WASHINGTON - Congressional Black Caucus today called upon the media to initiate a dialog on race in America. Caucus Chairwomen Barbara Lee Democrat from Oakland, CA, today issued this plea:
If anyone thought the election of Barack Obama as our nation’s first African American president was the beginning of a post-racial America, media coverage of recent events, surely should remind us all of the unfinished work America has to do with regard to race. Recent events have also brought about familiar calls for a “national dialogue” about race. This suggestion has largely become a cliché, a hollow gesture designed to demonstrate one’s reasonableness while not requiring them to actually do anything. That’s too bad, because a national dialogue on race, if put in the proper context and pursued in a wide variety of forms and formats, could actually improve America’s understanding of itself and its history.
We cannot, however, have a dialogue on race when the conversation, as it was in the case of Shirley Sherrod, is driven by lies, falsehoods, and smears put forth by dishonest and disreputable advocates whose intention is to incite racial animosity. We cannot have a reasonable dialogue about race if we do not recognize that white privilege, institutional racism, and structural inequalities still exist. Nor can we have an honest dialogue if we do not recognize that white America is not to blame for every problem in minority communities. Finally, we cannot have a fully nuanced conversation if we do not address the fears, misunderstandings, and animosities among and between a wide range of ethnic and religious groups in what is a multi-racial America.
The media bears significant responsibility for the sensationalized and superficial moments that too often constitute America’s conversations about race. And so it is that the media will need to play a major role in promoting a real dialogue on race, with advocates willing to have an open, honest, and deliberative discussion respecting of others' viewpoints on a wide range of issues at the intersection of race and class in America.
As Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Barbara Lee has been a principled leader who has sought to broaden how Americans approach race in ways that are multi-faceted and nuanced. Last November, the Congressional Black Caucus led a “Dialogue on Race” that explored the many ways history, economics, and psychology affect race and race relations.