Paul R. Lehman, NBC’s Dateline Sunday program on racial discrimination counterproductiveMay 13, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Posted in American Racism, Bigotry in America, blacks, equality, Ethnicity in America, fairness, justice, minority, Prejudice, public education, students parents, whites | 1 Comment
Tags: African Americans, American Education, American Indians, Asian Americans, bigotry, black and white, Confronting Myths, current-events, discrimination, ethnic groups, ethnic prejudice, ethnic prejudices, ethnicity, European Americans, Hispanics, M. Harris-Perry, Natalie Morales, NBC Dateline, politics, racial prejudice, society
NBC Dateline Sunday (5/6/12) aired a program about discrimination entitled “My kid would never do that.” Natalie Morales hosted the show that involved asking some kids to pick team mates for a quiz competition or a singing competition while parents watched on hidden cameras. The kids who represented the ones in the pool from which the kids being scrutinized must make the selection, all represent a different ethnic group. The objective was to see if the kids making the picks would be influenced by ethnic biases and if they would admit it.
The purpose of the show, one supposes, was to try and address ethnic prejudices in our children and try to eliminate it through parental efforts and examples. The premise of the show was fine, but because America does not and has not addressed ethnic prejudice, it was bound to fail. First, the term racial prejudice was used but not defined; second, no effort was made throughout the program to underscore that the differences among the kids are only ethnic or cultural; and last, because the first two concerns were not addressed, the program was not successful. Let us be more specific.
Somehow America seems to think that the definition and conception of race comes from the oxygen we all breathe. In addition, American seems to believe that so-called racial discrimination is a clearly perceived and understood characteristic of society. Unfortunately, both lines of thought are incorrect. Our schools do not teach that the word race is a scientific term and should not be applied to social concerns such as cultural or ethnic identities. So, just as the rest of society does, our children hold the belief that multiple races exist, ignoring the facts that debunk that belief.
So, during the show, the children making the selections used race as a consideration in their choices. What this does is underscore the use of race as a legitimate element of discernment for use in society. The children, their parents, and Ms. Morales should have known that all human beings belong to one race, the human race. The differences that exist among humans are purely ancestral and cultural. Humans, like tomatoes come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, but still belong to the same family. What happens when the word race is used is that groups are forces to unite or separate. That is, those groups that look alike will unite and separate from the groups that are not like them.
In the program, any choice the kids made would be based on their concept of race and culture, not on ethnicity. One reason for this problem is that neither race nor ethnicity has ever been clearly defined to them. Chances are if someone was to ask any of the kids their race or ethnicity the terms black and white would be certain to surface because that is what the kids have been taught. The kids were placed in a very awkward situation being asked to select someone and not consider race when race is what they have lived with all their lives.
Obviously, the people at NBC Dateline along with their experts did not give much thought to what they were doing—they simply thought they were doing something positive. The fact that the program never once challenged the term “racial discrimination” reflects an acceptance of the status quo. No show that begins by accepting race and races as valid can ever create anything to rise above it or hope to solve a so-called racial problem. Much discussion on race revolves around the past and the present but when the subject turns towards the future, the only things offered are hopes, dreams, and promises—nothing concrete. Future changes in our concepts of race will not come from wishes build on dreams; something more substantial is needed.
Science has given us all the proof we need to make the change away from race to ethnicity or ethnic group. By prolonging that change we are, in fact, promoting and accepting the things we say we want to rise above—discrimination, bigotry, prejudice, biases and injustice. Yet, what are all these things based on if not race? We have begun to make the shift from black to African American, but still hold on to black. That being the case, as long as we hold on the black or black race, we hold on to white and white race. When we hold on to those two colors as sources of social identity, we in essence, hold on to the concept of race with white being superior over black.
So, what should the NBC Dateline show have done? First, they should have questioned the kids to learn just how much they know about race. From their responses the experts should have been able to recognize the strengths and weakness of the kid’s beliefs and create constructive and accurate avenues of learning for the kids. They should have checked to learn from the kids what they are taught in the school, home, and church about race. If the philosophy says to treat all races alike, then the philosophy must change. If the philosophy says they must treat all people, regardless of race, the same, the philosophy is still wrong. As long as the word race is used as an acceptable term regardless of the context, it is wrong.
What society seems ignorant of is the fact that we keep retarding our own growth by accepting ideas and concepts about race that are no long appropriate, accurate, and valid. We seem to believe that we have reached the point in society where more clarity about ancestry and cultural identity has topped out. Of course, all we have to do is watch the NBC program “Who Do You Thing You Are” to recognize the plethora of ethnic identities generally found in a person’s family tree, or watch a similar program on Public Television with Dr. Henry Louis Gates. However, even these programs accept the concept of races. So, why do we keep falling back on the old concept of race when we know better?
If NBC Dateline wants to do a show that is beneficial and provides a solid foundation from which a real identity can be created, and one that doesn’t actually promote prejudice, bigotry, bias, discrimination, and injustice, it should begin by debunking the myth of biological multiple races, and then remove race from the discussion. When that happens, something magical occurs.