I was reading the New Orleans post and people accusing others of being racist so I thought I would post this. I wrote to Ms. Sanchez to ask if there has been any backlash from the article but haven't heard back. I will post her response if I hear from her.
January 01, 2006
Kansas City Star
? What racism is, and isn?t
?You?ll probably think I?m racist for asking this, but ...?
Countless e-mails begin this way. And most of the writers can assure themselves that no, they are not racists. Not by my definition. Not for just asking a question.
If ever a word has spun out of control, it is ?racist.? And yes, it is most often misused by the people who hurl it at others.
Far too often, simply posing an honest question garners this assault, questions that some in society have deemed too ?sensitive? to ask. So receiving a real reply is impossible. And having an in-depth conversation also becomes out of the question.
How convenient to keeping things status quo.
To anyone who has ever been falsely accused, racism is about power and money. People are not racist if they simply dislike you. People are not racist if they note the negatives about a group of people, but refuse to see examples that contradict their view. This could qualify as pig-headed, simplistic thinking. But it is not inherently racist.
Racism is using a race or ethnicity-based belief to hurt someone economically. Like deciding that because someone is Latino, that is cause to deny them a job, or a bank loan, or a promotion. Everything else is simply bias or prejudice. And we all do that.
Racism is economic. It is about hurting someone in a tangible, bankable way. Which is also why, in years past, white people had a far greater chance of being racist than people of color. They simply were more likely to be in positions powerful enough to leverage their hatred.
That didn?t mean people of color were any less apt to be hateful. Some of the most hateful people I?ve ever met have been black and Hispanic. And the hating they put out was toward white, non-Hispanic people. The trick was, most could only make insults. They were not the boss doing the hiring.
So maybe the saddest thing is their hatred often backfires to hurt only themselves or their own families.
This is not to argue that, ?You might find this racist, but ...? doesn?t often precede some outlandish thoughts.
I?ve stopped being surprised by the level of insipid commentary people can offer. But more often than not, the questions that follow the statement are usually the ones that sting with a bit of truth.
Like, why are so many Latinos dropping out of high school?
Why are so many minority babies born out of wedlock?
Why are domestic violence rates are so high among Latinos?
Why are blacks and Hispanics ?minorities? in the general population, but literally fill many jails and prisons?
Left unanswered, these questions take on lives of their own. Suddenly, it is race that becomes the reason for crime, dropout rates, violence. The factors of poverty, poor parenting, a lack of self esteem get left out of the understandings.
Suddenly, the ugly truths never get peeled back to find that race is sometimes a factor, but often not in the way people first perceive. Race is not the ?cause? of these social problems.
So for 2006, here?s a wish for more questions to begin: ?I hope you don?t think me racist for wondering but ...?
And a few more replies that begin, ?I?m glad you felt OK to ask that, here?s what I wish you knew ... .?
Mary Sanchez is an opinion-page columnist for The Kansas City Star