Thursday, February 19, 2009

Of Cowards and Conversation at the New York Times

Of Cowards and Conversation, as summary by Eric Etheridge

I'm in a hotel room, very tired, listening to CNN No Bull with with Campbell Brown. And I'm writing, very dangerous to write in public while tired, especially if race relations is within spitting distance of the topic.

The setting is two-fold. The New York Post has an editorial cartoon satarizing the shooting of a chimpanzee who mauled a child in Connecticut, depicting the chimpanzee as the economic stimulus bill. Al Sharpton and others are railing against it claiming the chimpanzee is actually representing a black man, namely President Obama. The other event was Attorney General Eric Holder gave a talk where he claimed that the U.S. “in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.”

My feeling, in short, is the fuss over the cartoon is a farce in itself, and that Holder is right. Because it is incredibly difficult to have an honest conversation about race relations. I'd say I've only been part of one, at an alumni board meeting at my graduate department. Like real conversations there were opinions, even disagreements,. And like good conversations there was exploring, depth and the exchange and understanding of points of view. And an example of the dielectic. When this particular conversation was over, one of the more vocal people there openly commented that what we just did was shocking because it was an honest conversation about race relations. Left unsaid was the fact we probably could not expect to experience another one anytime soon. It is very easy for conversations to become a self-justification session, which tends to ruin the whole thing. (most conversations about people trying to announce their own sanctification are rather boring)

My wife and I have accepted the fact that if we have kids, they may not follow our paths. And our hope (well, certainly mine) is that in whatever direction our kids go, we will have older people in our circle who can be with them, so they may have a mature example of whatever it is they do. But in my own life, I've been noticing that my circle is less and less broad in scope. It's not married life, I've just don't have the energy to explore that I used to. And as big as my world is, the only way I will add to it is if it is indeed complementary to what is there.

These, like many choices, is a decision that is made. In this case, openly and honestly. It has the advantage there are some points that have a very big point of entry. But it is a reality that I don't have as broad a circle as I used to. And the world that I can share in life is smaller then it used to be. And that is a bit sad.
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