Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Race and the Media

I was heading home on an airline flight, having a engaging conversation with a man who was quite the history buff. We talked about the state of race relations in the United States. I remarked that as far as we'd come in our country, I still felt that it was harder to grow up black in America instead of white.

My friend for a flight ("McFriends" I call them) agreed. We talked about President Obama, and the significance of his election.

Then the conversation turned to the Civil War, and that's when my row mate decided we were no longer McFriends. I remarked that it appeared that Abraham Lincoln was no friend of the black man during his tenure as a congressman. I went on to state my belief that although Lincoln later embraced emancipation, he was not largely motivated to preserve the Union by a desire to end slavery. Instead, I said, it was mostly about money and power, as are most wars.

Not immediately noticing the chill that had come over our conversation, I dropped the real bomb.

"I think the state of race relations would be much better in our country had the Civil War never happened. Between the Civil War itself, and the way that the black man was used as a pawn against southern whites during Reconstruction, it set the stage for a hardened, institutionalized racism in the South that's still there."

The man looked at me with what seemed to be disgust.
"You know, until now, I wouldn't have fingered you as a racist."
"As far as I'm aware, I'm not a racist," I said.
"If you think we'd be better off had the Civil War never happened, you're a racist."

I tried to point out that I was only speaking in terms of how the Civil War and its aftermath affected race relations for generations to come, and that obviously there would have been a plethora of ramifications beyond race relations.

No matter. My McFriend was no longer my McFriend, and in his eyes, I might as well have flashed a KKK membership card.

I'm thinking about that encounter today after reading Bob Barbanes' blog post regarding the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin affair. It appears that the "mainsteam media" has followed the lead of Fox News, deciding to discard the truth to build a big news story.

My God, I hope I never have to take another person's life while defending myself or my family. I remember talking to a retired cop who'd once shot and killed a young man who'd robbed a liquor store, and even though he was a Vietnam veteran, it was evident that the shooting would haunt that man for life.

But I've also had this thought: "If it ever happens, I hope the bad guy is white."

Maybe, in your eyes, that makes me a racist. I think of it as facing reality.

(Thanks to Bob for the link to NBC's apology for their "mistake.")


Debby said...

Wow. I guess I should watch more TV. NBC's apology is not enough. They're forming the opinions of the public by feeding us altered truth. Why is the FCC not all over that?

It's the same reason that I quit going to my church. The pastor did the same thing. He's always trying to drum up our Jesus juju by feeding us some half truth about how our government is trying to suppress religion. Like in California they arrested a guy for sitting on a corner, reading his Bible.

Dang California. You guys! Pagans.

Uncle E said...

Even though you constantly call me a "half-Canadian", I do not in any way think you're a racist. A Canadian-baiter, yes, but a racist, no.