Archive for Thursday, April 19, 2007

Boys’ play could be start of real racial understanding

April 19, 2007

There was lots of news this past week. Julian Wright decided to enter the NBA draft , the pope turned 80, the Duke lacrosse team was exonerated of all charges in a scandal involving an exotic dancer, we finally found out who the father of Anna Nicole Smith's baby is and oh, yes, something about the Rutgers' girls basketball team. Let's see, did you pick up on any of that? Of course, I am being facetious -- anyone privy to a TV, radio or newspaper or the Internet has seen little else this past week.

After reading and enjoying Cathy Hamilton's Easter column concerning renting children just for the day so she could steal little marshmallow "peeps" from their Easter baskets, I resolved to try to write only upbeat, fun columns my daughters would love.

Finding that I don't have Cathy's wit or creativity, I am back to commenting on what's happening with the latest news frenzy, which as you know is the comment made by radio commentator Don Imus about the Rutgers' girls basketball team. I will not repeat the comment as so much had been made of it already, but since I didn't cash in on the Anna Nicole story or the one involving the female astronaut and the diaper wearing incident, I figure I have one coming.

Every columnist, from Leonard Pitts Jr., Cal Thomas, Ellen Goodman, Jason Whitlock and Clarence Thomas, has had a field day with this latest blunder made by Imus the radio "shock jock," as he is called and who is famous for his derogatory remarks. Living in Kansas, most of us seldom hear of Imus and know him only through TV and magazines, nor will we be hearing much of him in the future as his remarks concerning the young black women have cost him his job.

I was interested especially in what one of my friends had to say about this latest racial incident. A native of the South and a graduate of the famous military prep school, The Citadel, he migrated to Kansas after the Vietnam War to teach at the Army staff school at Fort Leavenworth. Subsequently he fell in love with the area and made it his home. He is our coffee group's "authority in residence" of all things Southern, and listening to him talk about this incident in his soft southern accent, I was surprised to hear him not comment on what either side was saying but instead remark how important it is that people are actually talking about race. His premise is that we seldom, if ever, take on the subject especially here in what would be considered the North.

Growing up in Emporia, I lived within two blocks of the "black district." In fact, I walked through it each day to and from school for many years -- even after high school. My grandfather, who lived next door to us, was a long time friend and acquaintance of many of those black folks, and I knew lots of them by name. In spite of living so close to the area, I can't remember having one black friend. I knew the children as classmates but not as friends. I am wondering if anything has changed much since then.

As I write this, I am listening to the neighborhood children playing across the street from my house -- two little white boys and three black boys. I find myself trying to eavesdrop on what they are saying and how they are relating. They seemed to be getting along just fine, and I think maybe the only way this issue will ever be resolved is through the children -- perhaps that's how the dialog will finally begin.

On hearing the racial slur made concerning the young women of the Rutgers team, I wondered what they must think of such a remark -- young and still insecure as most young people are, they surely must wonder about their own identity when such things are said. The case has been made that their own community makes such remarks and even worse, so what are they to believe about themselves? Our image is so often formed by the reflection we receive from others especially in our youth.

In Ellen Goodman's recent column on the subject, she quotes Kia Vaughn, (one of the Rutgers players) as saying "I'm not a ho, I'm a woman. I'm someone's child."

And can't we all say the same no matter what race or gender we may be? Shouldn't it just be this simple?


  • This column was written prior to the dreadful news coming from Virginia Tech University of the shooting deaths and injuries of so many young students. It is with shock and sadness we view the aftermath of such a tragedy and pray for them and their families.

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