Sunday, September 20, 2009

Racism in the Current Discourse

We have here in the US a president whose father was a native of sub-Saharan Africa. The skin tone of this president bears a closer resemblance to his father's than it does to his mother's, who hailed from Kansas and whose skin tone was as peach/pink/white as anyone whose heritage emanated from northern Europe. At this point proportionately less people care about that one way or the other that at other time in this country's sorry history on that point.

But a lot of people still do care about the president's skin tone; both as a reason to like and to dislike him. While I won't go so far as to say it's an utterly meaningless fact but any discussion of it in the context of the current health care debate is a complete waste of time. Those who support the president primarily because he's a black man will do so no matter what and won't be changed and the same is true of those who can't stand the notion of a black man sitting in the big chair in the White House.

All that will happen if one side or the other accuses anyone of racism is that the chance of any substantive discussion of the particular issue actually at hand will come absolutely to an end. The heat gets turned up. Anyone not predisposed to the extremes gets pushed to it in order to defend themselves against probably baseless charges and before long things could turn violent.

The media, which is astounding me more each day with its unconscionable laziness, goes immediately to the most extreme points of view in order to sensationalize everything and make all debate appear more like a car wreck in process instead of trying to parse through the complexities of difficult issues. Hey I dig it, it's hard to do research to understand the composition of health care in this country and the varieties of ways it comes into play among the 300+ million people living here and the 50 states and the regional variations and enormous sums of cash and the tension between government and service providers and insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies, not to mention the different ways it's handled in other countries, all in the midst of the horrors of the current economic problems.

Like everything else, it's all a lot easier if you try to make it a black or white issue.

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