Wednesday, November 14, 2007

word choice

This is why choosing your words is important.

This article says that 37% of polled black folks believe that the divide in values and experiences between black folks is so wide that you can't think about all black people as one race.

That's some of the dumbest isht I've heard.

That sentence would make a lot more sense if you substituted the word "class" for "race." Black folks have been trying to make the point for years now that we're neither a monolith of hand-to-mouth people in the projects nor carbon-copies of the affluent Huxtable family. The idea that black people have different life experiences and are varied in their class dynamics and values is not a new one.

There's a big difference between the behaviors of rich white folks and white folks who live in shacks, but we aren't trying to make another race for poor white people to belong to, are we?

If we tried to consider two different races for black people, how would we separate the groups if not by economic status? And if a person like myself grows up in an undesirable neighborhood and comes from a low economic background, would we switch that person's race once they have obtained a higher education and climbed the economic ladder, or would we simply say that they've ascended in economic class? That's what we do for people of all other ethnicities. Why should it be any different for black folks?

When discriminating, do you think racists stop before calling a black person a derogatory epithet to think about whether or not the person has values that align with middle class whites?

I attribute the stupidity, not to Juan Williams, not to the people who responded to the poll, but to the people at the Pew Research Center who conducted the poll with this particular phrasing: "Which of these statements comes closer to your view: Blacks today can no longer be thought of as a single race because the black community is so diverse, OR Blacks can still be thought of as a single race because they have so much in common." This question was put into a poll that asked folks a series of questions related to the socioeconomic status of black people, not about their racial/cultural identity. If it was racial/cultural identity that the study was trying to parse out, then the context was misleading, and so are the results of the study.