens again" or "If it happens in a different place" or "They do good things so..." or "They really didn't mean that" - anything other than actually confronting what's in front of us.

And if it's hard with our friends, it's even harder with family members. We pretend we don't hear it, or we pretend that maybe we didn't hear it correctly. Sometimes we just say "It's a generational thing" or sometimes we say nothing at all. If we're afraid of losing friends, we're even more afraid of losing family, so we don't do or say anything except what's in our minds.

In each instance we're afraid of doing the right thing, and for the majority of people I've met or heard about, at one time or another - we've all been cowards in that sense. We're afraid to really talk about race because of what we might lose.

The white person doesn't want to hear from the person of color because they're afraid of what they might truly find out about themselves. It doesn't mean that they can't change, or that they can't be a better person, but in order to do that, they have to take a deep look at themselves. They have to feel some White Guilt. They have to acknowledge areas in their own lives where they've been less than who they might imagine themselves to be and where they've contributed to racism in our society and in their own daily lives. Even the most "progressive" and "liberal" white people I've known can't always see how they don't think about their actions as someone who's white. They can't always acknowledge the fact that they have had the upper hand in society and how that's affected communities of color. They might think about things on a large scale - like in electing a President Of Color - but they don't always think about how they treat people of color in their everyday lives. By having to look that deep into the mirror, they're afraid of losing who they are. They're afraid that by looking that deep into their own lives that they may not be able to overcome what they see is wrong.

As people of color - sometimes we don't want to hear from that white person. Sometimes we can't even acknowledge them and let them get out what they want to say because we can't face the truth that we could learn something from them on matters of race and racism. While in a lot of ways we want people to educate themselves so we don't always have too, that also means we have to let go of some control, some power - we have to put our trust in other people in something where it hasn't always been in our best interest to do so. At the same time - deep down - sometimes we just don't want to get hurt - and talking about race with people who aren't of color can open us up to that. Say whatever you want - but there's been at least one time in your life as a person of color that you just went to wherever you call home and broke down however you do it because someone was racist or prejudice against you - because they made you feel smaller than you ever should have - because something just wasn't right. Sometimes we think it's easier to be on the defensive or just not get into a real conversation at all on race with someone who's white, because we're afraid they just won't get it, and by opening up the conversation, it opens us up to being vulnerable too.

Btw - I'm not Half An American

I know I should expect some of the responses I've heard after Eric Holder's words - especially from Pat Buchanan - but finding myself at the site landofthefree I happened to stumble upon this gem among many many others (and yes, I'm not suprised either but still feel like talking about it):

Education has been known to relieve all sorts of ignorance. I believe the true coward is the person who hides behind his race and refuses to educate his children beyond victimhood.

I also believe a lot of the confusion could be erased if we begin teaching children that if you are born in the United States, you are an American and not some hyphenated half-American. A hyphenated American is probably more likely a coward.
While I could go off on a number of things, I just thought I'd put out there that I don't think I'll ever not have anything but a low tolerance for people that can't understand that you can be American but still qualify yourself as an Asian American, and that it really only seems to be an issue when that extra qualification comes from people of color, or when the person is responding to something someone of color said that they don't like on race. No one ever says anything about German Americans, Italian Americans, Swedish Americans, or Irish Americans. Everybody loves St. Patties day and drinking green beer but you never hear the statement "Why do those people need their own day".

So just get over it, because I'm All American - I'm just Asian too. The fact that I'm one doesn't make me any less of the other.

And Can I Say This One More Time?

I don't want to be in the great melting pot where I lose complete shape of who I am as a person and become indistinguishable from everyone else - because it's really not possible. I want to retain my shape and pick up tasty flavors from the people next to me where together we make a great tasty bite of food.

Say no to the melting pot and yes to the salad bowl.