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Black and white and red all over

I know — it’s supposed to be “read” all over as in that old childhood joke — What’s black and white and read all over? A newspaper! But if you read this blog, you’ll have the context for why I’m writing it as red, not read.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the comments I received on this blog recently — questioning why I identified Sarasota’s new Police Chief as African American and why I felt it was important to comment about having a black individual in this role, particularly in Sarasota.

I answered some of the concerns in the comment section of that blog — you may want to check out readers’ and my comments here.

I do feel that sometimes, in a story, or in a discussion, a description of the people involved — their race, religious or political affiliation, their ethnicity, their socio-economic background, their marital status, even their sexual preferences — can be relevant and important and provide context.

In our culture right now what’s terribly, terribly missing nearly all the time is context. It seems we’re all so busy reacting to what we see, hear, read, or observe, that context has become nearly lost. But context is enormously important. We have our knee-jerk reactions — both positive and negative — to events or circumstances or statements and often just flat out disregard or dismiss the context surrounding those things. It’s the same thing that happened with Shirley Sherrod.

All that said, I might be less inclined to mention race in a story such as the one I posted on Hollaway if the next time I’m driving in a car with people and we pass some black folks sitting outside on a porch, no one feels it necessary to comment about blacks being in the neighborhood.

Or maybe if the next time I’m chatting with a girlfriend about Sarasota real estate, she doesn’t describe Newtown as a “bad” section of town.

Or maybe if the automatic assumption about some young black men standing on the street corner isn’t that they’re dealing drugs.

Or maybe if I hadn’t listened recently to a group of women I largely like and respect talk about how they do not approve of interracial marriage.

Or maybe if I hadn’t heard someone recently, after a heated confrontation with a young black man, call that same black man the N word after he left …

Maybe then, I wouldn’t write about or comment about race in Sarasota … or maybe at least not quite so much … .

But until things change in my direct experience with Sarasota and the people who live here, or unless I reach some new understanding — maybe by dialoging more with readers of this blog — I’ll probably continue to write about race and the color of people’s skin when the context requires it.

Posted on September 19th, 2010Comments RSS Feed

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