When It Isn’t About Race

I generally don’t pay attention to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, because there isn’t that much to pay attention to. He’s a prominent voice in the GOP establishment, but he’s been previously overlooked in favor of repeat presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann. There’s talk of him running in 2016, but my expectations of him getting into the primary and remaining there are low. The GOP leadership doesn’t need an establishment Republican from the Deep South, at least, not this election. And if Louisiana resident and American Conservative senior editor Rod Dreher has anything to say about it, Jindal has been far from the consummate governor, which weaken his chances at the outset.

But Jindal did do something noteworthy this week; he handled a would-be racial controversy with poise, something the GOP establishment is not especially well known for. There was a brief misunderstanding about which portrait was the “official” portrait of Governor Jindal. A liberal Twitter user tweeted a portrait of the governor that was loaned by an enthusiastic but possibly color-blind constituent, who painted the governor a few shades lighter. A flurry of outrage ensured. “OMG! They’re whitewashing Bobby Jindal!” It turned out that the portrait in question was not of the governor, and that Governor Jindal indeed knew he was not light-skinned.

Governor Jindal chose to reply with humor: “You mean I’m not white?” he joked. Ever the politician, he took his opportunity to criticize his opponents: “I think the left is obsessed with race,” he said. He dismissed the backlash about the portrait as “silly” and added that “the dumbest thing we can do is try to divide people by the color of their skin…We’re all Americans.”

Jindal is of Indian ancestry, and that fact has been almost entirely irrelevant to his political career and whatever ambitions he may harbor for 2016. He may have experienced racism in the past, and may experience it now. But being a person of color does not mean every situation you are in is embroiled in racism. Sometimes, it just isn’t about race. Not even for those of us who aren’t white. Strange, I know. But it’s true.

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If All the Journalists of Color Quit Because of Racism, There’d Be None Left

I was going to write about black hair today, but there was a much more interesting piece in The New Republic that  deserves my attention. Rebecca Carroll, an accomplished author, journalist, and news producer, says she’s leaving journalism because of the systemic racism she endured in her career. It’s a damn shame: a quick Google search reveals a consummate professional who never shies away from telling the most interesting stories in black culture. If she’s serious, I’ll certainly be sad to see her go.

Her complaints in the piece, while uncomfortable to read, are not new. This paragraph in particular struck me as all too familiar:

At the start of each new job, where I was almost invariably the only black editor on staff (unless it was a black publicationI have worked at a few), I would be heralded for my “voice” (and the implicit diversity it brought), until that voice became threatening or intimidating, or just too black. My ideas were “thoughtful” and “compassionate” until I argued, say, that having white journalists write the main features on a new black news venture sent the wrong message to the black online community. My editors disagreed.

Like Carroll, I’ve usually been one of the few (if not the only) nonwhite faces in the room either on editorial boards or in writing jobs. I’ve also been commended for my invaluable voice. But I knew how to avoid the confrontation that would arise from making observations that Carroll did. I found ways to diplomatically phrase my ideas so as not to incite ire. But I still bumped against a glass ceiling, and I finally realized why. I was black enough to add diversity, but not quite enough to fulfill the fantasy of having an exotic, oppressed other on staff to give the appearance of being “well-rounded”.

I’ve had plenty of liberal friends, co-workers, and employers who aren’t racist. But I’ve encountered a persistent, widespread belief that racism doesn’t exist above the Mason-Dixon line, and it galls me. The idea that racism can’t exist in cosmopolitan cities and is reserved for those Bible-thumping, Republican rednecks who think God created the world in seven days is as prevalent as it is wrong.

But that’s the crux of liberal hypocrisy: everyone is welcome except for those who don’t agree with them. God forbid you happen to know open-minded Southerners or think that the affordable housing crisis is due in part to bureaucratic mismanagement. People in New York who disagree with the fundamental idea that government always makes things better for everyone generally call themselves “independents” because they don’t want to be associated with people like Rand Paul.

When I’m Rebecca Carroll’s age, I want to be able to look back feeling satisfied about the trajectory of my career. That’s partly why I became a conservative. I was given a platform on the Right, instead of being pigeonholed as a black and Hispanic writer. At the beginning of my internship at The American Conservative, my editor warned me not to box myself in as a “black writer”. I listened to him, and wrote pieces on a wide variety of topics, from foreign policy to Washington politics and women’s issues in the workplace. I still wrote about race, and got the most feedback on those pieces, but I wasn’t just a race writer. I wasn’t defined by writing about race, and it was freeing to be able to write about an aspect of myself while exploring other topics that interested me. My editor’s advice that carried me through my internship and will likely remain with me through the remainder of my career as a writer.

Race in journalism is a complicated issue, and requires insight, wisdom, and keeping a cool head because of the intense emotionalism that inevitably arises. Being fed up with racist bullshit is a very understandable feeling. I’ve encountered my share of it, and I’m only just starting out. But it’s also part of the job. Whether you’re a rocket scientist or a doctor or a stay-at-home parent, if you’re a minority, racist bullshit is a part of your existence. You can either lament it, fight it, or rise above it. My hope is that as a conservative writer I can do a combination of the latter two things, and motivate others to do the same wherever they are.

See you all on Friday.

Thought Experiment: Privatizing Public Schools?

Sorry about missing Monday’s post, and (almost) missing Wednesday’s. I was dealing with some symptoms last week and had to catch up on graduate school homework. All is now well and attended to.

This weekend I’m going to DC to debate the topic Resolved: Send Your Child to Public School. I’m looking forward to this debate, because most of the attendants are veterans of the public school system, and I want to hear the arguments in its favor. I myself never saw a day of public school; I attended an independent private school from first grade through high school graduation, and I shudder to think how my life would have been different if I had gone to public school for twelve years. I probably would have been fine, but I wouldn’t have had half of the opportunities I’ve had. I’m pretty sure I would never have considered a school like Wesleyan, let alone applied with confidence.

From my limited understanding of it, attending public school is good deal if you live in wealthy suburb in Long Island, Westchester, or in Hudson Valley. If, like me, you’re a black or Hispanic kid from Brooklyn and your parents can’t afford $40,000 a year tuition to private schools, you’re pretty much out of luck. Public schools in New York City are increasingly turning into drop out factories. Leaving school without a high school diploma is essentially signing up for a life of poverty and hardship. Some of the people can manage to lift themselves out of poverty’s rat race, but in many cases, it’s a road that leads to crime, incarceration, violence, and death.

Recent figures show black and Hispanic students are very far behind their white and Asian counterparts: in dozens of schools, not a single black or Hispanic child passed the statewide reading or math exams. This is a condemnation of the public school systems, but it also shows a lack of parental involvement. Are these parents reading to their kids at night, helping them with homework, attending parent teaching conferences? Probably not. Not all of this is the parents’ fault. Some parents don’t speak English and have to work all the time to put food on the table. But it’s also a question of priorities.

But what about charter schools or specialized high schools? Yes, schools like Stuyvesant and Bronx Science are terrific if you can get in and survive the pressure-cooker competitiveness long enough to graduate and get into a top college. But most black kids don’t get in; Stuyvesant admits fewer than ten black students per class. It may be a question of not applying because of a lack of skills to score well enough on the test, or low self-esteem to not even consider attending a prestigious school such as Stuyvesant. New York City has the most segregated schools in the country.

Here’s a thought experiment: what would happen if we privatized public schools? How would that affect black and Hispanic students?

I don’t have the answers to these questions. I’m not in education policy. I just know America is falling behind in the world, and children of color are falling behind even further and faster. And if you’re a parent with a child in school, regardless if they’re going to public or private school, you must read to your child in order for them to compete on on a global stage.

I’ll do a post-debate blog post to let you know which way the debate turns out.

The Winds of Change

Hello friends,

The last couple days have been hectic on this blog. I got a lot of new Twitter followers and many new folks stopped by to read Monday’s post. Since Monday evening it was republished twice, and the response I received has generally been positive. I anticipated devoting today’s post to an apologia, but it seems that that won’t be necessary.

The winds of change are upon us. The growing consensus in Ferguson is that the local Democratic politicians are not cutting it. In a town-hall style meeting in Clayton earlier today, many frustrated black citizens voiced their concerns, and the charged atmosphere suggested that it was only the beginning. Black people everywhere are looking for an alternative that is truly relevant and lasting. I think we can expect an exodus of large numbers of blacks from the Democratic party within the next several months leading up to the 2016 presidential election.

So, what does that mean for this blog?

It means I have to write more. People of color (black, Asian, Native American, what have you) need to know there is another way besides the liberal narrative of the left and the myopic aggression of the right. There is a community of conservatives of color out here, and we need to be more visible so that those who are wrestling with internal conflict need not feel so alone. It’s important to connect with like-minded individuals to move the debate forward. Black Republican did it for me, and it’s only right for me to pass it on.

I will be posting, from here on in, three times a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. This is a way for me to be accountable to you, my new audience, and a way for you to know when to check this space for new posts. It’s time for me to step up, and it’s time for you all to get decent, consistent content. I look forward to interacting with you all on here and on Twitter. In the coming weeks I’ll continue to tweak the blog and set up a commenting policy.

Yours in political arms,

Marjorie

Identity Politics, The Patriarchy, and Love

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credit: youtube.com

Happy Holidays from the Libertarian Latina!  I hope everyone is enjoying time home with loved ones.

Last night I saw the film “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” with my family, and it was great, but it’s not the black film I want to talk about.  The upcoming film “Belle” tells the story of an illegitimate biracial woman who is raised with her father’s aristocratic English family.  She develops a relationships with a young lawyer with abolitionist ideals and the two begin to pressure the powers that be to end slavery in England.  The film is based on the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, who was the product of an affair between an African slave and and English sea captain.  She was raised in the house of her great uncle and was allowed certain household privileges (managing correspondence) but not others (eating with the family).  I cannot wait until this film comes out.  I will be first in line to see it.

My time as a liberal was uncomfortable for me, particularly when it came to racial and identity politics.  I’m a biracial woman who was fortunate enough to attend private school her whole life, and had parents who spoke Standard Mid-Atlantic English at home.  I learned African-American Vernacular English but never used it.  I don’t code switch.  I never have.  This created a rift between me and my fellow classmates of color and within the black and Hispanic communities writ large.  To belong to these communities meant speaking two languages: one in “polite company”, and the vernacular with friends and neighbors.  To speak only the former meant forfeiting your street cred.  It meant you were a sellout, an Uncle Tom.  And yet, to speak English “properly” drew raised eyebrows and intrigue: the unspoken conclusion was that I was not like the “others”, and was therefore a trusted ambassador of communities to which I did not culturally belong.  I have a sneaking suspicion that “Belle” is going to explore the theme of not fitting into a world of privilege and the struggle to find a place in society which has no blueprint for those of your “kind”.

So much of being a liberal in this country as a person of color seems to be centered around hating white people, especially white men, which I guess has some merit, given that black slaves were owned by white masters, and the Jim Crow South was framed by white people in positions of power.  But hating white men goes against my experience and was something I refused to do, further damaging my already negligible credibility with prominent liberals of color.  My second family is composed of my teachers, many of whom were white and male.  They taught me, but they also raised me.  They believed in my potential, recognized my talent, and interacted with me as a thinking person first, a woman of color second.  They validated my beauty and challenged me to think critically.  My intellectual identity and emotional independence is largely due to their positive influence.  Perhaps this is why I’m interested in political science, philosophy, and history instead of sociology, intersectionality, and diaspora studies.  This is not to say that I don’t believe in oppression and injustice.  It just means that I believe these issues are more complex than “Us vs. Them”.  Hating someone who doesn’t look like you, whether you’re the cultural hegemon or not, only perpetuates ignorance and intolerance.

Racism and ignorance exist, but they’re not limited to white people.  Some of the most open-minded people I know are white; some of the most racist bigots I have ever met have had colored skin.  I refuse to dislike a group of people to gain admission to a community because of our matching skin pigmentations.  My community is one with whom I share interests, and ideals, and goals.  We are brought together by respect and bound by love.  Those things transcend skin color, race, ethnicity, culture, and even language.  No political agenda should trump being human.  It often does, and that’s a shame.  It means different interest groups make conflicting sets of demands and fighting to the death to advance their agendas by one inch, which is petty and counterproductive.  Working together is the only way we can achieve anything worth having, not by protecting our bean patches from people who don’t look like us.

That’s all for now.  See you again soon.