Yes, Race Matters.

Does race really matter? This question is posed a lot in the conservative blogosphere. This is never a question I hear liberal commentators ask each other. It’s obvious that to liberals race does matter…a lot. It’s the first quality that they seem to observe, often. Criticize Obama? Well, you must be a racist. Black teen killed by non-Black? Clearly it was a hate crime because the victim was Black! Breitbart.com’s Joel Pollack daring to raise alarms about Critical Race Theory? Racism, obviously. The only time race doesn’t seem to matter to liberals is when it works to prove the opposite of their accusations. Pollack’s wife is Black, but whatever…racist! Many conservatives are Black but still – racism!

The Trayvon Martin case has brought renewed tensions to the race issue, helped along by eager hustlers like Al Sharpton. For liberal America the case was further proof that we still have a long way to go to reach race equality. For many conservatives it elicited surprise that we are still so angry about the issue of race in this country today, over 50 years after the civil rights movement. I’ve received many comments from people in light of the Martin case expressing confusion and frustration. One commenter said “I’ve been shocked to see how this whole thing has become such a huge deal. Why do we still look at each other as this race or that? When I look at a person I truly don’t see the color of their skin. We should all be colorblind…” This comment is completely representative of many, many others I have heard about race in the last few weeks.

 So…does race really matter?

 As a Black conservative woman, my answer is “Yes! It does.” Understandably this will make many conservatives feel uncomfortable. Conservative America has been the butt of blatantly cruel and false accusations of racism for decades now. Their words are routinely twisted and misrepresented in the media and Hollywood complex. The meme of “racist conservative” has led many of us to shy away from uncomfortable conversations about race. But I fear that in our attempts to pull our society away from the “race first” hysteria of outlets like MSNBC, some conservatives have pulled too far in the other direction. We completely discount the role of race in our society in our attempts to be “colorblind”. I think race does matter. I do think it’s important. In this world race is intimately tied to culture, and culture is what gives the human race it’s flavoring. Have you ever been to a cookout at a black family’s house? It’s a whole lot different from going to a cookout with a White family. Is that because of income level or education? Not really. It’s because of race, which inevitably leads to culture.

 I don’t want our society to be colorblind. I am perfectly fine with anyone noticing that I am a Black woman. I’m proud of my heritage. I’m proud of the amazing contributions the Black community has made in building this blessed and prosperous country. Our community has faced incredible odds, discrimination and oppression, while at the same time becoming extremely influential in areas that set the tone for the general American culture, such as the arts and education. All the racial adversity, the struggles – it all added up to an incredibly rich and vibrant culture. I don’t want to ignore that richness in the name of being “colorblind”. I believe the same goes for other race communities as well. To me, diversity doesn’t just mean a bunch of people of all different races in the same place, it means many distinct cultures coming together and sharing their unique experiences/gifts. I don’t want my Asian friends to be just like me. I love learning about their stories and traditions. Their race actually gives them a specific perspective on American life that I just don’t have. Their race does matter to me, because it informs their views and how they relate to those around them and american society in general.

 I appreciate so much my White friends who tell me race doesn’t matter to them. They are good people and they just want to be able to see others for the “content of their character” . But if I’m being honest, sometimes it also bothers me when they say things like that. What they don’t understand is that for most black people race does matter. It isn’t just about “Black power” and lingering issues from our enslaved ancestors. It’s about the way we laugh, what we laugh about; how we socialize, worship, recreate; it’s about how we eat, how we communicate, how we raise our families. All of these things hold within them hundreds of years of experiences and development. And of course that holds true for all racial communities. Sometimes, when a White friend says they want everyone to ignore race, it feels like they are saying we should ignore culture too; and what many people may not realize is that for Black people, their culture is a great source of pride, despite the failings and troubles of our community in recent decades.

 I’m certainly not saying it’s wrong to see folks outside of their racial designations; but the controversial Derbyshire piece from a few weeks ago got me thinking about this whole idea of race and conversations surrounding race. His piece was disturbing but it made me think – if I were ever going to have a real, open discussion on black/white race relations I would want a guy like that in on it. Why? Because he said uncomfortable things. At least he admitted how he really felt. It’s hard to have the uncomfortable conversations in today’s climate. If you don’t hold the “right” views you are immediately shot down and ridiculed. That doesn’t leave much room for honesty. I’d like for us to be able to really have those cringe-worthy talks, where people say what they really think even if it sounds crazy or offensive. How can we challenge misperceptions and prejudice if no one is willing to take the risk of opening the dialogue? How can we truly become a post-racial America if no one is willing to tell the truth about our differences, similarities, and all the awkward things in between?

 Race does matter. It’s okay to see race, because it means acknowledging culture. It just shouldn’t be the first thing we see, and it shouldn’t be where we get stuck.

25 Comments

  1. Jacob S. says:

    I think you may misunderstand why some conservatives say that race does not matter to them. I see it as, race is not a deciding factor of why you are a friend of mine, got the job you have, etc. Now, race when it comes to culture and history is a different matter. It is neat to see different cultures and embracing one’s culture can be a good thing. In the end, content of one’s character is more important to me than race could ever be.

  2. G8rmom7 says:

    Great piece and something to think about. If you want to have an uncomfortable discussion try talking to one of your feminista friends about the natural differences between men and women and how those differences are essential to a happy and successful family life.

  3. Jules says:

    It is true that when you look at someone you see their skin color, but that doesn’t tell me ANYTHING about that person. Until they start to talk about things I don’t have a clue where they stand on any issue. Just because I am white does not mean that I see “being black” as a way of life. The culture that you have or that I have revolves around the way that I was raised. I enjoy hearing about different takes on any situation, but that is not necessarily because someone is black or white. I see the color, but I am not influenced by the color. Does that make it clear to you?

  4. Rachel Ann says:

    Hi Kira,

    I agree. Everything about us matters, “colors” how we view the world. I’m an Orthodox Jew and truthfully have never seen myself as white, but as Orthodox Jew. That is what defines me, that is my culture. It is different than “white” or “black” or “Deaf” culture. I too like learning about different cultures and the way things are done in different lives, but I also appreciate my own. To me that is what it is about. Seeing a person in their completeness, not one aspect. Interesting article, thanks for posting.

  5. Andrea says:

    I agree that culture matters, yes, but I don’t think race matters. I notice race, just as I do if someone is blond or short, etc… But it doesn’t matter to me what colour your skin is any more than if you have big feet. Variety of culture is what makes the ‘Cook Outs’ different not variety of skin colour.

  6. Angel says:

    Kira, I have nothing but respect for you, so please don’t think I’m trying to start an argument.

    I don’t think that people who say they wish we lived in a more colorblind society are trying to ignore culture.

    For me, personally, it means that color has no bearing on the worth of a person, not that their culture should be ignored. I don’t believe race and culture are mutually inclusive. I could claim my Native ancestry much more loudly, but I don’t because I have not lived the culture.

    An Asian or Greek raised in America without the benefit of their native culture is still Asian or Greek, but they are only going to identify with their culture if they’re exposed to it. We don’t know, upon meeting someone, what their culture is. Races are a little easier to estimate, and that is where I think the desire for blindness comes in. For us NOT to make presumptions about ANYTHING when meeting someone.

    I think it is possible to ignore race while still acknowledging culture. And I definitely agree, race should not be where we get stuck.

  7. Linda Wagman says:

    See, Kira, this is why “race does not matter” to me. I don’t care what the color of a persons skin is. Yes, we are different. And that is what I appreciate about the human race! You are right about the cookout! (I’m listening to Marvin Gaye, as I type) I love that we are different! The “joie de vivre” of the Black race! I have always loved it! The “loudness”, if you will! I wish that I could let loose a little more, but culturally, I was not brought up that way. When I worked, the atmosphere always changed for the better when I worked with Blacks. I could go on, but I hope that you understand what I am saying. We all bring something different to the table, and that is a good thing. God knew what he was doing.

  8. Josephine says:

    Well said Kira, I agree -its important to really see eachother, hear eachother, laugh with and at eachother and ourselves. It’s important to be human beings all created different yet alike…love how you said what you said ..I’m passing this article on to my kids, they’ve heard me say this very same thing and its good for them to hear it from a black woman as well. Thanks for sharing your heart and soul with so many people, I appreciate your honesty.

  9. Ed Snyder says:

    Kira,
    You write: It’s about the way we laugh, what we laugh about; how we socialize, worship, recreate; it’s about how we eat, how we communicate, how we raise our families.

    I question: Are these things inborn, or are they the result of culture?

    If the answer is, they are inborn (genetic), then I guess race matters. If they are not inborn, then it is about culture, not race.

  10. Deborah Seneca says:

    Interesting. As someone with a white European ancestry, I see black culture in America as wholly American. Blacks have assimilated into American culture and have contributed aspects of their own history and culture into the melting pot that is distinctly American. Unlike Hispanics, and in particular many Mexicans who have immigrated here recently, blacks do not maintain allegiances to any other country but the US. I would bet the term “African-American” was first coined by people on the left to create separation more than to bolster a feeling of pride and respect for the ancestral culture of blacks.

    I agree that part of the beauty of the USA is that we’re a mix of many different cultures. The concept of multiculturalism as it is being pushed today actually divides and isolates communities, and is weakening the fabric of American culture. Is it unreasonable to think that people coming to the US from other countries should want to be American? Have we so distorted the idea of what it is to be American that assimilation is now believed to be a racist concept?

    As others have already posted above, race is important as it applies to the culture of an individual, but ancestral culture should be diluted as it mixes with American culture in the form of language, art, American history and traditions. If we don’t develop a common experience and allegiance that is American first, we will always be divided along racial lines and our country will not survive.

  11. Maureen says:

    Nice! love it

  12. Excellent piece! Expresses my sentiments exactly.

  13. Elizabeth says:

    Each person is a part of many cultures. Some we are born into, such as race, gender, or hometown. Some you get to choose, like y our college and hobbies. I’ll use myself as an example, I’m a white, female, military brat, for birth, conservative, graduate student in plant pathology, gamer. I can go to a bbq with a share of any of those cultures and spot lots of differences in the way it goes. So for me the race culture doesn’t play any bigger of a role in my opinion of who you are then the rest of the cultures you have. My opinion of a person tends not to be what single culture they have but how they’re amalgamation and personality combine to make up how they interaction with me.

  14. jkinlosangeles says:

    Wonderful discussion starter!

  15. Don says:

    Yes, race conversation tends to be avoided because of the discomforting arguments that groups get labeled with blame and or victimization.

    It’s like arguing with your spouse about the same issues with no resolve except distancing themselves, stop talking, then divorce for reperations.

    Thus, evoled “political correctness “.

  16. Eric says:

    It’s so ironic how many people let their eyes blind them to the person inside. I consider myself “color blind” since I’m too busy accepting people based on their actions, not their appearance. I’m also very thankful that we have such a variety of heritage and culture in our country. I’ve also had the privilige of living in Korea for 4.5 years, Italy for 4 years, and deployed to Turkey for 3 months. I enjoyed every where I went because I wanted to see how they lived and experience it.

    I wish more people would just see others for WHO they are.

  17. Richard H says:

    Race does not matter. Heritage matters. Culture matters. To say that you celebrate your heritage is fine. Come help me celebrate mine at the Scottish Highland Games next month. But … that is not a matter of _race_ it is _heritage_. And that is what you think you are being robbed of when your friends say that race does not matter. The thing is that a lot of the people who are so hung up on _race_ really don’t give a damn about your _culture_ or _heritage_. They are just looking at your skin. And _that_ is what we need to get past.

  18. greenchili says:

    Kira, your article is well stated, however, life is so much more complicated than your article. For example, I don’t want to live next door to drug addicts, nor welfare people, and especially gangbangers. Skin color has absolutely NO bearing on these categories of people. Each class will destroy the value of my home. Period. Any questions?

  19. Smartgirl6 says:

    Good article! When people make comments about being “colorblind” I thinn they mean well, but you are right! Why wouldnt we want to see color? With these different colors comes different cultures and that is beautiful.

  20. Excellent job Kira! I will reference this in the near future! :)

  21. Tim says:

    The color of my skin defines me, no more or less than the shape of my ears. If an individual is “proud” of skin pigment, for whatever reason, then that person views the world, in whole or in part, via the prism of race.

    I’m proud of all Americans, of every ethnicity who overcome adversity.

    Its one thing to discuss, understand, and study race…quite another to define oneself in those terms.

  22. roberto says:

    Kira, I value your perspective and share some of your sentiments. But I look at it from a little different perspective to see something similar. it is about culture. Race is a genetic disposition, culture is more profound, and independent of genetic heritage. While some can make the case that there is no difference, history shows us that isn’t so. Blacks raised in a white culture, and visa versa, show that it is culture that is predominate, not race. I will be the first to admit that all cultures have good and bad characteristics. I am of Italian heritage and aculturation. Italians are family oriented, traditionally Catholic and religious, and some had a history of criminal activity with the Mafia. The other side of my family history had much to do with the immigration of Irish; is it nec?essary for me to go into detail about this heritage? None of this has anything to do with race; it is all about culture and heritage. The African American heritage is rich with culture, both good and bad, just like any other race. And of course it is mixed with all other races, and so is not any more pure than the heritage I claim: Italian, Irish, Scot- Irish, and German. Who knows, maybe some African American too, some where along the line. So much for pride in our race and heritage, right? My point is that our country is a melting pot and a country of principles-first and foremost- that says we are ALL equal under the LAW, and that is what is most important. How our neighbor feels about us is HIS problem; as long as he keeps his prejudice, if any, to himself, that is what matters. When he allows it to infringe on anyone else, that is a different matter, and is contrary to our laws and principles and becomes a public matter for all of us. Freedom of association, which allows all of us to enjoy our cultures with those that share them are a different matter. Eric Holder aside, the law has no place in this matter, and this man is not only wrong in his assertions, he is a racist and should not be tolerated as the chief law enforcement officer of our country. The first speech he made when he asserted that racism was prominent in the country, and whites and blacks should associate with each other, was inappropriate and he should have been called to resign. It has only gotten worse since then. This administration has set our country back a generation of progress. Most Americans are comfortable with their neighbors, black and white, Italian, Irish, German, Spanish, Chinese, or whatever. We American are the most color blind and accepting people of different cultures to the point of appreciation of any people in the history of man. And to assert something different is a true disservice and a lie to history. History will tell this story, I have not doubt. Roberto Lawrence 18/0502012

    • I agree with you – especially on the dominance of culture but I think her point was that so many try to say that race doesn’t matter & it does, whether we like it or not. I strongly agree that in certain situations culture can trump race but the discrimination we see in America is based on race and not necessarily culture.

  23. I started reading this with great trepidation as 99% of the time you come across a Black Conservative talking about race you want to stick your face deep into your palm. This was definitely not the case with your article. Colorblindness is really a Utopian idea and I was taught to that utopianism is anti conservative.

    To those who say race and culture you are correct in certain contexts, but not in the American context. Sure in Nigeria where everyone is Black; being Ibo or Yoruba is what matters, race is largely irrelevant. But in America black people and white people have different cultures, it isn’t a bad thing it is a human thing there is no reason for us to be exactly the same.

  24. Defending colorblindness in the context of racial issues obfuscates the much broader problem of stereotyping. True color blindness requires a much deeper acceptance of the fact that we discriminate against many different groups, unwittingly, on a daily basis. All of us. Everybody. Everywhere. Simply stating that we are color blind and acting it is not going to help. We must improve ourselves and get to the roots of the problem. Please visit “The Art of True Color Blindness” – http://dld.bz/b45gb – and comment if you wish.

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