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Race at the Dinner Table, Or in the Cafeteria

Race at the Dinner Table, Or in the Cafeteria

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

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I went to a high school that was predominantly white. There were maybe five black kids in the entire school, a couple of Latinos, and a handful of Asians. Race was rarely a topic of conversation among friends, except maybe in history class when we discussed race relations during the 50s and 60s.* It wasn't until college, at Berkeley, where the population was much more diverse, that I began to really discuss race with my friends and family in a concrete way. We talked about reverse racism, the black tax, white guilt, and the list goes on. As a white woman, many of my comments about race were marred by hedges and uncertainty. Sometimes I'd even couch my point of view in humor, and I was insufferably PC for about a two-month period during my sophomore year. Barack Obama's speech in Philadelphia this week has launched an open conversation about race in many circles that we haven't seen since, arguably, the O.J. Simpson trial... or the L.A. riots. Today we want to talk about how we talk about race. Is race something you talk about at home, at work, or school? Do you word things differently depending on who you're talking to? Do you find that conversation about race generates resentment or anger? Do you feel excluded from the discussion, or too uncomfortable to participate? Tell us, how do you talk about race?

* I guess when you're in a homogenous environment, it's easy to miss (or ignore) issues that tend to come up in more diverse settings.



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Sooner or later we're gonna reach the point when there's nothing more that's enlightened to add to this debate.

For me that point was....yesterday.

Sent by jay lassiter | 2:11 PM | 3-20-2008

The world has changed. My wife is black with a natural hairstyle (dark black hair) and one of her coworkers is white with long blonde hair. They are friends in addition to being coworkers and clients at their office frequently get the two mixed up as if they were twins. That would not have happened twenty years ago and shows how things have changed even though there is still a ways to go.

Sent by Keith Hood | 2:17 PM | 3-20-2008

The real deal is, you're not what you say during the discussion about
Race, you are what you do, when it comes to issues about Race. When you
are with Black people, not with Black people and only White people are
present. You also have to be willing to admit that Racism still
exists, both Institutionally, personally, and in some cases on a community,
municipal, regionally, and sometimes Nationally.
We need someone besides victims of Racism and a few white people to say
that it exist like Time Wise did in his book, "White Like Me". Tim
Wise, in order to show the insidiousness of Racism, disclosed that in the
final throws of Altzhiemers, she knew to call her Caretakers, who were
African-American, "Nigger" That's Truth.

Lastly, it is very offensive to call the passion that African-Americans
sometimes speak with is not anger, it is Passion, maybe with a little
hurt of soul thrown in. Just call it the Blues, which is not just
Muhammad Abdullah

Sent by Muhammad Abdullah | 2:19 PM | 3-20-2008

Your guest mentions that she is angry yet seems to have nothing to be angry about. She is successful and doing well. Does she imagine all white people benefit from the fruits of their labors at all times, that things never go wrong for them, that they aren't treated differently for a variety of reasons. Of course, that happens to all people at some point in their lives. Some of the problems that face blacks are the result of their own lack of initiative, to pursue education, etc. When Bill Cosby mentioned the component of personal responsibility in recent times, he was castigated by black society.

Sent by Mara | 2:22 PM | 3-20-2008

All of us talk candidly about race, its just in monoracial, as opposed to multiracial settings. What is a serious failing is that our institutions of higher education do not know how to structure such conversations in a multiracial setting. There is this vast silence across race that ill serves our students who will leave these institutions just as ignorant and fearful of candid discussions because colleges and universities (the home of our intellectual elite) have not taken the time to figure out how to do it where it can be productive.

Sent by John Young | 2:22 PM | 3-20-2008

In my long years of experience living in Oakland and Berkeley California, blacks don't really like to "discuss" race issues -- they want to "lecture" on race and any "conversation" attempted is stifled by you're a racist -- whether you know it or not! End of discussion. This is even with people who are trying to understand, because "we" will Never Understand.

Sent by Beri Taylor | 2:23 PM | 3-20-2008

I am a middle aged black guy that has lived all my life in white neighborhoods. I find that the only time I am reminded that I am not white is when I spend time with groups of black people. No one I live around or work with cares.

Sent by Howard M Thompson | 2:23 PM | 3-20-2008

I think one of the most awkward aspects is that we do not like to confronted with an injustice without something satisfying to do about it. How do we vote against racism? How often do we have to speak out against racism?

Sent by JP | 2:23 PM | 3-20-2008

Check out what white people like at this enlightening blog:
Whites tastes are often ignored when it comes to racism.

Sent by Mo | 2:24 PM | 3-20-2008

As a white, stay at home mom of 3 I am struggling with how to talk about race with my children. I don't want to make them aware of something that is not already on their radar - but are they already more aware of race issues then I think? Any suggestions about how to broach the topic with kids would be appreciated!

Sent by Joanna Bakken | 2:24 PM | 3-20-2008

Why is it that Tiger Woods and O'Bama are called black or African American when O'Bama is half black and half white and Woods has a mother who is Thai and his father was of mixed race? Doesn't this trace back to an historically racist view that even a "little black blood" make you "black"?

Sent by Kevin | 2:27 PM | 3-20-2008

I (white) taught at a mostly black school... I will never forget a mom who met me at 7:00 am because she had 2 part time jobs... one at mc donalds, the other at a sports arena... She wanted to know how her son was doing. Do white people know that experience? I was also privy to the students conversations... they acted as though they didn't know i was there.. and talked about how much their parents hated white folks. I'm voting for Obama!

Sent by Sandy Rubin | 2:27 PM | 3-20-2008

To Talk of the NAtion:
As a white majority member, it is my responsiblilty to educate myself about racism. All of the white population needs to learn what it is like to be a minority. As a white person, I am very priviledged and other whites need to recognize that fact before they can begin to look at what life is like for a minority. Institutional Racism is real and continues today. White people shouldn't be surprised that minorities, people of color, lesbians, disabled people, have conversations in private about being discriminated against and that there is simmering anger about it.

Sent by Pat Reddemann | 2:29 PM | 3-20-2008

I come from a white liberal background with little first hand knowledge of the black experience. When I was about 8 (i am now 56)my father w/o any discussion, drove our family through the absolute worst black ghetto of Chicago. We were speechless. Lesson learned. I am exasperated by "post speech" comments along the lines of "imagine if he had been white and his pastor had said such things..." They simply don't get it, and probably never will.Obama skillfully laid it out there, but what the rest of us do with it?

Sent by Jan Gross | 2:29 PM | 3-20-2008

Racism goes both ways. As a white young person - I experienced racism from blacks - whom I thought were friends until a bump came in the road and the interaction changed very suddenly and judged unfairly. It's a two way street in this country.

Sent by l m hahn | 2:29 PM | 3-20-2008


I don't think the panelist was talking about being angry at the way that others are treated as opposed to the privileges she may have and I subscribe to the old saying about life and injustice that if you're not angry it's because you're not paying attention.

Sent by Keith Hood | 2:29 PM | 3-20-2008

I am listening to the program and just heard a caller say that she confronts people when she hears them say bigoted things. So do I, even though it's difficult. The irony suddenly struck me: why didn't Barack Obama confront his pastor when he heard him say bigoted things? It's very troubling.

Sent by Mary | 2:30 PM | 3-20-2008

Racism is woven into the American fabric. As a black male, I am constantly engaged in conversations which begin with, " I'm not a racist, but...". The first step toward dealing with racism in America is to acknowledge that America is a racist nation. I constantly hear about the immigrant roots of our nation. This is an insult to me because there is usually no reference to a whole group of people brought to this country in the bellies of slave ships, thus dismissing our presence and contributions to the success of America.

Sent by Lew Taylor | 2:30 PM | 3-20-2008 we go again......

This whole nonsense about 'race'relations' in this country has been set on the back of Barack Obama.

I will get straight to the point. Why is Reverend Wrights comments have been attributed to Obama?? Does John McCain have to shoulder the issues of President Bush consistant and flagrant screw ups? Does Hillary have to bear the brunt of her husbands miscues when he was in office.

The very fact that this is an issue, and has become a huge issue in this presidential race is proof enough of racism in this country.

It is a shame that Mr. Obama has been reduced to being a defender of white racism. He is a dynamic man and the best choice we have for President.

I commend him for standing up and not skirting the issue when the same thing happened to Rev. Jesse Jackson.

I am praying this becomes a catalyst for all people of color, and whites that know right from wrong will push him into the White House where he belongs.

Sent by Andy Phillips | 2:30 PM | 3-20-2008

I have experienced two views of racial prejudices:
1. My Grandchildren are "rainbow children", with at least three races represented. Presenting them as my grandchildren often causes consternation on the part of viewers. My daughter often had to go into the hospital by herself instead of with her husband so she would receive better care.
2. As a visitor to an asiatic country, I became the illiterate, outside the mainstream person. No one sat with us, near us, or even attempted to talk to us.

When we were able to talk, the residents were very uncomfortable, even unwilling to approach the subject. Would that each of us have that experience to see how it is to be on the other side

Sent by Richard Caufman | 2:30 PM | 3-20-2008

I'm listening to the gentleman using the term "white supremacy" to characterize racial disparities in society. This topic is called "how we talk about race", and I think terminology is important. Most people associate the term "white supremacy" with virulent hatred such as from the KKK. It clouds the discussion to use the same term more broadly. I think the idea is to shock people by suggesting "even milder forms of racial disparity are no less harmful than say the activity of the KKK", but I think the result is actually to turn people off and prevent them from listening.

Sent by Uche Ogbuji | 2:31 PM | 3-20-2008

Your guest (Mr. Jensen?) is into psycho-babble and self-hate. I am white and I worked hard for everything I have achieved. I don't feel guilty about it. What I get angry at as a white person are affirmative action policies which vault undeserving minorities ahead of qualified whites who have busted their butts to achieve, yet are placed at the back of the line to allow those who have not worked equally hard get ahead of them in the line for school admissions, jobs. etc. I have seen it again and again in my 30 years in business.

Sent by Paul Solenick | 2:32 PM | 3-20-2008

It is too bad that when the media discusses black unemployment, excess imprisonment, or underfunded education, it is not taken as a national problem, which it is, but as either a black responsibility or an embarrassment to the black community. Any attempt to address Black inequities is ridiculed as liberal white guilt and government solutions are dismissed as making things worse by increasing dependency.

Sent by mary Beth Guinan | 2:32 PM | 3-20-2008

My wife and I (I'm black and she is white) have been married for 29yrs. We are very happy that Sen. Obama is doing so well. Our fear is that the Republicans are voting in the Democratic primaries for Mr. Obama because they know that if Sen. Obama wins the whites of this Nation will not vote for a Black man. Rush Limbaugh was bragging that his plan has worked. And he is right.

Sent by Randy | 2:33 PM | 3-20-2008

I was born in South Korea just after the war, and was adopted here. There were no other non-whites in my community. Did I suffer? Yes, I did. Probably more than others. Do I still experience this? Somewhat, but I find that my children,two who don't really look Asian, and two who do, experience somewhat the same things. Not everything is about race.

My in-laws had initial predjudice against me. I came through it.

Do we talk differently at home? Yes. And some of this has to do with "reverse racism". That is, the Asians won't deal with me because I'm biracial. How do I talk to my children about this? I have to try to balance all sides. Do I think it's fair that I haven't been truly accepted by both the whites and the Asians during my life? No. But I don't dwell on it.

I think what I don't understand is why we need to dwell on it. I have better things to do with my time. Instead of spending time worrying about how racism stops my life, I try to concentrate on my actual life.

When people refer to my race, and I sense that it's not in a friendly, inquiring way, I simply look at them blankly, and move along.

Sent by Marie | 2:33 PM | 3-20-2008

Traditionally The Black Church has always been political. That has been the only place where blacks felt safe to speak among one another without backlash from the white community. The early Civil Rights struggle always took place in the black church. The news media has created a distraction regarding Rev. Wrights comments. This was only one sermon. I have visited his church in Chicago many times. I feel that this is unfair to him, Obama and Trinty church. MY hope is that America can start to focus on issues of more importance. The news media needs to stay out of an quit reporting half truths just to sell papers or to achieve high ratings. The new media has contributed more problems in this country just by not reporting the whole truth.

Sent by Camille J Hanna | 2:34 PM | 3-20-2008

for the past two days i have been trying to put into a coherent thought why that speech was so cathartic for me. and i guess that's the point. it was cathartic. that after so much blight on our history and the progress of the civil rights movement only to come to this moment in time, still a very divided tense country. obama stepped up and said what no one was saying. i believe he was the right man (as a biracial person, born in 1961, who has lived in the larger world) he's got the cred to say this and not a minute too soon. he was elegant. he said some hard truths but without anger or bellicosity. when he spoke about his pastor, i got it. because race is a complex undercurrent in our society. our public selves are polite but what is said in private, or not said. even in the the best cases we talk and live two different lines. here's my new label... salt of the earth bigots; the good hard working church going do anything to help you out people who don't want to cross the city line because they are too nervous to share a sidewalk with a black person. obama has his pastor, i've got uncle joe. my family is full of them, those salt of the earth bigots. i'm sure that they come in all races. obama touched into my version of patriotism. no not all the flags.... he started with the constitution. and he talked about an imperfect union. it's kind of what i used to teach my fifth graders. humans change through time. slavery was once accepted but we've changed. democracy is a continuum; it's not like a light switch you can just flip on or off. we can always be better. but if we just stamp our feet and say my country right or wrong we are acting like children and missing the point, missing the gift of our abilities to be better.

Sent by linda northrup sondheimer | 2:34 PM | 3-20-2008

I am a white woman raised in the deep South and white people make me crazy about this subject because their first response is always to deny their participation in slavery. I don't think racism can change because white people seem to expect black people to change (something) when racism is a white problem to be changed by whites.

Sent by Cathy | 2:35 PM | 3-20-2008

My mother, a white woman, taught us to be color-blind. It made sense to me growing up- the idea that we shouldn't judge people based on their race and the way to ensure that was to ignore it.

Years later, in a college classroom, my world was turned upside down when a professor, Becky Thompson, another white woman, used the phrase "color consciousness." It still amazes me to think that I used to believe that ignoring a person's racial experience was supposed to help us to know them better.

I think progress is being made every day.

Sent by Love Nickerson | 2:35 PM | 3-20-2008

I'm a Latino woman, since I have been in the US. I have seen churches for black as well as churches of with people. To me there is a lot of Racism and most people just live on denial.

I admire the people who really live the Gospel of Jesus, to love one and other and to embrace one and other.

Sent by Ana Lane | 2:35 PM | 3-20-2008

Perceptions are very important. Ten years ago I was an instructor at a residential summer camp. We had an all-African American high school on the premises, when another school, mostly Hispanic, came in mid-week. For strictly logistic purposes, we asked the African American students to enter the cafeteria from the smaller side door. the other school was larger and woudl be using the double doors. This was interpreted by the A. American kids as diminishing them, and they confronted me on this. I was flabbergasted, as we had always sorted groups that way when having two school groups on the premises. I also pointed out that staff always used the smallest door. I do not believe I was able to convince all of the students of my sincerity, and this still pains me, especially because, being from another country (Italy) I do not feel I had any part in what shapes the racial discourse here. This experience made me understand how much discrimination A. American kids must be daily exposed to, to react so fiercely to a decision that was solely dictated by logistics.

Sent by Francesca Giongo | 2:36 PM | 3-20-2008

I'm a Latino woman, since I have been in the US. I have seen churches for blacks as well as churches for white people. To me there is a lot of Racism and most people just live on denial.

I admire the people who really live the Gospel of Jesus, "to love one and other and to embrace one and other".

Sent by Ana Lane | 2:37 PM | 3-20-2008

This blog certainly adds to the discussion:

Sent by Elizabeth | 2:39 PM | 3-20-2008

I frankly do not understand African Americans who still feel their lack of equal representation in the work force reflects racial oppression or lack of opportunities to succeed.

Extraordinarily diverse educational opportunities for racial minorities occur in higher education throughout America. Yet, the numbers of African Americans, particularly males, that work hard to take advantage of these opportunities remains small.

Why is this? Why has the African American community not integrated within the normative American society in a fashion to achieve success, much as other racially different groups, the Asian and even Hispanic populations have done?

While I agree that there is racism and sterotyping throughout America, which after all is a culture of blended peoples, I agree with Bill Cosby that the lack of economic success of the African-American community stems now more from within it, than externally because of white racism.

I once had a PhD student, a black woman, who was courted by every imaginable college as she approached earning her degree. She asked to speak to me in private, and bluntly asked," Don, am I being courted because I am black or because I am good."

I replied that because she was black, she had far more opportunities to enter the academy than otherwise, and that she would have been competitive for for some of the interested schools, even had she been a white male. I admire her for her blunt question.

My student has done very well, recognizing that she needed to show she deserved this advantage, rightfully given, because of past discrimination.

Sent by Donald I. Siegel | 2:40 PM | 3-20-2008

I grew up in a typical white working class neighborhood. I never met a black person until I went to University. Nevertheless I thought of myself as a white liberal in matters of race even though I always felt slightly uncomfortable around blacks...until I spent time in Africa.
I have been travelling back and forth to Africa for a number of years. I am now used to being around many black people and am now very aware what being a racial minority means. What is interesting now is that when I approach black people in the US with the same openness and friendliness that I do to people in West Africa I am often met with a quizzical the end, however, this is a better situation. I commend it to all whites who are uncomfortable with their 'racism'...and I commend it to black people who might learn something about themselves as well.

Sent by Michael | 2:40 PM | 3-20-2008

I am a middle class white man who is a victim of Racism everyday here in Philadelphia. How did a COLORFUL subject like Race get reduced to Black and White??? And that blacks are the only victims of racism. We have may other races and experiences in this country with unjust things happening happening to any people. Personally I had two white friends killed because they were white in a wrong neighborhood. I have many black friends who are victims of people of their own race. What about Asians and Hispanic experiences?

Sent by Ken | 2:41 PM | 3-20-2008

I agree that we all have been subjected to raicial and oher types of prejudice.

I am the son of white parents, my father was raised in China, they lived in India and the southeast before the war. I gave a brotherin law who is black, a sone wyo is mixed race to the point he calls himself a "Heinz 57" and an adopted Korean daughter.

I was raised to be color blind, yet I recognize that I am not color blind or blind to economic and or economic status and that few other people do.

The flip side is I raised a daughter to blind to peoples differences that she had trouble understanding and dealing with cultural differences that affected how her friends interacted with the world.

Sent by Robert Flory | 2:41 PM | 3-20-2008

Why do we make Race as a big issue and value people based on their skin color?

I don't believe we can solve the race issue by making laws or forcing people to do things. Mandating a procedure, such as every place must have a specific percentage of blacks, or other minority groups, to work places, colleges, etc is not helping either. In contrast this process is just supporting the idea of discrimination among races and leading to a bigger division.
This issue can be solved if and only if everyone changes his/her approach to it. Stop blaming one another, be as fair as possible and treat everyone equally regarding their skin color.

To all responsible people: Hire applicant or admit students to colleges because of their capabilities and the potential they will bring with them fairly across everyone and not just to meet the minimum requirement!

Everyone should remember that NO HUMAN BEING had the option of making choices of skin color, religion, nationality, family, gender, appearance, socio-economic status, etc. before coming to this Earth. It just happens.

Sent by Hakeemsdad, Tallahassee FL | 3:17 PM | 3-20-2008

Although racism is still a part of American life.. you have to admit, compared to fifty years ago.. we are heading in the right direction generation after generation. More importantly however, America should pride itself on being a smorgasboad
of nationalities. Although I am classified as a caucasian female, I am so much more than that. America is so young that when asked, I reply that my ancestors are Italian, Scottish and Welsh. My greatest fear is that by squelching our cultural differences with bland pc jargon, the richness of America will fall into a stale, uninspiring state of being. What kind of future is that?

Sent by Allison Bell | 3:28 PM | 3-20-2008

As a white teacher who teaches in a school with mostly African American and Latino students, I face a unique challenge. The nature of the school's environment can be a breeding ground for a perpetuation of racial stereotypes and animosity. Getting Senator Obama's message across to my students is a daily occurrence. Everyday, I realize my vital role in America as a racial change agent. My persistence in creating racial and, at times, economic understanding shows my students that the tension, though obvious and also persistent, can be resolved.

As an adult in her 20's, I feel that my generation has worked hard to have an open conversation about racial misunderstanding and resentment. I watched the news in my childhood and distinctly remember Rodney King and the O.J. Simpson trial. I felt embarrassed for our nation.

I agree with Senator Obama. Change has already begun. My belief is that it started generations ago in the classroom. Our dinner tables, our places of worship, and our families often perpetuate racial issues because they are still mostly segregated. I must concede that even schools are very much segregated along economic lines, which invariably leads to racial segregation as well. However, many schools are desegregated and the conversation that older generations never got to have and still need to have has already happened.

Perhaps, this is why the younger generation believe so strongly in Barack Obama. I have been following him since he was first elected to the U.S. Senate, and wasn't attracted to his rhetoric. I was attracted to his ideas, his beliefs and his commitment. Because he has simplified his message of change, he is accused of lacking substance. It's not substance he lacks, but political jargon. The truthfulness he had in his speech on Tuesday is the truthfulness he has tried to always have. It is the truthfulness that I hope for everyday.

Sent by Amy DeGiralamo | 3:29 PM | 3-20-2008

Mr. Arellano, citing a film about various working-class immigrants who overcame their mutual animosity through the realization that they all liked baseball, would have delighted former Major League Baseball owner George W. Bush -- and the ruling class that he represents -- in that he happily resolves the basic class contradiction that set those workers at each other's throats: the ongoing contradiction between owners and workers. A class-conscious reading of that film, however, would have critiqued it by noting that THE MOST IMPORTANT tie that bound those different immigrant groups was their common exploitation by the ruling class. A love of baseball will never eliminate that problem, but a racist-free working-class consciousness will. There was nothing at all in this program about the role that racism plays in promoting working-class disunity, though. What a shock.

Sent by David Siar | 3:30 PM | 3-20-2008

I am a middle-aged white woman, with black, Asian, Mexican friends. We are all brothers under the skin. There are so many pressing issues, such as climate change, hunger in this day and age, that we need to work together on, nations need to come together to work on these issues. It is up to each one of us to do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the
places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you can!!

Sent by Jane Babbitt | 3:30 PM | 3-20-2008

My dad used to say that Blacks run with the wind in their faces, while the Whites run with the wind at their backs. This made a lot of sense to me, especially when it came to education, jobs,'s just harder to be Black.

Sent by Laura | 3:33 PM | 3-20-2008

Why do these discussions always begin and end the same way? There are too many different aspects to discuss in one e-mail but let me begin by asking why is it that Senator Barak Obama is only considered "black" when half of his DNA is from his mother who is "white" (note the quotation marks).

In other words, Senator Barak Obama is just as "white" as he is "black" but the incorrect assumption is that he is only "black". The obvious problem is that the common perception of "racial divisions" among humans is a cultural distinction and not one that has a solid foundation in current scientific understanding.

Unfortunately the cultural perception of "race" has established its own harsh reality. I believe that it should be the job of the media to make a sincere effort to explain what the theory of "race" is based upon rather than effectively supporting the common misconceptions.

Because "racial" distinctions are cultural and arbitrary, perceptions vary within groups. For example, would a "black" engineer have more in common with a "white" engineer or would the "black" engineer be perceived to have more in common with a stereotypical "black" career criminal such as Rodney G. King, for example?

Along the same lines, which one of the following individuals should be considered the best representative of "black" people: Ward Connerly, Clarence Thomas, Flavor Flav, O.J. Simpson, Neil deGasse Tyson, Mike Tyson, Rodney King, Bill Cosby, or Dave Chappell?

As mentioned earlier, there are many different aspects to consider in these discussions but since they are now taking place in "the media", it's important to note aberrations caused by the lens of "the media".

Perhaps the media should make an attempt to correct the chromatic aberrations of its lens as not to add artificial color to the debates.

Sent by David Waters | 3:41 PM | 3-20-2008

Its a popular, enlightened-sounding turn of phrase: "I don't see color". But it's both naive and counterproductive to say we live in a color-blind society, when what we've really done is ignored the problem. Instead of applauding ourselves for arriving at the heralded age of racelessness, we should admit that avoiding race hasn't made it go away. We've come a long way in addressing overt racism, but we're all still dealing with an enormous undercurrent of our own unspoken prejudices. Discussing race is going to be uncomfortable, and its going to be embarrassing, but nevertheless its not a battle we should pretend that we've won. The elephant is still standing in the middle of the living room.

Sent by Heather | 3:44 PM | 3-20-2008

Part of the problem of race is that there only two races seem to exist: Black and White. What about others? Native Americans, Latinos, Asians, others? Where are they in the debate? No where, if you listen to this discussion.

Sent by Juan Carlos | 4:16 PM | 3-20-2008

Concerning Obama's speech, I wish he would have walked out on the stage and said....... "I woke today up and looked in the mirror and I did not see a Black Man. I saw an American, and a Human Being. I will not be drawn into being a racial candidate. I'm here to represent all Americans.".... And then discussed his relationship with Rev. Wright, as most thought he would & should do...... Now sadly, many are saying that he "threw race under the bus" and used the issue to shield him from his relationship with Wright. A missed opportunity.

Sent by Anthony | 4:44 PM | 3-20-2008

I cringed every time Neal mispronounced Gustavo Arellano's surname. He got it right the second time (probably when prompted by a producer), then returned to creatively mangle it several times more. With more and more Hispanics in our culture, it shouldn't be all that difficult to correctly pronounce the more common Spanish names. Or at least west of the Beltway it doesn't seem to be such a problem.

Sent by Jill Chandler | 4:46 PM | 3-20-2008

I feel that the issue of "Race in America" still remains a taboo subject. We are not comfortable talking about it- which keeps us as Americans at a disadvantage. Blacks talk about in the confimements of their social group as it affirms their historic struggles yet limit their discussions outside their social group due to non-blacks interpreting their viewpoints as "angry" and/or a "you owe me something" perspective. Whites choose not to address race as many of them deny it as a contributing factor towards acheiving success in America or say they are not responsible for the "sins" of their ancestors so "stop blaming them your failures". Both positions have merit. The best way to resolve these differences is to apply Steven Covey's principle "seek to understand". We will never resolve any racial concerns unless we do three things: (1)develop the capacity to seriously dialogue the issue with one another; (2)ensure those who participate have to "power" to make things happen (or have been sanctioned with the power to make things happen); and (3) develop a plan with accountability structures that hold us responsible as a people for following, adjusting, and enforcing the plan. America is in phase one (even after 200 years of post-slavery). We're just not having healthy discussions about race.

Sent by Jeffrey Woodard | 4:57 PM | 3-20-2008

A very interesting and good program about race in the classroom is the Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes by Jane Elliott, a teacher of 3rd graders. It shows how she handled the discussion in her classroom the day after Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated. I believe it is available from Frontline.

Sent by Sharon | 5:03 PM | 3-20-2008

I'm Asian American, I just want to ask did any one memtion about discrimination against caucasion? Yet, we talk about how we being missunderstood. I think there is a lot of different race make fun, or talk discrimination on white people too.

Sent by Anh Dancho. | 5:06 PM | 3-20-2008

I am so glad that Senator Obama was bold enough to make this speech and to raise awareness of issues that all Americans have tried to ignore. I believe that opening up a productive and candid dialogue will be healthy if we are to move forward and confront the challenges we face TOGETHER, not apart. Yes, that means for those of all races to be willing to listen to each other and treat each other as human beings and to love. I know this sounds idealistic, but yes, we need to remember that LOVE is the first step. And we need to get beyond our selfishness. That is the root of all "isms". And yes, I appreciate Mr. Jensen's comments. This is an insightful man. Thank you.

Sent by Beth | 5:58 PM | 3-20-2008

For the past 8 or so years I've been involved in a "Race Group" in Denver, a group of diverse individuals who meet once a month to do just that - talk openly and candidly about race. At this group we talk about the things you normally don't feel comfortable talking about in mixed company, and it has been an eye opener for me. This group was started by two women who own popular book stores and a member of the clergy and is going strong. I wish that everyone had such an opportunity.

Sent by Dawn | 7:17 PM | 3-20-2008

Sorry for this late post. We in Hawaii don't get to participate in the Talk except as listeners.

Michael Myers blew it! Obama has started a national discussion on race of a breath and depth never before heard in our country. In an era of twenty-four-hour (or less) news cylces, we are still talking about it two days later - even though his speech coincided with the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War, the Fed's latest cut in interest rates, the protests in Tibet, and the onset of March Madness. If not for Obama's speech, Michael Myers does not get on national radio. Obama hit a home run!

Sent by Ted Sakai | 7:23 PM | 3-20-2008

I am a 21 year old African American College Student majoring in Architecture. I have grown up with White, Hispanic and Asians from Kindergarden so when I heard the Reverends message I was offended ESPECIALLY about his 911 comment. However my mother and I got into a fight over this issue(Not too bad just typical political argument) She felt the Preacher was telling the truth from his heart. She told me I would NEVER know what its like to have to use separate Restrooms and sit in separate Places at the movies because of your skin...I would never know Ture racism. I was like I hate racist no matter what their skin is....But White Americans have done good and have helped African Americans out and still do.

It SOOO crazy that we differ on this issiue becuase I and her agree on many issiues. Even if she votes Republican and Im a Undecided but I'm voting liberal this time(My first time Voting).

To all the whites out there Don't believe the hype MOST black churches and Barbershops are NOT places to Disrespect white Americans. Also many African Americans are proud to be American...Don't forget we African Americans have been fighting For America from the Revolution.

Lets get past race becuase we need to come together and fix our great nation.

Sent by Jariah | 8:08 PM | 3-20-2008

Today's show was GREAT!!
I'm a 45 yr old black woman who can talk openly about the issues of race. We have several interracial marriages in my men and white women. I will be the first black woman in my family to marry a white man.
My family taught me to look at the inner man not the outer.

I must admit that our conversations around the dinner table concerning race are different than the ones that I have with my co-workers. When that issue of race comes up at home, we are more emotional in our discussions. At work, I tend to stick with facts. Sometimes, I think that my openess shocks my white co-workers. They're suprised that I can talk about racial issues without getting angry or bitter.

For me, racism just comes with being black . It's not a pleasant thing but I've learned to live with it.

I hope that WE as nation have learned something from this. Stand up for what is right. Look beyond the color of a person's skin and look at the person inside. When you really think about it...we are all a part of one race..the human race.

Sent by Victoria | 8:23 PM | 3-20-2008

In the late 70's I was a volunteer discussion leader in the Lutheran Church of America Missouri Synod's Racial Imperative weekend workshops held with Lay leaders Illinois churches. I was not a Lutheran but, considering myself a loosely knit Christian, participated because I admired the Synod's attempt to realistically address racism. All of it's participating Lay members were white with the exception of one integrated and one Black church. The discussion leaders were mostly black.

Webster Dictionary defines the word as, "...the belief in the inherent superiority of one group over the other." Using that definition to explore the subject in our group discussions we spoke of racism as a disease. A disease all Americans, Black, White, Hispanic and Indian suffered from at various levels and perspectives, some more than others. We also concluded one type of racism, white, was historically institutionalized in our government, our schools our segregated churches and therefore, our daily lives. This premise freed our groups to disagree, struggle for understanding and to end each session willing to further explore the issue.

Since then many changes for the good have taken place in our country and we often hear discussions about race in the news media. However, I note that the media, including NPR, conducts discussions about racism without setting a definition of what it means. Therefore participants begin discussions without knowing what each believes the word to means to the other and, mostly speak solely about a form of racism, discrimination, as the total problem. What are we talking about when we say racist. What does racialism mean? What is a racialist. Let's become educated about what we're talking about

Sent by Jean Hester | 8:37 PM | 3-20-2008

I guess I don't understand. What does it mean to be white? A friend of mine who happens (since you don't get the option to choose) to be African-American is a vegetarian, who speaks well, is educated, and who doesn't believe in traditional organized religion is told all the time she "acts too white". I thought the freedom of education, religion and even food preferences was an individual thing not a race issue. She embraces her heritage but doesn't feel the need to participate in all what she calls "stereotypical black culture." And yet she is berated by people (husband included) she's not black enough. If that's the case then what does it mean to be black? If you want racism to stop it needs to start within each and every race.

Sent by Melinda | 11:50 PM | 3-20-2008

I appreciate what Senator Obama said in his speech on race earlier this week because he articulated the race issue well, and because it has opened up the discussion of race in multiple forums across the nation (including most NPR shows this week.)

Race is still VERY much an issue in this country. I am a black woman raised in a predominantly "white" So. California community. I spent my college and young adult years in very liberal Los Angeles, then later moved back to a smaller mostly white town to raise my child (who is multiracial child and that I am raising as "black" because she is judged by a society that sees her as such, and it would be ridiculous and possibly psychologically damaging to raise a child who is visibly of African descent, as "white".)

Although I am well-educated, "articulate", and "clean", (like Senator Obama), I have experienced various levels of racism throughout my life. I am often told by my black peers that I do not "sound black". There have been many situations in which I will speak on the phone to a prospective client or business associate positively, then when said person meets with me and finds that I am "black" they are uncomfortable, or no longer want to work with me.

Throughout my undergraduate and graduate education, I encountered the sentiment of some of my white peers who assumed that the only reason I was there was due to some Affirm. Action policy or scholarship that some "hardworking white student" should have been entitled to. Not taking into consideration that to get into my college of choice I had to excell in CP/Honors courses, score well on SATs and do all the necessary work to get accepted just as they did.

Now my preschool-aged daughter is dealing with children who don't allow her to play with them because she is "tan" and they are "peach". My desire is for my child to grow up in a country that treats ALL people fairly, with the equal rights and ability to pursue a happy life. These discussions are a start!

Sent by Camille | 12:46 AM | 3-21-2008

The problem of 'race' is clearly cultural. It has been demonstrated that the physical concept of race does not exist (see the work by C. Loring Brace). The problem then, must be the fact that 'black' vs 'white' in the United States is a problem of 'black culture' vs 'white culture'... us vs them in a cultural sense.

Sent by Kristin | 9:33 AM | 3-21-2008

I was very disappointed in this show. I expected to see the usual unbiased contrasting interest discussion that I've always enjoyed on TOTN. The first lady interviewed was black, but married to a white man talked about her anger. The second guest, a college professor from Texas, was unbelievably apologetic for being white. I've been around a long time, and was raised in rural Michigan. I don't recall my parents ever saying anything negative about black people. Although admittedly we seldom saw any, and I never knew any while growing up. My first experience with blacks was in the military. I had several black friends, and there were no racial tensions that I was aware of. On one occasion myself and two other servicemen (one black) traveled together through several southern states on our way to our new assignments. It was the most unbelievable and degrading thing I ever could have imagined. The black serviceman was not allowed to get a room with us, as there were mostly whites only motels. At the bus station, we had to sit in different rooms. And, were chastized by both blacks and whites if we violated the separation rules. So I saw the injustice with my own eyes and heard with my own ears. I recall at one motel, the lady said to us, "I would like to let you all stay, as your all servicemen, but if I do they will burn my business down". A few years later came the civil rights struggle headed by Dr. MLK, which led to passage of civil rights laws which were enforced. And, several other measures such as affirmative action, school busing etc., which were intended to make up for the injustice. But, practically speaking there is nothing we as whites could ever do to compensate adequately. I don't think I'm willing to commit myself and my family to involuntary servitude for a few generations, for the sins of my forefathers. The only reasonable thing I can do is not make sure that I treat all my fellow americans, be they black, brown, yellow or white with equal respect and dignity, without predudice. I know that many will take issue with me. But, I think white racists today are about as plentiful as dinosuars and are relegated to what I would call a lunatic fringe element of society. Much is said today of the offensiveness of black stereotyping. I understand. But, black people must also understand that stereotyping whites as racists that are somehow gifted with this thing called "white privalege" is just as offensive. The economic problems with the black underclass has it's roots in the discrimination and racism of the past. Programs like LBJ's "Great Society" were meant to correct that. I don't think anyone would argue that they didn't work very well, and in many cases exacerbated the problems. Now the old soldiers like Rev. Wright continue to insist that problems like poverty, crime and high unemployment are caused by rampant racism. I don't agree. And, think that those kinds of statements create undeserved hate and anger. This hate and anger is counter productive. You can not accomplish what you need to do to be successful in this world if your preoccupied with hate and anger. For example, if any pro athlete prior to the big game told themself over and over, "there is no way I can win, the ref's won't be fair", they would surely loose. To be successful you have to let go of hate and animosity and truely believe in yourself. That is the message Rev. Wright should be preaching. He should point to people like Barak and Michelle Obama, and say, "this is what you can be, if your willing to work hard and believe in yourself".

Sent by Tom Robin | 10:35 PM | 3-21-2008

As much as I'd like for us to move past race, we cannot seem to let it go. There are probably a hundred reasons why we can't, and I can come up with a dozen. I'll spare the complete list, but suffice to say that for blacks, it is a matter of not forgetting the past for we do not want to repeat it. That may sound strange to some white people, but the fact is blacks were granted full citzenship, allowed to vote, hold office, go to college, etc. just after the Civil War only to have those rights revoked with the introduction of Jim Crow laws in the South and other race-based laws in the North.

For whites, we still project racial intolerance even when we don't realize it. It could be as trivial as a waitress choosing to seat a black couple is a back corner of an empty restaurant, or city government passing a law requiring homes to be made of brick - something that a lot of poor people cannot afford. Blacks interepret this as a slight because of history. Since 1868 there's been hundreds of laws intended to shut the door on minorities without explicitly saying "Colored folks not welcome here". Louisiana's Grandfather Suffrage Law is a good example. The law doesn't say colored people cannot vote. It says that only those who were allowed to vote in 1867 or a descendant of an 1867 voter may cast a ballot. Mintorites weren't allowed to vote until 1868, so the net affect was to keep them out.

NPR listeners are very attentive, so you noticed I referenced 'we' when speaking of blacks and of whites. Black and white are colors, not race. "Human" is a race and that's what I am.

Thanks for listening.

Sent by Christopher | 7:56 AM | 3-22-2008

As a white male that grew up in Oklahoma, I am probably not the most likely source of insight on this subject. But, my life has been enriched so dramatically by black folks who took the time to heighten my awareness of things. I was offered a new perspective on the world by them and there are so many more layers to the race issue than most white folks really understand. What we've seen in the recent uproar is that there are a good many black folks carrying around resentment. These are people who operate in the circles that we all share without being noticed. They are not people exhibiting blind rage against white folks. These people are the ones you talk to at work or at the gym or at the grocery store. They need to talk to us and we need to listen. It costs nothing to hear their perspective and be aware of it and sympathetic to it. Most of these folks that I know are only looking for someone to admit that there are issues to discuss. Most white folks that I know resent having to talk about it. And, here we go again. I hope Barack Obama kind find a way to start a non-threatening discussion that will give black folks the understanding that they deserve and white folks the awareness that they need.

Sent by David Gibson | 12:35 PM | 3-22-2008

I do not get it. We are a racist Nation because some poor ignorant grand parent has race issues. Pick a white racist and I will show you ten thousand white non racists. Let us have an uplifting conversation. Talk about the victories for once. The issue heats up when one makes excuses for racial attitudes like the Rev Wright. Do not make excuses for him by pointing to some other person. If my pastor made incendiary comments like Rev Wright I would have him off the floor in two seconds. We are not even talking about insensitive remarks. We are talking about the vicious, hate filled, bigoted, no excuse, fomentation of bile spewed upon the congregation of Trinity Church. The Amen's heard in the congregation were disgusting. The man the Church has picked to replace the retiring Rev. Wright is another person mentored by Rev. Wright. Barack Obama was mentored the same way. He is lying when he says he has never heard Rev. Wright speak this way. I do not believe Obama holds to those beliefs with the vitriol of Wright. I am sick and tired of liars running for office. I am a conservative with conservative values. My daughters are more liberal than me. I asked them to Vote for Obama early on because I felt we would have a clean(er) campaign where we can vote issues. I resent the implication that if I do not vote for him it is because I am afraid of the black man. Or if I do not vote for HC I am sexist. I am conservative and proud of it. I am not, nor have I ever been, a racist or sexist. We need to get folks to talk about their personal journeys and give them hope. That poor woman with the ignorant Grand Parents is a great place to start. The baby boomers have fought hard to change the race picture in this country. The positive aspects of our legacy are overwhelming. Dr King was the catyilist for a wonderful movement. Dr Wright does not get a pass. The Amen corner of his Church does not get a pass.

Sent by Mitch Skreen | 5:51 PM | 3-23-2008

It starts at the beginning of life. Just as most of us can recall that one uncle, aunt, parent or grandparent that made the racist comment at the drive-thru, theater or store, so we must be hyper-aware of the words we let come out when our own children are listening. I don't describe people by their skin color to my 4 yr old son; I tend to use their shirt!! I also make sure to buy books that showcase a multi-cultural world view. He knows that we are different on the outside and the same on the inside. When he asks why, I say we like a big ole box of crayons making the world more beautiful with each color. Peace :)

Sent by Tarah Faiella | 8:18 PM | 3-23-2008


Racism is not just a "white problem" and that is an extremely ignorant comment. Racism is a problem of all races and every person.

Sent by Kristine | 11:16 AM | 3-24-2008

I am a young white female immigrant. I think there is not much open racism but there is plenty of unconscious racism because the majority of people are "primed" to associate a black person with poverty, crime etc., even the black people themselves. I know I would have a harder time here if I were black. That said, black people do have more educational opportunities than any immigrant, grants, scholarships, state tuition rates etc. They should be taking advantage of them. I think, what keeps them down is lack of role models and mentors in the group of people they mostly associate with. This will be changing. Every successful and prominent black person is giving an example to others and changing unconscious expectations of both blacks and whites. That will be especially so if Barack Obama gets elected.

Sent by Zivile | 7:49 PM | 3-24-2008

When in college, I studied education with a multicultural emphasis. We openly explored our stereotypes about different races in class, which helped us define ourselves in the current world, and dispel old myths and barriers. I found it difficult to speak to some of my students about race at times, the old stuff I carried around inside me growing up during the civil rights movement, seemed irrelevant and ancient to students who were born and raised during the 1990's. I also became aware of the dominant cultural pressures on some of my students who were in the minority. This has helped me understand in a brand new way, especially in special education.

Sent by terry | 2:23 PM | 5-8-2008

I am glad that we are discussing race, but I think it is a major disservice to the topic that when we talk about Barack and his miracle speech (please, how so?) we fail to acknowledge that he is getting 85% or more of the black vote. How is this not racism? If we want to talk about this subject, then lets get real and tell the truth.

Sent by Shaun | 2:27 PM | 5-8-2008

The central thing that self-identified white people can do to help? Be open to learning about ways in which your skin color privileges you in mainstream American society. From an essay by Kate Harding:

"As a white person, I haven't been sensitized to covert racism by a lifetime of experiences. Unlike a person of color who has no choice but to see and feel it every day, I actually do have to "go looking for it"; my privilege could otherwise allow me to go through life believing it doesn't exist. Because I care about being anti-racist, I do go looking, do make an effort to educate myself about patterns of racism I wouldn't automatically recognize--and to question myself when my kneejerk reaction is, "Oh, come on--I'm supposed to believe that's racist?"

But because I'm white, I also have the option of not looking any time I don't feel like it. That's what privilege is. It's the option to ignore nasty [stuff] that doesn't directly affect my own life, my career, my relationships, my bank account, my social standing, my housing situation, etc."

Sent by Siri Louie | 2:34 PM | 5-8-2008

Tim Wise's book "White Like Me" is very helpful in exploring all that it means to be white in the U.S. We go through stages as white people in understanding and hopefully take action against racism and our own privilege. It's heartbreaking, excruciating and exhilarating AND it's never over.

Sent by Jane Burnett | 2:43 PM | 5-8-2008

I'm from Mexico; however, I am often mistaken by being from another country and therefore race. This is interesting because without meaning people share with me what they think of others from another race, and I've been in the situation where I feel the responsibility to share other points of view to make a point.
I have talked about race with black Americans, Africans, Europeans, and fellow Latinos and I haven't ever found the case or feeling that there isn't any discrimination, stereotypes at all.
I'm also often asked why I married a "white guy" and people always ask me how do we do to get along.

Sent by Sidury | 2:51 PM | 5-8-2008

Your discussion on race isn't doing any good. White majority bashing will only stifle discussion. You should avoid allowing your so-called experts to repeat the same old complaints over and over. For example: I am a professor and I know a student who is very tall and black. He played basketball but wasn't very good. He is an engineering major and looks like he'll become a good engineer. What's wrong with having sports or anything else as a beginning to a conversation? People who take offense at every little thing are not helping the situation.

I am white and have taught in an all black inner city high school for 3 years and I would never claim to be an expert on blacks, but your non-white guests are making assumptions about whites that really can't be statistically proved.

Sent by Dr. Joe Gorse | 2:56 PM | 5-8-2008

I find your show quite informative. I hope that one day we do not have to speak in terms of race, but only of terms of being Americans. That said I will identify myself as African American.

I like people and I enjoy learning about world history. I have learned that nations/social systems evolve over time.
The stressors that we are experiencing in the United States regarding racial relationships will one day will be seen from a historical perspective as "How did that happen here in this country?" In the future, our nation's citizens will ask, "How could we as a nation not have noticed the routine habit of being insensitive to another person's feelings?" I believe that we are becoming aware that and are individually and as a society addressing this issue.
This insensitivity occurred, I believe historically, from the unfortunate practice of superior positioning of one group of people over various other groups of people.
Racial relations in this country had been guided by identifying who was in the superior group and who was the inferior group.

I am glad that those concepts/practices are devolving. I like the America we are in the process of becoming: stronger, wiser and more aware. A country composed of diverse groups of good people who want the best for their families and the country. I fully believe that the struggle to find meaningful dialogue will be worthwhile.

Sent by Janice | 3:09 PM | 5-8-2008

How about the Iraqi women who are prostituting to feed their children and their selves? How do the Iraqi men feel about this knowing that American soldiers who are committing these acts are from the American culture? The American culture has been associated with European mixed race colonizers.

Sent by Rudolph | 4:18 PM | 5-8-2008

The retired CEO where I work is a Hispanic man who lived in one of our city's most historic and prestigious neighborhoods. He had an experience similar to that of one of the first callers. One day he was raking leaves in his front yard when an Anglo man driving by stopped to ask how much he charged for yard work. Former CEO responded that the lady of the house was his only client because "she lets me sleep with her." The man drove off looking baffled, not realizing he had spoken to lady of the house's husband. I wonder what your caller's response had been.

Sent by West | 10:58 AM | 5-9-2008