I love doing surveys and polls. We put questions out on the Web, people answer, we post their responses. It’s a pretty simple process.
But this simple process yields a big payoff. It results in us hearing from you. For me, getting your reponse is what makes the survey process rewarding. Everyday, Dick and I are in our office editing, writing, and producing this ezine, the LA Progressive. Almost 100% of our time is spent isolated from people.
When we post an article, we’ve invested a significant chunk of time into something without knowing if it will be well received or even read. Sometimes we get email from readers or an occasional comment is submitted in response to an article, but, for the most part, it’s not until we do a survey that we get to hear from you. Fortunately, each time we’ve posted a survey, the results have been hugely rewarding. And this last one is no exception.
Because race is such a hot button issue, I expected to get some charged responses. Several of you did not disappoint. Approximately 300 respondents completed the survey. A half dozen, or 2%, contacted us directly via email to convey utter dissatisfaction with the way we conducted the survey. A couple of people accused us of being racists. One respondent even suggested that we “f*** off!"
Thankfully, 98% of you seemed to be glad to participate in our survey. And to you I say a big, thank you. Plus, I don’t think I could handle much more of what we got from that 2%. Click here to see the latest survey results.
However, because I was disturbed by the harshness of some of the responses, I decided to write my feelings on this topic, our inability as Americans to sit down and have a reasonable discussion on race. Studies suggest that the vast majority of white Americans and America’s racial minorities have very different takes on racism in America.
Our perceptions of the world are shaped by our experiences. My husband is a white man. I am a black woman. We have a strong relationship that includes working together 20 hours a week. Like any other couple, we occasionally disagree. But more often than not, when we take opposing positions on an issue, after discussing it we find that his life experience as a white man raised in small towns and Midwest suburbs and mine as a black woman from New York City lead us to see things differently. I point this out because we are always able to overcome differences by working through them. In spite of the difference in our race, culture, age, and gender, we've never been unable to see the others point of view and we've never reached a stalemate. And this ability to reach common ground has never been accomplished by simply "moving beyond it" without discussion.
I believe our country can evolve to become what it claims to be -- a land where all have the same opportunities. But we can't get there if we're unwilling to talk about the elephant in the room. One need only drive a few short miles in any direction in Los Angeles to see huge gaps between the lives of the "haves" and the lives of the "have nots". And you don't have to have a degree in sociology to recognize that there is a racial connection to this gap.
The people who responded negatively to our survey, "Will Californians Elect a Black Man President?", expressed outrage at the way the questions were framed. Maybe we could have done a better job. But the more important question, in my opinion, is why does political correctness trump having the discussion at all. In other words, there are those who seem to prefer to get "past" all of this race stuff because it's time we moved on. To those who feel that way, I say, I'm with you. It is time to move on. It's time that we, as progressives, move to change the landscape. Let's get beyond this:
U.S. incarceration rates, males by race, 30 June 2006:
- White males: 736 per 100,000
- Latino males: 1,862 per 100,000
- Black males: 4,789 per 100,000
US incarceration rates, males aged 25-29 by race, 30 June 2006:
- For White males, ages 25-29: 1,685 per 100,000
- For Lati no males, ages 25-29: 3,912 per 100,000
- For Black males, ages 25-29: 11,694 per 100,000
And there are many other statistics, including the racial breakdown of the outcome of the Democratic Primary that tell us we are not playing well together. When my husband and I find ourselves in a place where differences in our racial background cause friction, we start talking. And thanks to a commitment to make it work, we always end up with good results.
Progressives, let's keep talking.
Sharon Kyle --
Sharon Kyle is the Publisher of the LA Progressive. With her husband Dick, she publishes several other print and online newsletters on political and social justice issues. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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