Recently many have become weary from discussions about race; however, it is so important that we continue these conversations despite the results. Many public voices have decried the fact that conversations on race often are impotent and redundant; however, is that reason enough to dismiss the conversations?
While reading The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander I came across a statement that stuck out to me. The author said:
“A new social consensus must be forged about race and the role of race in defining the basic structure of our society, if we hope ever to abolish the New Jim Crow. This new consensus must begin with dialogue, a conversation that fosters a critical consciousness, a key prerequisite to effective social action.”
I began to think about the role that public conversation plays in the movement. It is no secret that the media plays a huge role in public perception. In its purest form the media reflects the will of the people; in its most insidious (and most common) form, it manipulates the will of the people through propaganda and perception.
Consensus Theory is a social theory that suggests that the foundations of society such as laws, right, wrong, justice, and truth are built on a general consensus from the majority of a social group. In this light, concepts of fair and equal are influenced by what the majority agrees is fair and equal.
Consensus has always been a factor in American race relations because, as we know, slavery existed as long as it did and was only abolished through a war that tire the country in half because the social consensus regarding Black people began to change. Before the Civil War, Black people were thought of a separate species of creature in the evolutionary chain somewhere between apes and men. There was also a social consensus among the religious that Black people were the descendants of Ham who were cursed to be slaves. There was also a consensus that Black people being inferior in intellect were better off as slaves, servants, or menial workers because we were not intelligent enough to care for ourselves through other means.
Those thoughts sound foreign and preposterous today only because the social consensus has changed; however, a new social consensus exists. It is the consensus that the majority of Black people have little to no aspiration, are addicted to the ghetto lifestyle, and do not desire to strive for the things we now have access to. It is this social consensus that allows young Black men to be stereotyped as dangerous, enraged, hyper-sexual creatures that threaten the purity of American society. It is this social consensus that allows Black women to be stereotyped as big butt, un-feminine, sassy, welfare queens who exist only to populate the social welfare system with their bastard offspring.
Social consensus is often a quiet acceptance that takes place over a period of time. When few people dispute the notions they settle into our culture and institutions like a poison. They begin to corrupt the ways in which society engages individuals (hence racism, racial prejudice, and racial discrimination).
Most people are hesitant to question public opinion. It seems daunting or impossible to change a world of thought, but I submit to you that it is difficult but not impossible. It begins with one voicing speaking up and speaking out.
We have entered an era in our society where we are too lazy, too busy, or too apathetic to investigate and question popular notions. This is understandable to certain degree because, of course, we have careers, families, social obligations that eat away at our time. This makes it difficult to vet every thought thrown at us. However, this is why public discourse is essential. It is important that those people who are knowledgeable and passionate speak out because through such rigorous (sometimes futile and repetitive) discussion the details are exposed so that the public can make their own judgments.
This is where groupthink takes over. We use lemming logic to excuse ourselves from the responsibility if what we allow our society to become. Our desire for harmony causes us to differ to public opinion in the hopes of avoiding conflict. When sometimes conflict is exactly what is needed.
In the conversations about race in America, the Black community cannot cease to speak up and speak out. For the issues with race to resolved, we have to creative a new social consensus. One that does not ignore the realities of race relations and does not exaggerate them either. From this social consensus we can expose the root of our problems: the hidden infected wounds of our society. Then we can begin to treat them and heal as a country from the horrors of our history.
I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,
An Angry Black Man