Muting “The Man”

Even though I often don’t agree with President Obama, there was something comforting about him delivering an uninterrupted speech as John Boenher could only look on, glowing and angry.

For a brief moment, the symbol of white (even though he looks more Oompa-Loompa orange) establishment interests was put on mute.

If only we could do that more often.

One of the most overlooked benefits of white privilege is that white establishment’s opinion is always counted, no matter the discussion. Other voices only get a say when it’s convenient, even though they make up the majority.

This results in narratives and solutions that serve the white establishment rather than under served and/or underprivileged.

Sometimes we could use a mute button to keep issues from being hijacked by elitist outsiders who have no concern for the welfare of communities they preside over.

For example, the Economist recently published an article called “Race and the riots: A reckoning”. The author asserted that blacks were very prevalent in the London riots (the vast majority of rioters were actually white) based on photos released on the Internet by the police. It also pointed to crime as a cultural problem in the black community based on stop and search data.

As a journalist I couldn’t imagine getting away with such fallacious claims. We’re taught to do our research and take bias into account, yet this author was able to claim blacks made up a large number of rioters based on photos taken by a historically biased police force, not statistics. Further, this author used stop and search statistics to say there is a cultural problem with blacks. A study of stop and frisk in New York showed that while blacks and Latinos are nine times as likely to be stopped, they are no more likely to be arrested than whites..

Unfortunately, the bar was at its lowest when British “expert” David Starkey claimed the white rioters had become “black”.

Would it hurt the discourse in any way to put these people on mute?

Instead, that treatment is reserved for people like acclaimed black writer Darcus Howe. When he tried to explain how youth resistance had been brewing, a BBC anchor cut him off and even dismissed him as a rioter.

The whole episode resulted in further alienation towards British blacks and the vast majority white rioters who now face imprisonment. Giving context to the situation never seemed to cross the media’s mind. They preferred a ready made, not-so-subtly racist narrative.

It’s no better in the US. We give more time to people like Donald Trump, so he can question Obama’s birth certificate, or Michelle Bachmann, so she can claim the Pigford Settlement, which paid black farmers who were denied land based on race, is unfair slavery reparations.

We don’t give this platform to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Both men have been positive role models for their communities and black people across the nation but the media defines them by controversial soundbites. They don’t even get a chance to speak for themselves. Instead pundits spin the same tales of anti-Americanism to demonize the two.

Mitch McConnell is allowed to say making Obama a one term President is his main goal but that isn’t considered anti-American. When someone’s main purpose is to disrupt the success of our government, doesn’t he/she deserve the mute button?

Even the most obnoxious opponents of Obama might be able to accomplish more if they just shut up for a second. There are plenty of black people with legitimate criticisms of the President but we find ourselves defending him when people throw out ridiculous claims like “socialist” or “radical Muslim”.

There’s nothing productive about giving these people a loudspeaker while silencing others who could add substance to the conversation. After all, these debates are supposed to produce solutions for the betterment of the people.

Why then do the police and politicians get more media attention than residents of communities affected by gang violence? Why is Bill Clinton, who heads the Interim Haiti Recovery Committee, given more say on Haiti than the Haitians themselves?

Wealthy white paternalism is neither empowering nor in the best interests of the global community. Self determination will only come when people put themselves at the forefront of discussions involving their welfare.

We’ve heard the same tired rhetoric from the establishment for centuries. It’s about time we put tokenism on pause.

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3 Responses to “Muting “The Man””

  1. I agree with everything you have said except the mute button. And there is another issue here. And that is civil discourse. I cannot accept that a contrary position on an issue gives you the freedom to be rude. One thing that seems clear about your President is that he has manners.

    • I agree that civil discourse is ideal. The problem is that the mute button is already in use. You can predict the viewpoints on a news cast before it happens. When the news serves as an agenda setter then that become a problem. Too many people subscribe to the gang mentality and only have the few viewpoints they see advertised to them by the news to subscribe to. Once we turn off the mute button on these supposedly “fringe” people then the discourse gets richer and much more productive. I suggested the idea of muting some of the more obnoxious far right voices because it gives perspective to the feelings of everyone else. I think it would be an interesting social experiment to see the tables turned even for a few days. Marginalization is a complex subject and sometimes it’s easier to show than explain.

  2. I think that limey anchor may have fried her brain the last time she died her hair. Darcus Howe was speaking the truth. It would be nice to see an insurrection here. Obama is a good man, but he’s pandering to the republican idealists too much. Those payroll tax cuts are a waste of money, instead bring our troops home from Afghanistan; ALL of them, the blacks, latinos, whites, and asians many of whom have served multiple tours while the rest of us bitched about the wars, God bless them.

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