Q: In discussions on race & current events like Charleston, I keep seeing conservatives accuse the media and people of color of race-baiting. I know that is not what the term originally meant, and that it’s used in this context to shut down discussion and silence talk about racism that doesn’t benefit the racist power structure, but how do I explain that to the average white conservative?
Is there any way to get it through to these people that not talking about race can make racism worse and that treating everything as colorblind can help perpetuate racism?
A: White people insist that there’s no reason to talk about race anymore because we like to believe that racism ended with the Civil Rights Movement. In the minds of many whites (and frankly, this is how our schools teach these issues), America’s race problem concluded with the Civil Rights Movement (integration and voting rights, really). So, when the topic comes up, you get accusations of “race baiting” or making “everything about race” or “playing the race card”.
Of course, this is a terrifically convenient way for white people to let ourselves off the hook (Hey, my dad handled the race problem back in the ‘60s!). It also lets us feel superior, because when we see entrenched issues like poverty and income disparity, modern “ghettos” and mass incarceration, we get to yell “Bootstraps!” and not ask the hard questions about why these issues persist.