Paul R. Lehman, Chris Matthews and Oprah’s Choice of wordsJanuary 29, 2010 at 5:46 pm | Posted in Ethnicity in America | 6 Comments
Tags: america's race problem, Chris Matthews and Oprah's word choice, Paul R. Lehman
What will it take for people in positions of power and influence to realize that no matter how much they do to promote American unity, they are the chief perpetrators of promoting racism and separation? For example, Chris Matthews is constantly refering to himself as a white man; Oprah frequently refers to herself as a black woman. So, what is wrong with that? Are they not telling the truth? Yes and no. Yes, they are telling the truth as they see it, and no, they are stuck in a race box. Throughout the media prominent people with well-meaning thoughts accept, endorse, and promote racism and separateness.
The problem involves all Americans because we are all affected and influenced by the experience. The words ‘white’ and ‘black’ are like bright red lights that call attention to themselves. Why? Because of the stigma that is associated with them—white equals superiority and privilege, black equals inferiority and baseness. Like the word ‘race,’ white and black unites and separates simultaneously. The mere use of these words in usual conversation underscores acceptance of them. If we were to examine the reactions of people hearing the words, we would recognize that the people who identify themselves with the words are alerted to the commonality as well as the difference represented in them. We have accepted as fact the idea of races to the point that we ignore the fact that we ONE.
Chris and Oprah mean no harm, but they are adding to the problem when they continue to use those words black and white. What is wrong with the words African American and European American? These words, at least, unite all Americans into the same family of humans. Racism cannot exist if we all belong to the same race. Sure we all have differences, but those differences are superficial within the human family, not outside of it.
When we become aware of a problem, then we can strive to eliminate it. We need to begin educating ourselves and each other that words have consequences. What we thought was harmless can in fact be very harmful when used without forethought. Chris and Oprah are prominent and influential people who reach millions of people daily; they need to know and understand the impact of their choice of words. They would not yell Fire in a crowed theater, so why continue to use the words black and white, since they also cause alarm. Obviously, Chris and Oprah are not the only people who do this, they are used here as representatives of media personalities. Nonetheless, if the problem is to be addressed, part of the solutions must begin somewhere, so, why not with them?
American prides itself in being a nation of diversity, because we find strength in diversity. We also find strength as well as freedom in truth. As a people we cannot simply say we embrace diversity and then act contrary to what we say. The adage ‘ways and actions speak louder than word,’ can also apply to our use of words.