This is the second part of a paper on the topic of race that I had for my Media, Race and Politics class. The first part is here. I’m going to post the last part on Tuesday.
I will say that the occasions when I feel aware of my own race are very rare. My friends have recognized my denial of my race, and Asian jokes/references/conversations are kept to a minimum. I am not deeply affected by my race. It was not until my semester in Chicago that I have had to reconsider what race and racism meant. This semester been an eye opening experience, and in a different way than I had expected.
I had had some inkling of the history of race in America, and I had known some of the extent in which racism still permeated the institutions of today. I have studied race in several of my classes and felt as though I came to this program knowing a little of what to expect when coming here. This class, the readings and speakers, have certainly exceeded my expectations, and of course as one begins to learn they only begin to realize how much more knowledge there is to acquire.
But for me, the most poignant revelations have come when I consider not only the words of our speakers and of our readings, but when I also consider the way in which these words are delivered to their audiences. The task of any speaker, no matter the form or subject, is to convince their audience to believe their words. This is difficult enough, but speakers that address racial issues have an additional challenge: not only to convince us of the issues of race that riddle our institutions to their very cores, but also to inspire us to do something about it. The greatest barrier these speakers face is in overcoming the audience’s pre-emptive disinclination to truly acknowledge issues of race. The reluctance of the majority to fully weigh the issues of race is the greatest problem facing the African-American community today. Dialogue needs to be established—real, empathetic dialogue—in order for any true form of progression to occur on the issue.
The manner in which our speakers conduct their meetings with us makes more sense when I consider the audience that they are addressing. The speakers are faced with the remarkable task of attempting to breakthrough their audience’s barriers and somehow inspire them towards action. This has taken on many forms. Sometimes our speakers try to hurtle stories of oppression at us, to break through the barriers of ignorance that are constructed around us. Other speakers seem to make use of fiery and impassioned rhetoric, seemingly to try and incite us towards action. Fred Hampton Jr., son of assassinated Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, is a good example of this— the memory of his fiery passion in our small classroom is a memory that will remain with me for a good while.
The most interesting of speakers in retrospect, and one of the reasons why I originally began to think along these lines in the first place, have been those speakers who do not at all attempt to reach or inspire their audience on issues of race. I most notably recall how baffled our group was with Dr. Anderson Thompson (historian) and Sergio Mimms (movie critic) both of whom did not seem to care so much about motivating us into action or giving us means to fight the problems of race. I recall our pointed inquiries of Dr. Thompson as to how his historical research could be proactively used for change, and how Dr. Thompson did not seem to see the need of informing whites of the need for change at all. This philosophy, nationalist in concept, seems to originate from the same root of non-racial dialogue; that African-Americans should not bother trying to prove their racial identities to a majority race that does not even want to regard racial differences in the first place.