By Anya Proctor
I used to think, especially as a young girl, that racism was an archaic notion, a universally detested tragedy that knew its well-deserved place in the grave. Until the idea was presented to me in history class in the 4th grade, I didn’t even recognize such a despicable thing existed.
But as children get older, and innocence is ruptured, a plethora of horrifying realities emerge to consume them. All of a sudden, a vast world of terror comes to be.
It may be that segregation has had its day, and racism is universally begrudged in our modern America. However, traces of its legacy live on—and not always racism per say—but certainly subconscious mindfulness of race.
It is inevitable. The human condition is reflected by society. Society impacts the economy. The economy is a concern of politics. Politics is always in the news. At the core, race is a reality— a factor of a tumultuous world history—and it lives on.
I think Eric Deggans would agree with me. He is a pundit, public speaker, journalist for the Tampa Bay Times and author of a recent book called “Race-Baiter.” He presented his book to a small gathering of classes at the University of Tampa on Tuesday, April 10.
The theme of his lecture and book is the assertion that the media influences mass perceptions of minorities to the public, and that certain networks (namely Fox News) do so in a hostile and untruthful manner.
My conclusive impression of the lecture was that he believes Fox News has a racist agenda, plays upon “fears” of other races, and caters to an ignorant demographic of white males. While I applaud Deggans for convicting what might be “the other side” to Fox News in his condemnation of Al Sharpton (when he used MSNBC airtime to advocate funding for the family of Treyvon Martin), I think he is unfair.
Accusing someone of being a racist is a big deal. Unjustly, organizations like Fox New and people like Newt Gingrich and Bill O’Reilly (used in Deggans’ presentation) are accused of being racist by people who are actually responsible for initiating the issue of race.
For example, Deggans exemplified Newt Gingrich (basically as a racist) for his comment about Obama being the “Welfare President.” Now, to me, welfare denotes nothing of race; it is indifferent to race. Welfare has implications of poverty. However, aggressors harshly faulted Gingrich as a racist for making such a comment—which bears historical evidence that a welfare boom like no other took place under the Obama administration.
I believe Gingrich was making a completely economical statement; but by someone who either deliberately sought out racism or for some reason is hypersensitive to possible racial stereotypes, it was misconstrued. More such examples composed Deggans’ presentation.
I do concede that Deggans had fair points and respect his work, ambition, and ideas. After conducting a quiz for the audience with questions reflecting ill perceptions of the amount of black vs. white people who are impoverished or drug users for example, it was evident that racial conceptions exist. I also respect his plea for honest conversation; I want that too.
However, I am not sure what he wants of some of us ignorant white people. Should we walk on eggshells? If we don’t, everything we say that concerns a minority gets twisted into racism.
And what about the hypocrisy? Half the class laughed when Herman Cain was presented in Deggans’ lecture. What’s so funny about a black conservative? Well, much of the audience seemed to agree he was an idiot. Then again, Obama’s never gaffed; he never said anything dumb like he visited 57 states or anything…Oh wait.
At a list of conservative commentators, one girl in the audience laughed that half of them “actually are” racist. Those same commentators are antagonized for then becoming defensive about being called racist. They’re not racist. If that girl who spoke was called a racist, I’m sure she wouldn’t think it was funny.
Ironically enough, Deggans and I agree that race plays a role in people’s perceptions. However, I think he implicitly accuses (mostly conservative) people of being racist who are merely reporting truths or stating harmless opinions. He thinks many conservatives push racist agendas. Which is true, if either?
Yes, racism sadly lives on in a way that I never dreamed it would as a girl. As a young girl I thought that we’d buried that hatchet. Maybe I was naïve then. Or maybe I was just hopeful. Now, as I’m older, I’m not naïve. But I believe racism can truly die, if we agree to lay it to rest.