Paula Deen’s Jack (Race) In The Box

There are so many events that are rivaling for my attention these days. It is not enough that I have to concentrate on my post-graduate studies, but with the information highway in full swing, it is totally impossible to ignore what is happening in the global community.

From Snowden to Paula Deen’s legal and public image challenges, it is a wonder we find ourselves sane in a world of dysfunction.

Permit me to weigh in on the Paula Deen legal issue and what I believe are important issues that the media and of course our “verandah journalists” have failed to channel their energies toward. Racism did not cease with the abolition of slavery. It has been hidden below the surface and as we go about our transformed lives, it still simmers. This is because we have not had an honest, open conversation taking into consideration the impact of the past on the future. As divided as we are, we hold to many ideas of what our world should be like. We wear masks and adjust our behaviors to suit the given moments. But discomfort still hovers around the subject.

I get it that many of us will not gather around, holding hands singing “we are the world” or other such songs of unity. That utopian concept is just not possible. The goal of many is to reach as close as possible to unearthing the range of innovative solutions that can be gained from diversity.

Facebook and Twitter have been abuzz with people’s views on the topic of race. Many of the comments have been filled with nasty hate filled speech. I feel sorry for such people, whatever their race, as it points the toxic poison that has now formed part of their being. Whether in jest or real perceptions, being nasty perpertuates the violence that has become a routine part of our existence.

If we are to acknowledge that we are human, (we feel pain, want to be respected and other desirable values), we must begin to reframe the dialogues we are having. There are socially acceptable boundaries and as we boldly embrace our future, rejecting the use of categories that are meant to dehumanize other “peoples”, has to be part of the recipe for change.

Paula Deen is unfortunately the catalyst for the  race dialogue “flavor of the month”, by virtue of her visibility in the public domain. But many people experience some form of negativity that is associated with race, gender, sexual orientation and so on. We are quick in our collective circles to hold strong views about rights and wrongs, yet are we not guilty of maligning and stereotyping others? Our psyche has stored information, passed down from generation to generation and we use our experiences to make our biases our absolute truths about our environment and the characters within.

In an era where many are still hurting from the narratives about slavery, is it expected that we launder our language so as not to offend others? This may be necessary especially as we have not matured as a global community. Those affected by the transatlantic slave trade nurse deep psychological wounds affecting their ability to act rationally. Equally, the descendants of slave owners, have been so disconnected from reality, that their worldviews conflict with the worldviews of the descendants of slaves.

The time may be ripe to discuss race in frank terms.  Jack is no longer willing to remain in the box.  That tiny  space is cramped and he wants to be free. Now is as good a time as ever to explore what we mean by tolerance. People from both sides of the fence will be hurt. That is a guarantee with this type of discussion. But I look beyond the pain to the next level of understanding. An appreciation of differences. Amazing opportunities exist, if we are only willing to lift the curtain.

More anon….

Copyright 2013 Suzette Henry Campbell

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