Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Look to the cookie, Elaine... look to the cookie!

I weighed-in on certain aspects of the Davlin/Dewith-Anderson controversy yesterday, aspects that I hadn’t yet seen addressed in the media, as is my wont. I didn’t address the predominate issue of racism. So to the question - does Davlin’s comment about not wanting to meet with more than three blacks at a single meeting indicate a racist intent? – I would say possibly but not necessarily. The reason being that if the comment is racist on its face, then Dewith-Anderson seems to share this particular prejudice.

In responding to Davlin’s trepidation after a boisterous meeting with black community leaders, Dewith-Anderson responded: “I proceeded to explain to him that he ought to be glad they were screaming, because when we get quiet, it’s over with.”

It’s the use of the word “we” that strikes me here. To me, she seems to be using it in a sort of universal sense and is speaking on behalf of blacks in general. If she was only referring to the attendees at the meeting, she would have used the word "they" as she did in the first clause of the sentence. So by doing this, is she not saying that the demeanor of the leaders at the meeting is common among blacks, and as such, offers some degree of validity to the perceived stereotype that Davlin advanced in his comments? Or am I reading too much into it?

I’ve heard and read many black commentators speak of the cultural differences between blacks and whites, and how blacks have a propensity towards being more direct and open in expressing their emotions. This isn’t a fault, it is simply a difference. The example of a highly-electrified Baptist service versus a solemn Catholic mass is a common point of comparison.

Obviously there are many exceptions to this commonality, and it is dangerous to form preconceptions of individuals or groups based on it. But it’s also part of our human make-up to stereotype people according to their race, ethnicity, sex, or any number of characteristics, associations, or affinities. Just ask Frank Kunz who has determined that typical Griffin High School grads, Davlin notably excluded, like to talk their "white boy s***" after loosening up with a few drinks. As a GHS alum, I don’t take offense to Kunz’s dig because it doesn’t apply to me nor to many of my friends, although it surely would apply to some. I will say that if Larry Selinger would have made any type of disparaging generalization about the graduates of the city’s public high schools there would be another firestorm whipping through the community right now. But that's merely speculation.

Davlin’s statement is clumsy and too sweeping in its judgment. He should have said that he would only meet with any three of the community leaders at one time given the climate of the previous meeting, and perhaps that was his intent. Based on reports of the reactions of people close to the situation, the consensus seems to be that the mayor doesn't harbor any personal racist feelings, but that his administration has been lacking in addressing issues important to the black community. So maybe the current debate would be more useful if it focused on the latter.

*"Nothing mixes better than, vanilla and chocolate. And yet still somehow racial harmony eludes us. If people would only Look to the Cookie -- all our problems would be solved." Seinfeld, episode 77, The Dinner Party

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This case is much like most other special interest groups who twist words and statements to fit their own ideology. Great find on your part as it shows that racism is used as a convenience. When they don't get their way it's time to break it out. How pathetic!

As for Kunz. I used to think that he spoke his mind regardless of his political affiliation and I respected that. However, his act is wearing thin. He strikes me as the type who pops off at the mouth with little thought or research on a topic. Not very alderman-like. He needs to go. His "Griffin" comment shows that he is a complete meathead who suffers from "little man" syndrome.

"Monkey Boy"