Patience needed in race discussion
David Moats’s editorial on May 6, “Raising a profile,” hit the nail on the head. He points to the fact that discussions about race need to be viewed in the larger context. In the case of remarks by Mr. Gage, it would have been wise to frame his quotation as part of the larger discussion that reflects the seriousness of drug use and marketing by people of all races and ethnicities. But even that might not have passed the scrutiny of some people who want to make discussions about race a negative issue.
Mr. Gage’s comments were well intended to inform the public of a particular viewpoint held by people of color who are successfully making contributions to the community. When representatives of the minority cause negative stereotypes that are then reflected back on the productive contributors to the community, it causes a problem. It must be a challenge to try to fend off harsh looks and negative comments when you are working hard to promote yourself and the community. Most people would not like to be in that position, and I’m sure the discomfort is not overtly expressed most of the time. The individual who reported this to Mr. Gage took responsibility for bringing up an unfortunate consequence of our drug culture. It is important that his remarks be viewed as a demonstration of his courage and desire to enhance an understanding that will promote fairness and justice. Our focus should be on the content of the remarks and on the seriousness of this individual’s concerns rather than the manner they were reported.
As Mr. Moats points out in his editorial, racial profiling not only affects innocent people because they are often inappropriately targeted. It affects their daily lives in other ways as well. A person of color walks into a room filled with white people and has to wonder who is for me and who is going to think negatively about me. A white person entering the same room never has to consider whether their skin color is going to make a difference in the way they are received.
What all of this discussion really demonstrates is how naive we are when it comes to discussing race and racism. Most white people in Vermont do not have a lot of experience with this type of discourse, and there is a certain amount of skepticism that is imposed when they try to join the discussion. We need to understand that good intentions may fall victim to fumbling and poor rhetoric, but the underlying content is what we should really be examining. We are still very young in our ability to discuss race and racism. We all have a lot to learn so that individuals are not offended, intimidated or hurt. This means that we will need to have a lot of patience with each other when we try to participate in the discussion, and it is vital that we have this discussion, so that we can learn to understand the nature of hurt that racism imposes on all of us.