Sunday, February 11, 2007

A White's Response to "Black America"

I heard about a program C-Span ran this morning called "The State of Black America" hosted by African-American talk show host and author Tavis Smiley. I didn't see the show, so I can't and won't comment directly on what was said.

What I will comment on is the concept itself. I can see why some African-Americans feel they need to have an event like this to discuss situations they deal with everyday, situations that they feel "white America" just doesn't understand or want to understand. Such an event as "The State of Black America" allows African-Americans to come together and form a vocal community. That's a great idea, in my opinion, and I wholeheartedly agree with the idea.

However, I do have to ask what such an event does in realistic terms. Getting together to vent is one thing, but unless it leads to action to resolve the issues they want addressed, it doesn't accomplish anything. If all that gets done is to blame others for the state of "black America," it doesn't accomplish anything either.

I also have to wonder whether creating and sustaining the concept of "black America" doesn't serve to further divide us. Any time you set up a way to divide people into categories, you run the risk of creating permanent divides. Some divisons can't be helped, but they can be overcome if the parties involved want it to happen. Somehow, people who believe in "black America" just doesn't say to me, "I want to overcome the differences between African-Americans and whites."

The thing that gets me the most about "black America" is the irony of it. Those who set up the intellectual concept of "black America" as a means to separate, at least in part, from the rest of the country are using the very freedoms that we all use. So, they're dividing themselves from the rest of America without really doing anything to set themselves apart from the rest of America.

Dare I say, only in America.

I'm just a white guy from Iowa, so my "street cred" on situations in the African-American community is limited at best, although I do have quite a bit of cul de sac cred. So, you can take what I have to say with a grain of salt. I want "black America" to take a step back and appreciate what they have and continue to achieve. From where I sit, African-Americans contibute in many meaningful ways in many different parts of our society. Music, film, science, politics, social issues, entertainment, writing, speaking, and so many others that I failed to mention, but hold no less respect for. So often, people look at what they don't have and lament when they should be focusing on what they do have and celebrating.

Does this mean we don't have to keep trying to make things better between whites and African-Americans? Of course not. There is always room for improvement from both sides. But the fact the relationship isn't perfect is no excuse to stop trying to get closer to perfection, if only by a little bit. Although I can understand why some African-Americans feel the need to create and sustain the concept of "black America," it doesn't make the divide between whites and African-Americans any less vast. But I'm willing to reach out to help the situation.

So, what do you say, "black America"? Will you reach out, too?

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