The first lesson a news writer learns when interviewing a subject, aside from journalistic integrity and the avoidance of bias in an article, what not to ask, otherwise known as taboo topics—religion, gender and race. While these topics can be approached when the time is warranted, but otherwise, this triumvirate of topics has generally become untouchable in any other circumstance. After all, these areas have always been sources of debate and discussion for thousands of years, causing in extreme cases violence and wars well into the beginning of time, and thus so should logically be treated with care and reverence in our post-racial society.
While our nation’s culture has been described as a “post-racial” one since the election of President Barack Obama two years ago, the treatment of gender and race in our culture has evolved into a bastardized form of its former self. Somehow in our so-called “post-racial” society, the last two years have brought terms such as “reverse racism” into the vernacular of households across America. True, the issue of racism and sexism should never be pushed aside in a hush-hush manner, but instead be something to stir an open dialogue. However now, sexism and racism, the two formerly serious offenses, have become more and more exploited as tool for political advancement, and even sometimes a weapon to damage the reputations.
Even I will admit that as a high school student if I did poorly in a class, often times I would exclaim (without proper thought), “Oh, I’m not doing well in [Subject XYZ], because my teacher hates Asian kids.” When someone would suggest I talk to the school administration about it, I quickly realized that the issue of my grades was less about color of my skin and more about the fact that I didn’t study for the class at all.
The exploitation of reverse racism and sexism has been particularly evident on a national scale over the course of this summer with the plight of Georgia State Director of Rural Development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Shirley Sherrod. Although Sherrod stated no wrong in a speech addressed to the NAACP, a two-and-a-half minute video of her speech that could have sounded like a vitriolic hate-rant. Rather than investigating the entire unedited video however (the speech in context was actually about how she learned to open her eyes against reverse racism), the clip sparked a firestorm of outrage from conservative politicians and media outlets alike with pundits such as Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck alleging reverse racism. At its peak, the controversy fueled criticism of the Obama administration (for Sherrod’s ties) by the conservative Tea Party movement.
Yet, it begs the question: how damaging of an impact or how fair is it to allege a prejudice as devastating as racism or sexism just for one’s own aims? Not to mention, the entire debacle just highlights how inept those making the claims are that they couldn’t listen to the entire 20-minute speech to learn that the discussion was not one of hate at all. Rather, it was about the promotion of respect through all socioeconomic classes, an ideal that should be praised.
On the other end of manipulation and exploitation, racism and sexism have also been used in the past few months as a tool to push forward the political careers of certain national figures. Sarah Palin, who has been touted by Fox News and a number other news programs as the “future of the feminist movement” with her “Mama Grizzlies” campaign, has used her own gender to rally supporters, with claims that anything otherwise is harmful to women everywhere. These forces acting against the “Mama Grizzlies” have been listed as “Obama, Pelosi and Reed and what they are doing to our country”, which of course is a rather contradictory statement given that Nancy Pelosi, a woman, would be damaging everything in the name of feminism and the feminist movement.
My opinion is of course said not to diminish the seriousness of these two prejudices. Racism and sexism are two important issues that can still be found anywhere in one’s daily life. Yet instead of pointing foul at any possible instance of these prejudices, one should have a discriminating eye when it comes to these behaviors. Instead of using gender or ethnicity as an excuse, people should just begin to own up to their own inadequacy and ineptitude. Maybe the world’s problems will be solved faster and easier.