Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Playing the Race Card From a Stacked Deck

Did you watch last week's premiere of Survivor? They've segregated the tribes according to race, which was bound to create controversy before the show even aired. In this week's column, I refer to it as Survivor Segregation.

Pundits described it as playing the "race card."

Like so many other people of color, I despise that term. It's just one more code phrase that blocks the import of what we have to say and prevents us from having an honest conversation about race.

Did Johnnie Cochran play the race card when he cross examined Mark Fuhrman in the O.J. Simpson trial? Or did he just expose him for the racist cop he was?

When we have bar room arguments over the merits of Barry Bonds' home run record and point out that white icons like Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb should have asterisks by their names too, because black and Latino ballplayers were not allowed to play against them, is that playing the race card? Or is it just pointing out that historically, the deck has been stacked against us?

You tell me.


Blogger clee said...

I've never been a fan of Survivor, but I do look forward to reading about what happens this season. I guess the producers decided the race division would lead to better ratings. I guess they were right.

7:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too am not a Survivor fan, but I can't wait to see what happens either... Seems like the producers had the right idea, gaining interest from the non-interested that should do something for the ratings... Love your comment about "Wake up Everybody". Because in reality race is still a prominent issue, it's just how we live.

8:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Survivor and Media

I have a different take on the Survivor. The fear was not with the people (participants), but rather with the media. The fear is that this delicate issue would be used to build ratings. (I personally thought Survivor did a fair job of presentation)

I once worked for a website that covers corporate issues related to race.

A veteran journalist, I made a call one day to a major insurance company, which had developed a model plan for selling products in ethnic markets. The executive told me the company did not discuss race with journalists because reporters tend to play up differences, rather than explain them. He argued that journalists often highlight arguments, rather than seek solutions. "It's a lose-lose situation for us and for our customers," he said.

8:22 AM  
Blogger Claire Smith said...

Remember the episode of "All in the Family" in which Archie Bunker was outraged when discovering his hospital roommate who was hidden behind a curtain didn't reveal that he was black - putting Archie in an embarrassing situation after his racist comments? The lesson: "the race card" is acceptable only when dealt by the majority population. And then it's called "the truth."
When insights come from a minority, it's whining, alibying, "reverse racism," etc. If this so-called honest discourse were a fight, I'd say blacks are constantly asked to fight with one hand tied behind their backs! But what else is new?

8:27 AM  
Blogger DebVA said...

Never watched Survivor & won't start now. I do enjoy other similar shows such as Amazing Race or Treasure Hunters where although the teams may be comprised of a single race, gender, or sexual preference it really doesn't matter - the entertainment value is in the experiences & challenges they face as they are immersed in other cultures. Four teams stranded on a deserted island is way too "Gilligan's Island" for me....

9:00 AM  
Anonymous Vernon Clark said...

The term "race card" is a loaded one. Card replaces "issue," suggesting that some kind of game is being played. One plays the race card, but one raises the race issue. Using the term "race card" helps to trivialize matters of race. It's a convenient dodge for the majority when faced with the need for serious racial dialogue.

10:17 AM  
Anonymous John Brodsky MD said...

Perhaps the problem is innuendo. As you correctly point out cards and games are loaded issues. In her 1913 book, "What a Young Woman Ought to Know" Mary Wood Allen MD remarked, "The young woman who respects her own intellectual and moral powers will see little charm in manipulating cards in a way to gain momentary success over another and perhaps arousing unkind feelings. it may be even passions, that may culminate in bloodshed."
At the bottom, the problem lies in competition; and competition (as in out adversarial judicial system), is inevitable when scarcity exists.
Listen to Silvan Tomkins on this: "When men contest for scarce resources, they become adversarial, life becomes, as Hobbes described it, nasty, brutish, and short. That is inherent in adversarial living. We will never be free of it entirely. We may civilize it, we may tame it, but we will forwever be vulnerable to it, so long as there is scarcity. And scarcity does not simply refer to money. It can refer to how many citations there are in the literature to one's latest work. It can make people very nasty."

6:21 AM  
Anonymous John Brodsky said...

Re: Cobb and "The Babe", race is a major discriminatory factor. Other factors are of interest as well. Think of how many intelligent, kindly, and politically apt individuals of all races must exist within a population of millions; then notice who occupies positions of power and leadership.

7:58 AM  
Anonymous aileysmom said...

Thought-provoking article, and an even more provocative blog. I agree that referring to it as "playing the race card" is both dismissive and belittling. When we're talking about prejudice (attitudes) and discrimination (behavior), we are not playing. These things can and do have life-altering effects...just look at the health disparities between blacks and whites. So we're not "playing" and it's not a "card" that can be picked up or left on a shelf.

8:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Annette, I totally agree with you about the use of the "race card" whenever a black in power is being talked about or discussed.

5:48 AM  
Blogger yele100 said...

The use of language by the slavemasters and their children has/is a major weapon to maintain control and prevent any symbolence of unity among the children descended from those brought from Africa to America to be made into slaves. The term first used was "nigger" the term provided much power to the user to almost totally to denigrated people whom was used against. The word gave power to the lowest caste white person to be instantly elevated above the so called best of the blacks, especially in America. The word gave providence to Justice Roger Taney's utterances that "The blackman had no rights that a whiteman was duty bound to respect"(Dred Scot decision). Language was used to Stifle the Black Power movement of the 60's and 70's. The terms Afro/African-Americans and minority was used to replace the term Black. When the blacks accepted such labels they becamed disconnected from blacks who's point of origin was outside the USA, due to the fact that blacks everywhere became more focused on their point of origin which was limited to a certain part of the earth. The term black is universal because there are black people everywhere throughout the Earth. The term race card has the effect of putting everyone except the whites on the defensive when the term is used, effectively providing a means to stifle the real issues of race, however uncomfortable it may be to some people.

11:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

RACE has nothing to do with anything. You are different because you are black. Different in the way your skin looks. THATS IT! Whites are the new minority. Look around. How many rights do white people have that blacks dont.... oh right NONE! In my life I have met more racist BLACK people than white. And my family is REDNECK! Race is only an issue when people MAKE it one. We have a black man running for president.... Do you think he will get more votes because of the color of his skin? NO. it will be a big deal to have the first african american president... but other than that.... big deal.

EVERYONE needs to get over this whole, I'm black, I'm white, I'm better than you, I deserve more stuff. Seriously.

Never in my life have I owned slaves, nor has my parents. And you know what else? EVERY RACE IN THE WORLD HAS BEEN ENSLAVED, MISTREATED, ATTEMPTED ERADICATED!! Look it up! Anyone remember the potatoe famine? My family is irish, from ireland... do you see my people walking around with a stick up our butts acting like everyone owes us something like an apology or something? NO.

Black people.... YOU'RE BLACK.... GET OVER IT!

And the people who are racist... they are morons... all of them. The color of skin or religious belifs DO NOT determine the quality of person.

Finally, a lot of people say that black people are always in poverty. They say its because their black. NO!!!! It's because they are either LAZY or just have bad luck. (this goes for all poverished people in america) GET OFF YOUR COUCH, GO TO SCHOOL! STRIVE TO GET A BETTER AND BETTER JOB!!!

Stop playing the race card.... stop calling the race card.... it is feeding racism. Nobody calls phooey when Survivor splits up groups of men and women... nobody complains when a lesser qualified person gets a job over you just because they are a different race.... talk about racism... THATS racisim.


- Unracisist- Phoenix, AZ Female

8:53 AM  

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