Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Is This Mikal Watts Photo Racially Insensitive?

Fifty years ago yesterday, the Little Rock Nine bravely marched into a previously all-white schoolhouse, demanding equality for themselves, and blacks across America. They stood proudly, and showed us that those kids had the power and determination to stand up for what's right, but after five decades, what are the results?

Last week, tens of thousands of supporters rallied around the Jena-6, a group of six black teens that were involved in a fight after another sat under the "white tree" at their high school campus. Nooses were hung from that tree, which led to tensions at the school, erupting in a fight where one white student was injured. The black teens were charged with attempted second-degree murder.

This week, a black-faced lawn ornament that was tied by a noose to a mailbox with a chain around its ankle made news in Toledo, Ohio for being racist. The homeowner claims it had been there for years without causing a disturbance, but Lefty Blogs has a Glass City Jungle post ranked at #1 for the week.

Tomorrow, The "All American Presidential Forum" will air on PBS focusing on minority issues and hosted by black talk show host Tavis Smiley. None of the top republican presidential candidates planned to attend. It seems like republicans want to have black votes, but aren't actually exerting any effort to get them. (TxSharon: We don't have time for your black ass but we'd appreciate your vote)

Locally, although not nearly as serious as The Little Rock Nine, The Jena-6, the black-face lawn ornament or even the republicans opting out of discussions about black issues is Mikal Watts' unveiling of his new website which features a link to his flickr account with the photo below:When there was a brief discussion about the photo last week among the Texas blogosphere, one of the bloggers printed out a screenshot and took it into a meeting he was conducting. By chance, it was made up of 21 black people--all factory workers.

He says:

The response was, "ok," when I just held it up and passed it around (a copy without the caption) and said, "I'm doing a little personal test. Tell me what you think of this picture." Then I told them who it was, as nobody knew.

Then the response was, "oh" and "oh, really?" and one, "interesting." Then I passed around one that showed them the caption, and the response ranged from "what an idiot to call us 'last'," to "yeah, blacks are ALWAYS last to politicians, tell me who that is again because I'm not voting for him."

Black voters often look for it [racism] when it's not [overtly] there. I was astounded by the results of my little "focus group," which ranged in age from about 29 to about 68.

Maybe that's East Texas black people, maybe it's not. Maybe it's factory workers, maybe it's union people...Maybe to the rest of us, we say "huh," but I believe that black voters--the not overly-political, average voters, who might know how/why politics is done, see something different than we do.

I feel like Watts really shows us how carelessly he expresses how he considers us minorities: "Meeting every last voter" - as if we stand out on the periphery of society where we lack wealth and education. Perhaps we're the last voters, because we're less likely to show up, and Mikal is making an "extra effort" to find us where we may lurk and extend us that handshake to pull us back into civilized voting society?

It's like you're showing off that you delved into our picnics and really got to know us. It almost reminds me of Steven Colbert's black friend, or when George Costanza realized he didn't have any black friends, and solicited his exterminator to dinner with him, just to show that he had at least one, except Mikal, this is far less funny.

If it's a serious effort to come out to understand us, it's appreciated. Attend a forum, really listen to what we have to say. Better yet, don't even realize that we're different, because we're really not. We have mothers and fathers that are looking to retire, sons and daughters planning for college. We pay taxes. We're actually a lot like you.

You and your staff might not have intended it to be taken this way, but such a fleeting carelessness, to those of us who may be less fortunate and "different from you", truly shows how you feel about us in your possible future constituency. If that's the case, count me out. I'm voting for Rick - he's one of us.

Just so you know, like my photo of Joe Lieberman doesn't mean he hates handicapped people, I'm sure you're not really a racist. Just be more careful, please?
View the original flickr photo | Learn about Lieberman's parking job

No comments: