Racial Sensitivity 101


As a local media figure, I frequently run into people who watch, read or listen to my daily musings about the issues of the day.

Sometimes they agree with me and other times they disagree. Usually I am cool either way. I just tell them I am glad they are watching, reading or listening because that means I don't have to get a real job practicing law full-time, which is probably good for society as whole.

However, a recent encounter with a older African-American woman made me pause and gave me some food for thought.

I was in a Target picking up a few items when she walked up to me and asked if I was the guy on RTV 6 in Indianapolis. I told her yes. She told me that she watches me every week, but I should also be aware of the fact that I don't "speak for her." I looked at her somewhat puzzled then quickly smiled and said, "That's fine."

I then told her that I would never purport to speak for anyone and the only person I speak for is me. I then thanked her for watching and then went back to shopping for video games.

However, as I walked away, I thought it was interesting that this woman would think I spoke for her. The only people I "speak for" are the people who pay me to represent them in legal matters. And I think the fact she thought I was a spokesperson for her, or other black folks, clearly demonstrates a fundamental flaw in the logic of some of my fellow black people.

Why would you want anyone to "speak for you" when you can clearly do it for yourself?

I know we just celebrated the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream Speech," but I think the days of a black messiah are a bit antiquated. If you have a grievance with your government, then you can easily call and get your matter addressed.

Now granted she was more than likely talking about my positions on the issues of the day, which are rooted in a philosophy best described as "fiscally conservative and socially libertarian" - you know the whole free markets, less government regulation, fewer taxes and more personal responsibility and individual liberty. That whole thing.

These are views I have developed over the past 40 years of my life based on my experiences. And when I share them, I am not speaking for anyone but myself.

As I tell my white counterparts, black folks don't all look alike so there is no reason for us to all think alike either. Diversity of thought and opinion is a good thing. It leads to healthy debate and discussion, which turns into better methods to address and solve society's problems.

I am sure the woman who approached me in Target probably thinks more government is the answer to problems facing certain segments of the black community. She probably thinks higher taxes are the way to go as opposed to looking at ways to grow the economic pie so more people can take advantage of it. And she probably thinks spending more money on failing schools is a better way to lift black children out of poverty as opposed to vouchers and choice because a government bureaucracy can make better decisions about a kid's education than their own parents.

I could go on, but I think you see my point.

When I scribble down a few thoughts on paper, or share them on television, radio or the Internet, I am only speaking for me - no one else. It just happens that a lot of intellectually evolved people tend to agree with me and those who aren't smart enough to figure that out usually don't.

Abdul is an attorney and the editor and publisher of IndyPoltics.Org. He is also a frequent contributor to numerous Indiana media outlets. He can be reached at abdul@indypolitics.org.


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