I watched Dr. Phil’s Jena 6 show. Admittedly, I only saw half of day one and all of day two - plenty enough for me. That he brought his pal, Bishop T.D. Jakes into the mix was enough to tell me where this was going to go. Now I know I'm blaspheming in the Black community if I don't have the proper reverence for the bishop, but forgive me if my view of God and what I see in the bishop tend to conflict. Something about moneychangers in the temple gets me a little riled. And no, he is hardly the first or ONLY Black minister about whom I feel this way, but I digress.
I agree that Dr. Phil is all about the ratings (I used to contribute to both his and Oprah's ratings daily until I finally got it!), but what's worse is for all his "can't we all just get along" psycho-babble, neither he nor Bishop Jakes ever seriously addressed the deep impact of hanging nooses on a Black populace. It was more about, "We cannot use violence to solve our differences" and Justin Barker, the victim it seemed. I would like to direct Dr. Phil and the good bishop to the "Without Sanctuary" website, for a little refresher course on nooses and their psychological impact on Blacks in this country. And don't bother reading or clicking through the images. Just sit back and watch the flash movie and then tell me all we have to do is get these boys together in the Dr. Phil House and that'll make it all okay. What's going on in this country is way deeper than that.
Bishop Jakes told Dr. Phil, “I think really, Dr. Phil, one of the great issues is that for many, many main-stream Americans, racism is not even on their radar." It’s easy for one not to have racism “on their radar,” particularly when, as Peggy McIntosh notes in "White Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work in Women's Studies, “In my class and place, I did not see myself as racist because I was taught to recognize racism only in individual acts of meanness by members of my group, never in invisible systems conferring unsought racial dominance on my group from birth.” That is the key to all this. The key most people do not want to acknowledge. Racism is institutionalized. It’s in our schools (elementary, secondary and beyond), our prisons, our courts, our government, our hiring practices, our banks, our medical communities and definitely in our churches. It’s in all the institutions upon which this country stands and survives.
The rash of noose-related incidents after the Jena 6 case made the national news have been characterized as both racially-motivated “backlash” incidents AND an opportunity for serious, open dialogue on race and cultural sensitivity. I agree. They are, or at least could be, both. But let’s not act like the Jena 6 encouraged all this. It’s been going on all across the country – for years. And it continues. Here are just a few links you might want to check out to see what I mean:
- Clemson Students Commemorate Dr. King - January 30, 2007
- Tolerance.org 2002-09-25: Jim Crow “Bizarre” at OK State
- GT 2001-11-09: The Context of racism at Auburn fraternities
- Tolerance.org (2001-11-08): University of Mississippi Fraternity Suspended Until 2002
- GT 2001-11-06: Virulent racism at Auburn fraternities
And if you think college campuses are the only place where you find this behavior, Google “Shirley Q. Liquor” (too many links to include here since she’s quite popular). Shirley’s actually a 45-year old Caucasian drag queen whose alter-ego is a poor, Black Southern woman with 19 children and a welfare boozer who speaks in Ebonics. The shows are usually packed to the rafters with audience members laughing in hysterics. Many, but not all of them are white. There have been marches at many of those shows. Some of them were shut down but many were not. H-m-m-m seems adolescents aren't the only ones prone to pack behavior. That open dialogue on race and cultural sensitivity is way overdue.