Let's Have a Frank Discussion on Race

On ‘This Week’, Donna Brazile said that incidents like the Shirley Sherrod firing were going to continue to happen until “Americans have a frank discussion about race.” Later, noted black woman Cokie Roberts agreed that there needs to be a ‘frank discussion’ on race. And until Americans were ready to sit down and really have a conversation on race, racism wouldn’t end.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this. It appears to be some form of talking point, because Democrats have been saying this over, and over again for a long time.

I see two problems with this:

  1. What the hell?
  2. From this Canadian’s perspective, the biggest problem with Americans is that they won’t shut up about race.

Anyway, would someone tell me what this ‘frank discussion’ is supposed to be about? I mean, do you just get some minorities and white guys together over crumpets and start chatting about what you really like or don’t like about the other person’s racial heritage? Or what?

My suspicion that this is actually some kind of code phrase meaning, “You white people are about to get your ass kicked for what you did to us” or something like that. I really don’t know. I can’t fathom it.

But hey, if the SDMB can do anything, it can have a ‘frank discussion about race’, as soon as we figure out what it is. Then when our discussion is over and we’ve cleaned up the crumpet crumbs, we can send the transcripts to black America and white America, and tell them we fixed the damned problem.

Would anyone like to say what they think the discussion should be about?

Agreed. America, get over it. Look to the future, not the past. Stop being African Americans or Italian Americans or Hispanic Americans or Native Americans or whatever Americans because it’s self perpetuating and start being Americans.

I picture the conversation starting off this way.

More crumpets? Tea?

I think the above comment is exactly why we need better open dialogue about race. I don’t think we can move towards better understanding until we realize:

  1. We have come a long ways, but we are not finished. Racism exists in a number of manifestations, and it is a factor that negatively effects sime peoples’ lives.

  2. Class exists, and has a compacted relation to race. This has perhaps an even larger effect on peoples’ lives.

  3. African american culture is a real and valid culture existing in America. It has it’s good points and bad points. We need to be able to openly address issues like high rates of single parenthood- either by trying to improve the culture or to mske it less of a disadvantage- whileot denigrating into stuff like “why do they give stupid names like Shaniiqua? Why can’t they use a real American name like Jennifer?”

  4. Many people on all sides have a lot of anger. Some of it is justified, and all of it needs to be respectfully aired and considered.

Well I can’t really address this…

In a lot of ways we don’t talk about it in any meaningful way. I graduated high school in 1994 and I can tell you that I learned very little about the virulent racism endemic to U.S. culture. When someone said the word lynch the images conjured in my mind were a bunch of angry guys in cowboy hats hanging someone for stealing cattle. Such is the power of Hollywood I suppose. When I graduated from high school I didn’t know what a sundown town was nor was I aware that at one time Italians, the Irish, and others weren’t considered “white” at one point in America’s past. Starting with the history of racism in the U.S. is a good start and I think many high schools are doing a better job of it these days than they were in my day.

We wouldn’t chat while eating crumpets because we’re Americans and abandoned certain Britishisms. If it makes you feel any better I don’t know what they mean either. It’s a big topic to tackle and it’s not like you can solve everything in one discussion (even if the discussion is accompanied by iced tea and not that hot abomination you people enjoy).

Ideally it should be something a little more constructive than that. One of the most valuable things I learned as an undergraduate in college was to consider a perspective other than my own. A good way to start a dialogue is to understand where the other guy is coming from.

I find it interesting that you view this as simply a black and white issue as it’s a lot more complicated than that. Latin Americans are a growing minority here in the United States and are set to overtake African Americans as the dominant minority group (assuming they haven’t done so already). In some places there have been tensions between Latinos and blacks here in the United States. So it isn’t just a black & white issue.

I see this and think that this might be part of the problem. You’re essentially telling people to forget about or ignore their own cultural heritage which may or may not be very important to them. Sticking our heads in the sand isn’t really going to help.

Not at all. I want America to move forward and not keep their heads stuck in the sands of the past, which is what so many are currently doing.


Beat me to it…had to re-read several times to see if I was missing something so I will second this:


I’m of two minds on this.

I think we need to be Americans first regardless of sex, race or creed (or any other difference you want to imagine).

That said it is good to keep your heritage alive if you want to.

The reason the discussion needs to happen is because people are still discriminated against based on race (or a number of other factors). As long as that occurs a race discussion needs to happen.

Obama did as well as I have seen in ages when he was running for President and made his speech on race but that fell by the wayside rather quickly. Since then we seem to be backtracking as a country. I believe there is a real and distinct racial component in many people’s dislike for Obama and we see things like the new Arizona immigrant law just to name two.

This country has a long way to go in this regard.

Note that I think the black community is as bad as anyone in preventing this from happening…it is a difficult subject and both sides have their share of blame in being obstructionist.

This is difficult to achieve when others of a different ethnic background see you as your ethnic background first and don’t feel any special bond or commonality with you because of your nationality. Americans of European descent can much more easily blend together without needing to self-identify as an Irish-American or Italian-American beyond the tell-tale giveaways in a last name.

Well, not sure such a discussion would really get anywhere, but the Sherrod affair seems to show how ready a certain portion of the population remains to believe the worst about an ethnic group (or religious; think about some of the members of this board who seem to believe the majority of muslims at least tacitly support terrorism).

Apparently, the Republican Party still considers this an effective strategy to win votes, since it seems to think highly of a fake journalist who has repeatedly exploited racial prejudices. Maybe we could have a frank discussion about that.

I think it was sarcasm, but honestly, I don’t know what it was intended to be sarcastic about.

A better cite, I think, would be the Republican party’s “Southern Strategy”.

Intentionally exploiting divisiveness for their own gains.

What a Grand Old Party they are! :rolleyes:

At present in America, African Americans disproportionately live in impoverished and high crime neighborhoods and suffer exposure to conditions that are adverse to good heath at disproportionate rates. They are disproportionately subject to arrest and experience disproportionate sentencing. Their children are more likely to experience substandard educational environments. They continue to experience efforts to prevent them from voting at disproportionate rates, and are disproportionally more likely to be shot for trying to cross a bridge to escape from catastrophic flooding. They are disproportionately more likely to be targeted by a particular political party in order to scare up votes.

There are some who look at these facts and say that they exist due to defects of character endemic to African Americans.

There are others who will look at these facts and say that they exist due to defects of character endemic to America.

That is the frank discussion that generally remains unresolved, and until it is, posts like the OP and others that have followed appear particularly asinine.

The problem with having a frank discussion on race is that it doesn’t always go in the direction the establishment wants it to.

The problems of the black community, by and large, are not caused by white racism and cannot be addressed by anything white people do (or don’t do). Whenever we have a frank discussion on race, and it appears that the discussion is trending towards this particular elephant in the room, all those with a vested interest in the status quo, whether financial or emotional, begin screaming “Racist!” in unison until the frank discussion stops and the white guilt circle jerk resumes.


Not that it’s a requirement to have an opinion on the topic, but are any of you responding to Sam’s questions black? There seem to be, and I predict there will be many more, recommendations from non black posters for what blacks should do, and how some of the blame falls on the shoulders of blacks. However, that’s wasn’t Sam’s question.

First off, Sam’s Cokie Robert’s reference was sarcasm as Cokie, as other’s who purport to be experts at something they’re not, is obviously not black.

To Sam’s points:

1. What the hell?

Believe it or not, it’s not a talking point. People realize race is still a real problem in America, the ugliness of which has risen more to the surface with the election of Obama as president. Anti black racism has always been there, but desperation has caused a few fingers of suppression to be pulled from the dike. This coupled with the view of those who have always been resentful about their perception of blacks getting an unfair leg-up, and, inexplicably, look upon Obama’s presidency as a reason to end (to their minds) the moratorium on expression of racist thought because, after all, black president = racism is over in America, therefore blacks no longer have an argument, so anything this country does to “coddle” blacks should be immediately stopped. Circular reasoning at its most cynical.

2. From this Canadian’s perspective, the biggest problem with Americans is that they won’t shut up about race.

This is true, but it’s because no one has a clue what to do about it, and believe as expressions of racist thought increase, the amount of dialog should also. The problem is this tactic causes those who are against the very idea of racial parity to dig in and reinforce. Unfortunately, we’re dealing with human nature here, which is to discriminate, in some fashion, against those who are perceived to be different. This will not change no matter how much dialog takes place. Blacks, who are one of the few groups of humanity who were brought to the US to be used as tools, have been struggling for parity since emancipation. We’re now closer than ever. However, until the US becomes truly homogenous, which is likely never to happen, racism will be with us, so the struggle continues, as I believe it should.

So it is all 100% black people’s fault for their (collective) lot in life?

While overstated, I have to admit that this is one of the exceedingly rare instances in which I think there is some merit to what Shodan says.

No, of course blacks are not solely responsible for their present situation. And institutionalized slavery was unique. But it sure seems other severely disenfranchised minorities have advanced their positions in far less time, while avoiding preying on themselves.

Not that I think talking will do much good, but I think what is meant by a “frank discussion” is that we speak openly, and without fear of offending someone or touching on a taboo subject. “Frank” being the operable word, as I do agree that we seem unable to shut up about race. Problem is, we dance around the subject rather than talking about it “frankly”.