3 Thing That Get White People Really Riled Up
Here's the list:
Reason #1: "When black people move into “their” neighborhoods."
The list contains some mildly funny items (I thought reason #8 would at least cause some mild angina amongst the Jersey Shore crowd,) some insensitive items (what's wrong with white actresses adopting black babies?), and some inaccurate items (black people like yogurt too!)
Buried within the satirical list were also some sociological issues that tug at the state of race relations today and present problems on the path to a post-racial society.
No one is implying that any of these items would spark a race riot, but the path towards a post-racial America is still frought with pitfalls. Here are four items from the list that have sociological, economical, cultural, and and politcal context that indicate that America still has a way to go towards a post-racial society.
1. When black people move into “their” neighborhoods
Fifty years after the end of Jim Crow, and despite school busing programs, America’s neighborhoods remain largely segregated. Fifty percent of black Americans live in just 2% of the 3,100 counties in the United States. John Logan, a sociology professor at Brown University, analyzed census data from 2005 to 2009 and found that the average black American lives in a neighborhood where the majority of the residents are black. Black people are the most segregated minority in America. Logan found that the average white person in a metropolitan area lives in a neighborhood that is 74% white. The slow economy has had a disproportionate impact on the black middle class which, in turn, has virtually brought to a halt any mobility amongst black people. If black people start moving into white neighborhoods, or at least start moving away from the major metropolitan centers, white people may not appreciate the de-homogenization of their neighborhoods. These neighborly folks may not burn crosses on your lawn anymore, but they have shown a propensity for keeping their neighborhoods pure.
2. The possibility of another black person in the White House
When President Obama was first elected, gun sales went through the roof. When he was re-elected, sales took off again. The birther movement seems to be alive and kicking and the level of obstructionism in Congress cannot be entirely related to hurt feelings over the passing of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The gun sales probably have something to do with the irrational fear that Obama would promote ever more stringent gun control laws and the obstructionism resulting from the passing of the ACA probably has something to do with the Tea Party election wave of 2010. But many people believe that the combination of these things indicates a general disregard for a black president. For some reason, many couldn’t understand why the first black president chose to empathize with the tragic death of Trayvon Martin. Some couldn’t understand how he identified with the disrespect shown to Henry Louis Gates. Last month, a Florida woman held up a sign saying “Kenyan Go Home.” A crowd at a Missouri rodeo cheered and applauded a clown that mocked the president while wearing an Obama mask, and Arizonans protested against Obama by singing “Bye Bye Black Sheep." Another man mocked him by holding up a sign that read 47% Negro,” and yet another man held up a sign that read, “Impeach the half-white Muslim.” This doesn’t include the many monkey taunts and caricatures of Obama and his wife over the years. Somewhere around 2024, after Mayor Cory Booker wins this year’s New Jersey Senatorial race and after he has succeeded Chris Christie as Governor of New Jersey, and after Hillary Clinton completes her second term, we’ll be seeing this pattern repeat itself. Booker's ascension to the White House may not cause a riot, but there will surely be panic in the air.
3. Their kids bringing home a black boyfriend or girlfriend. Oh, no!
“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” starring Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, and Sidney Poitier, was made in 1967 and released after the Supreme Court ruled in June of that year that interracial marriages were legal in all states. Despite the 1967 ruling and the number of interracial marriages hitting its highest levels in recent years, white Americans remain statistically the least likely people to marry outside of their race. But more importantly, according to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, only 54% of Americans have even invited a person of another race to their home for dinner. According to a recent Reuters/IPSOS poll, 40% of white Americans do not have any black friends. Sunday may be the most segregated day of the week but the other days aren’t far behind. Now, you may not think that white Americans will begin rioting if black people start showing up at dinner, but keep in mind that in 2012, 29% of likely GOP voters in Mississippi and 21% of likely GOP voters in Alabama felt that interracial marriage should still be illegal. In 2011, an interracial couple was initially kicked out of their local Kentucky church and a Tennessee church secretary claimed that she was fired from her all-white church when it was discovered that she was married to a black man. Those bigoted Southerners may not riot, but they will go to their graves protesting loudly.
4. The last episode of one of their favorite shows
“Seinfeld” was one of the most popular sitcoms in the history of television and it made stars out of most of its cast. It was introduced as part of NBC’s hugely successful “Must See TV” Thursday night network programming bloc. From 1982 to 2006, NBC was home to some of the best comedies in the history of television. “Must See TV” included shows like “Cheers,” “Taxi,” “Friends,” “Will and Grace,” “Mad About You,” “Night Court,” and “Family Ties.” What wasn’t considered a “must see” by NBC programming are shows that featured a black lead character or a show with a black cast. Throughout the 25 seasons of “Must See TV,” “The Cosby Show," and its spinoff “A Different World” were the only shows that were built around black actors. In 2006, NBC changed its blockbuster Thursday night comedy slogan to “Comedy Night Done Right.” NBC continued its wave of hugely successful comedy shows that included “30 Rock,” “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation,” “Community,” “Scrubs,” and “My Name is Earl.” They also continued their pattern of not airing any comedies that featured a black person. In fact, NBC has not had a black comedy in its famed Thursday night programming bloc since “A Different World” went off the air in 1993. Adding to the problem is that many of these shows are staged in metropolitan areas, but the show’s characters rarely have any interaction with minorities. Jacqueline Stewart, a film studies graduate student at the University of Chicago, told the Los Angeles Times that when "Seinfeld" stopped airing, similar shows represented “strange vision of urban living.” This lack of content points between minorities and non-Hispanic white people on TV is an accurate portrayal of life in America. As documented by census data, however, the paucity of images that reflect the totality of black American culture, and the virtual disappearance of black sitcoms from network TV reflects an intolerance towards learning more about the black American experience, exacerbates racial tension, and hinders progress towards a post-racial society. There are black middle-class neighborhoods, there are black “Friends” that work at “The Office” and maybe it is about time to see some of those stories. Black people have been known to be quite funny.