A Minority’s Minority View

Posted: Dec 04, 2006 12:00 AM
A Minority’s Minority View

Because I reject racism as a reason for racial disparities, personal failures, poverty, etc., I’ve been accused of hating black people, hating myself, shilling for the Republican party, siding with white people against blacks, and giving ammunition to white supremacists.

Although I’m not compelled to explain why I write about race frequently and from an unorthodox point of view (for a black person), I’ll share two reasons why I do.

First, like it or not (and I don’t), race will always be a divisive and continually discussed issue in this fallen world, and it’s a mainstay topic in the mainstream media. Since I believe journalists often take the minorities-as-oppressed position, I find their coverage of racial issues inadequate.

Like it or not (and I don’t), the media are influential. Blogs have empowered non-journalists and given us a medium to compete, in a sense, with mainstream publications, at least online. The blogosphere is a marketplace of ideas in the purest form, one that I’ve willingly embraced. I have a public forum where I can reach a few thousand people every day and offer a different perspective on race.

When liberals write about race, they begin from a position of weakness: Blacks need government entitlements to succeed and survive. I start from a position of strength: Individual blacks who’ve taken advantage of America’s vast opportunities can and do succeed, but big government has provided strong incentives not to try. I see blacks as blessed, fortunate to live in a free, economically vibrant country where they can excel if they’re up to the challenge.

Second, I’ve noticed a phenomenon articulated by writer John McWhorter in Authentically Black: Essays for the Silent Black Majority. He writes about a “double consciousness” whereby blacks speak of empowerment and individual responsibility in private, but they play the victim in front of whites and constantly remind them of America’s “racist” ways. Whites must be kept “on the hook.”

I vowed to take the opposite approach by keeping blacks “on the hook.” It’s a fresh angle and much more engaging than telling whites how racist they are. Blacks need to be reminded, constantly, of our responsibility.

For example, in an irresponsible and disingenuous move, a black firefighter named Tennie Pierce sued the city of Los Angeles, alleging racism because a coworker named Jorge Arevalo put dog food in his spaghetti. In most stories I read about the case, race figured prominently. The fire chief resigned, and the city council agreed to settle Pierce’s case for $2.7 million.

But the prank had nothing to do with his skin color. A skilled player on the firehouse’s volleyball team, Pierce called himself “Big Dog” and reportedly would tell teammates to give him the ball – “Feed the Big Dog” – so he could spike it. (Source) Firefighters in his unit were notorious for playing pranks on one another, and they played a juvenile one on him.

Unfortunately for Pierce, photographs of him hazing fellow firefighters were posted on the web, including one that apparently showed him helping shave the genital area of a bound firefighter. In light of the photographs, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa vetoed the settlement.

Pierce was a participating prankster, but when it was his turn to be “pranked,” he punked out. The 51-year-old, 19-year veteran firefighter pulled the classic scam of invoking America’s racist past to reap present-day cash. While putting dog food in Pierce’s food may have been a silly prank, it wasn’t a racist act. If you believe news accounts, however, you’d assume Pierce was routinely humiliated by whites in a segregation-era firehouse instead of one where the men, including Pierce himself, hazed one another indiscriminately.

As long as race-exploiting opportunists like Pierce exist and the media continue to exclude pertinent facts so they can frame news stories as though Jim Crow were still alive and kicking, I’ll be on hand to fill in the blanks and keep them “on the hook.”