The Color of Life
Comments by Vice
President Al Gore's campaign manager, Donna Brazile,
made last week regarding blacks and Republicans,
set off a firestorm of criticism
and produced charges that Brazile had
made racist remarks. The fact Brazile is
an African-American (read: black) woman
apparently didn't factor into any
equation which would allow a member of
a group the right of self-criticism.
Many people today are troubled and confused
about the basic issues of 'race' and seem either helpless to repeat the
mistakes of the past or determined to invent new mistakes in our modern
"politically correct" world. I suspect that behind the majority of
these social blunders is an awareness that the color of life is neither
black, brown, white, yellow, or red. However, as any motorist racing
past a posted speed-limit knows, being aware of something doesn't necessarily
provoke the desired response.
distinctions of "color" is based on the shared dynamics of the
human eye and brain and their ability
to distinguish various reflections of light
and assign "color" to these reflections.
"Light," as the degrees (or wavelengths)
of the visible spectrum of electromagnetic
energy, bounces off of a specific
object, passes through the eye, and based
upon the reflectivity of the object, the
brain matches a perception of "color"
to a particular wavelength of "light." It's
illusory, of course, as brains of non-humans
perceive color differently than we
do. I'm reminded that my mother
preferred black and white television to color,
saying "...It looks more realistic."
Indeed, the world may well consist of subtle
shades of gray. "Color," as such,
could be regarded as a modern, agreed upon
development. But, even though "color"
itself is "all in our heads," objects do
possess different degrees of reflectivity
and we may as well continue to use the
accepted terms of color distinction, as
...through gray136d, could
be a drag when ordering socks online.
Inasmuch as separating
"colors" is a function of communicative convenience,
many biologists today are arguing that
"race," as applied to humans, is a term
arising from socio-cultural vocabularies
and is not scientific. It simply doesn't
exist in humans. Skin
color (as determined by varying amounts of melanin) and
physical characteristics (usually facial--nose,
lips, eyelids) are the primary criteria
used to separate one group of humans from
others by non-scientists. Such
differences are, of course, readily apparent
and distinguishable, but are not
genetically significant enough to qualify
splitting humans into sub-species or
"races." Though we still can't say
for sure exactly how many hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of
years it takes for an adaptive group of humans to change skin color and
physical characteristics, we can say with surety that the process exists
and may not take as long as we suspect. When someone plays the "race
card," it's a game of words and has nothing to do with science.
This Monday, January
17, 2000, will mark the 15th annual observance of the
federal holiday commemorating Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. The
holiday's mission statement was expanded
on August 23, 1994 by President
Clinton to focus on community service,
interracial cooperation, and youth
anti-violence initiatives. Science
allows superficial adaptive differences, balks at
the application of the term "race" as
applied to various groupings of humans,
anthropologists suggest we substitute
ethnicity for "race," however the majority
of us (including the government) still
express the differences between people by
citing "color" and "race." While
it's erstwhile to emulate Dr. King's program of
non-violence and tolerance, it would be
dishonest to further the falsehood that
the problems of certain minority groups
persist because of the "color" of their
skins. It simply isn't so.
A decade ago,
on the southside of Chicago, I was engaged in a bit of
anthropological research (read: getting
into trouble) and began to discuss issues
of "race" with a young African-American
fellow. I was told that "...It ain't been
about the color of someone's skin for
years. If a white guy comes into a black
neighborhood and has problems, it ain't
gonna be because of the color of his skin. It's about the money...
It's about the green..." I remain astounded at that insight!
Sure, there's still plenty of bigots in this world of ours (i.e., Atlanta
Braves pitcher, John Loy Rocker), but the bulk of complaints from various
minority groups (as well as some in the majority) concern money and who
has it, who doesn't, how to get more, and how to make sure some groups
don't get any. I hold that charges of racism, sexism, and other particulars
of bigotry are only partially correct, and pale when judged against greed.
It's about the money...
The comments by
Donna Brazile, from an interview with Bloomberg.com, which elicited cries
of "foul" from critics, are: "[After mentioning Clinton and Gore's work
to improve the lives of African-Americans and Hispanics.] On the other
hand, the Republicans bring out Colin Powell and J. C. Watts because they
have no program, no policy. They play that game because they have
no other game. They have no love and no joy. They'd rather
take pictures with black children than feed them." In an effort to
put Brazile's comments in context (and show support for Gore), Sen. Edward
Kennedy (D-MA) agreed that the Republicans do not have a program to assist
minorities, saying they have not "been the voice of the voiceless,
the dispossessed, or the minority." Kennedy added that the "individual
references" of Powell and Watts were unfortunate. So, in the terms of transient
politics, Brazile's comments were crude, but accurate. It's about
Much of what passes
today as racism (excluding, of course, the vituperations of such hate-groups
as The Klan, neo-Nazis, etc.) appears symptomatic of the
psychological weakness of avarice.
In this cabaret of existence we enjoy, we're
told: "Money makes the world go round!"
As American capitalism is the driving
force in the global economy and our dollars
are green, if I were to pick a color
which could best express life, ...it would
be green. Oh, before modern currency
the color of life was probably different,
but that was then and this is now. It's about the money and Brazile's
comments about the Republicans simply reinforce what everyone already knows.
What's truly unfortunate is that most of those in a position to vote in
the coming elections love green, have
green, want more green, and will vote
for candidates (read: Republicans) who stand a chance of fulfilling their
greed. I wonder if public schools still classify ketchup as a vegetable?
trying to remember the dream,
to main page