Monday, March 02, 2009

*Not* Post-racial America

One after another, I keep seeing or hearing about things that make my jaw drop in complete disbelief. As we talk about this new era of post-racial America, I think we should be aware of the things that are happening that suggest we are not yet in an era of post-racial America. Whether we accept it or deny it, we need to examine it.

It is with that thought that I plan to offer periodic "segments" talking about just what our "post-racial America" is all about. Please pass along anything you might see or hear about that you think people need to be more aware of.

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Los Alamitos Mayor Dean Grose plans to resign after forwarding "an e-mail showing a watermelon patch on the White House lawn under the title: 'No Easter egg hunt this year.' Grose has apologized and said he wasn't aware of the racial stereotype that blacks like watermelon."

Here is a blog with what I thought was a pretty good assessment of the details: Group News Blog. Below is the letter I wrote to Mr. Grose and sent to his city email at dgrose@ci.los-alamitos.ca.us.

Dear Mr. Grose,

I beg of you to help me understand why in the world, if you were unaware of the racial stereotype associated with Blacks and watermelon, did you think the postcard was so funny that you forwarded it?? Please help me to understand what you thought the watermelons represented.

From your photo, I would guess you are *at least* in your late 40s or early 50s. That tells me that you were probably a young child during the Civil Rights movement when the violence toward Black people, including name calling and derogatory stereotyping, was probably at it's peak. I don't expect that you would have escaped hearing it.

As a 36-year old woman who also grew up in a small town, I didn't realize I had been enculturated with racist stereotypes until much later in life. I didn't grow up during the Civil Rights movement...and it took me until adulthood to really examine myself and realize I had heard the "n-word" several times as a child and began to recall racist jokes that stuck in my mind. But I *did* examine myself and those around me. And I recognized how hurtful words and symbols that were filled with derogation, hate, and violence still impact people.

I am disappointed. I am disappointed in us as White people who grew up in the same country as African-Americans and still refuse to acknowledge what was less than a generation ago for some of us. I am disappointed that we refuse to learn about the history that so affects our present day. And I am disappointed that when these insensitive acts are pointed out to us we refuse to acknowledge our mistakes.

I'm glad we have come to a day where your action has caused such an upheaval that you felt the need to resign--though I don't think staying in the city council is appropriate. Perhaps I should thank you, though. Maybe I should thank you for being so bold as to send out something so overtly stereotypical so that other people can see that we are not in post-racial America.

I respect the letter you wrote to Keyanus Price and truly hope you meant everything you said. I have many friends and family still in my home town who I think, like you, would be embarrassed if something like this got out. However, I also know in those small towns that humor like the postcard you sent is accepted and they see nothing wrong with it. I would implore you to understand that that kind of humor is NOT accepted...whether around White people, Black people, your home town, visible to the world....or anywhere. It's offensive, hurtful, and has no place in our society.

I have hope that the publicity of your actions will cause you as well as other people to learn more about our history and think about how what we say and do affects others.

Sincerely,

Janet Morrison

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