Friday, November 12, 2010

Jay Smooth on Kanye West, George W. Bush And The Problem With Talking About Race

It's no secret that I'm a big Jay Smooth fan, but I think his comments regarding how we tend to make conversations about race issues very personal whenever we talk about them is especially spot on:
When it comes to the aftermath of Katrina, parsing out the consequences of Bush's actions and how race may have played into that seems to be less important than how discussing race effects President Bush's self esteem. I think that points to the biggest stumbling block we have in being able to work on race issues in this country: the way almost every debate becomes so hyper-personalized, and focuses on whether a particular criticism really means, "You're a bad person" when we should be focusing on issues that are bigger than ourselves and have nothing to do with what's inside our heart.

Like West, I feel some empathy for Bush. I think that Bush believes he's a good person who was trying to do the best for all people. But I still find it puzzling that he has an apparent lack of perspective about what his responsibilities were as president.

...But Bush's comment seems to have been genuine, and it reflects the unique relationship we have with race in this country, where anytime the issue comes up, we relate to it in an extremely personal way instead of being able to stay grounded and focused on what the substantive issue is.
Anyone who has ever got into a conversation about privilege knows exactly what Jay is talking about and I think it brings interesting questions about how we view race issues and where we think our place in those issues is on an individual level to the forefront.

You can read the rest of his comment on NPR.

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