Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Great Race Debate: Time to Put Up or Shut Up!

The Great Race Debate:
Time to Put Up or Shut Up!

Paul Scott

Back in the day, we used to settle arguments over who was the best rapper by engaging in something called "battles." Instead of yellin' "you suck" from the safety of the back of a dimly lit auditorium, rival rappers would grab a couple of mics, jump on stage and let the best lyricist win. However, with the coming of commercialization as well as the Internet, battles for rap supremacy have , largely, been reduced to nasty comments posted at the end of Youtube videos. As it is with Hip Hop, so it is with the fine art of public debate.

While debate has been a time honored tradition, nowadays the art seems to have gone the way of the dinosaur. No longer do we have ideological debates such as Abraham Lincoln vs Stephen Douglas or competing ideologies such as those of Booker T. Washington vs WEB Du Bois. Instead, public discourse has been reduced to cowardly catcalls and Tea Bagger talking points.

This is especially true in this country when it comes to addressing the taboo topics of race and class. Although Americans seem to love the "idea" of having a national conversation about race, in practice, as Attorney General Eric Holder put it, we are a nation of cowards.

Historically, the issue of racism is only put on the front burner after a "Martin Luther King" assassination or a "Rodney King" beating is caught on videotape. Otherwise, it is business as usual.

To be perfectly frank, "racial discussions" have only been used in this country as a type of sedative to calm black folks when they get riled up. At best, they are, simply, used as ventilation devices to let African Americans blow off steam in a controlled environment.

It is the same routine, every time. CNN does a "black outage" story, which is followed by a town hall meeting by some Human Relations Commission. The climax comes when a hand picked black leader issues a widely televised call for calm, reassuring white America that there will be no violence. End of story.

However, during this white male dominated, racially charged climate, I have heard no calls for calm nor media outlets seeking an anointed "white leader" to give a Martin Luther King quote urging non-violence. Matter of fact, the Right Wing incendiary rhetoric has been encouraged as being "patriotic." So the discussion on race in 2010, has been a one sided argument hogged by conservative radio commentators who overnight, have seemed to acquire Ph.D's in African American History, thus, feeling, uniquely, qualified to explain the black experience to their listeners.

The anonymity of social media has also added to the dilemma, as it has allowed mild mannered Jim Bob, the friendly auto mechanic ,by day to transform into "Granddragon666," defender of white supremacy and enemy of all things black, on the Internet, by night.

As columnist Leonard Pitts wrote, recently, "when people don't have to account for what they do, they will often say and do things that would shock their better selves."

Instead of having the guts to debate in a public forum , loud mouth cowards hide behind computer aliases and viciously attack well researched, competing ideologies with cheap one liner "trailer park tweets."

So the sanctity of public discourse has been reduced to something reminiscent of "Statler and Waldorf," the two old fogies from the Muppet Show, heckling Fozzie Bear from the safety of their balcony seats. (I remember, as a child ,wishing that just once, Kermit and the crew would bum rush the balcony and pimp slap the both of them.)

If Robert Williams challenged racism, militarily, Thurgood Marshal challenged it , legally and Martin Luther King Jr, challenged it, morally, it is our challenge to pick up the mantle of scholars such as the late Dr. John Henrik Clark and challenge it, intellectually.

So now is the time to put up or shut up !

To barbecue or mildew..

To (Censored)...Ok, I can't use that one but you get the point...

I am, personally, issuing a challenge to all the race "haters" to engage in a series of public debates dealing with the issues of race and class .

Don't get it twisted. This is not an attempt to issue an Afro-centric apologia or justify my existence to the pleasure of white America because as Du Bois once asked, "what on Earth is whiteness that one should desire of it?"

This is about the self identity of future generations of African American children. Black children need to know that even in the face of a vicious Right Wing rhetorical attack , not all black men and women are tremblin' in a corner mumblin' " ain't nobody here but us chickens, boss."

We, as black folks, must plant in the mind of each black child that you must be the guardian and custodian of your own history, first and foremost. Don't let anyone else tell your history, you must tell it yourself.

So the call goes out to any and all who are bold (or arrogant) enough to accept the challenge. From Right Wing radio hosts to Internet pseudo-intellectuals. We can debate on a street corner or in a college auditorium, it makes me no matter.

However, I feel obligated to warn you to borrow from the Hip Hop group EPMD, intellectually speaking

"If you think about battlin' you'd better come prepared, come with your shield and your armored gear."

Paul Scott writes for No Warning Shots Any organization, educational institution, etc that would like to facilitate a debate contact (919) 451-8283 or