Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Online Race

There has been plenty of discussion about race and race relations in this country. Expressed feelings are still being stated from the not guilty verdict of George Zimmerman and most recently we heard the opinion of CNN newscaster Don Lemon who echoed a known conservative as they gave voice to black responsibility or rather lack of it.. For some reason Don Lemon’s comment, an African American and recently out gay man, seemed to have provided the biggest sting. Timelines of social media from Facebook to Twitter have had many either agreeing or disagreeing with his statement and countering it with their own. For myself I could barely keep up with the attached links of articles discussing Mr. Lemon’s statement and the numerous sharing and ‘liking ‘of the information. As the news feed of my Facebook page refreshed, what hit me as I watched the collective voices was, when do we, the people who care about race and race relations move our actions and reactions from the online world and bring it to the real world?

Facebook and other social media are good in that they keep one instantly inform about issues. Whether it’s a news bite, breaking news or an article of interest, in a minute we can share that information and comment on how we feel. When it comes to matters of race we can sit on our couches, our desktop at work and even relax in the local coffee shop sipping on our latte and talk about how upset we are with a recent story or statement connected to race. Yet that’s where it ends. Our outrage is contained to the space we’re in and not making its way to the battlefields. There’s public venting but no public action.

Instead what happens is that we regurgitate this hate and make sure our friends and those on our friends list can see it but we don’t sign off social media to insert ourselves in this current race war. I wonder what the civil rights movement would have looked like if they had social media back then. Would there have been marches and people placing themselves on the frontlines sacrificing their freedoms and their lives. Would we all have gathered ourselves and with what few dollars we had in our pockets and made our way to the March on Washington to hear Dr. Martin Luther King or would we have sat in the comfort of our homes and streamed it while making dinner. Even during the early 70’s when justice was still hard to come by and afros were as big as the back pride people carried, would we have pushed ourselves away from our Macs to say out loud, “I’m black and I’m proud” or would it have been a Facebook daily status when it asks how are we today?

After the Supreme Court dismantling of voting rights I’m still looking for the daily marches of people who are affected but instead greeted by people who walk around the city not with their ‘eyes on the prize’ but their eyes attached to their smart phone as race relations become unchecked and the blood of our ancestors who fought for this right is spilled in vain.

When do we become involved in the real world and push ourselves from the online aspect of it? I ask this question of myself as well as I don’t want to fall into the shoes of Don Lemon who sticks his head out and states what is wrong with black folks yet doesn't lift a finger to solve the problem when he has the means and the capital to do so. At least when Bill Cosby pretty much made the same statements years ago he showed his commitment with his foundation which address literacy among youth. What Mr. Lemon fails to do is show any action for his concern. Instead using media to put out his opinion and join the circus of everyone else that does the same when it comes to race.

So when do we walk the walk instead of talk the talk? How many more times are we going to be outraged online over a race incident that we shouldn’t be surprised happened because of the atmosphere or the person and the history of how racism has shown itself? When are we going to power down the computer and power up our fight in the streets of low income areas, in under funded schools and even broken homes that we judge from afar? Black men, why aren’t we all big brothers or mentors to at least one youth in the neighborhood or in our families? Black sisters why aren’t every one showing our black youth, the ones who are getting an inadequate education or just lost faith in it, how to use education to their benefit? How many black intellects and theorist do we need huddled together patting each other on the back using ten letter words as a system which was not designed for blacks continue to go unchallenged in the real world?

 I go back to an old saying, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”. Changes in race won’t be made online but as our elders before us, we have to hit the streets and become connected to what’s going on and disconnect ourselves from the social media that has stalled the progress of race relations. This call even goes out to me who sometimes get caught up in the frenzy especially with Mr. Lemon’s comment. Whether he’s right or wrong doesn’t make a difference. It’s the action of those who care about race relations and those ready to jump out of the cyber world to roll up their sleeves and start a movement, that’s the difference we need!

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