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Let's Talk About Race

By James Michael Brodie | Posted 4/22/1998

OK, I admit it. When President Clinton rolled out this "dialogue on race" idea last year I was not impressed. Here we go again, I thought. Someone paying lip service to perhaps/maybe/possibly/sort of dealing with the subject one day soon.

In the past all such smoke basically yielded no fire, and "dialogue" did little to explain and much to polarize. Even here, at Baltimore's Most (fill in the blank) Free Alternative Weekly, the very idea of tackling the subject head-on can be enough to chill the otherwise fearless and stalwart.

I still question the motives behind Clinton's initiative, as I did earlier this month while watching an ESPN panel discussion on race and sports that included the likes of Georgetown University basketball coach John Thompson, NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown, former Olympic sprinter Jackie Joyner Kersee, University of Georgia athletic director Vince Dooley, and others gathered around the prez for a round of talking, shouting, pontificating, grandstanding, and general speechifyin'. But I don't question the need for a real discussion, one that truly begins to put the matter to rest.

I want to try something new--a new voice, a new vocabulary, a new flavor, one that allows different voices access to the same stage. This is my attempt to push it. So, with apologies to Salt 'n' Pepa . . .

Let's talk about race, baby
Let's talk about you and me
Let's talk about all the black things
And the white things that may be
Let's talk about race.
Let's talk about race, now that the president is adamant
Says he wants to leave a mark, a legacy, a testament,
Maybe wants to show that he was not a racist
But questions, questions, questions persist,
Questions, questions, surround the man's integrity
Questions, questions, surround the man's sincerity,
I mean, he ran away from Lani, gave the boot to Joycelyn
Legitimized the rantings of the pissed white man,
Went home to Arky at the height of his election festival
To watch a death-row brother die, be part of the spectacle,
To please his crowd
And look tough on the bad guys
All I know is that another brother fried,
He fled D.C. when a million brothers marched
Then he talked about race
Gotta question his heart.
Let's talk about race.
Let's talk about words such as the "qualified" minority
The nasty little adjective that implies inferiority.
You see words do hurt, and send a coded telegram
Makes you see me as other than I say I am,
Lets Helms peddle hate with impunity
Tells whites, "You need that job, but it went to a minority."
Heard of Ernest Just--who?
No I guess you never did,
But the cell is still a mystery without the things he showed to you
And he's not alone as one of creativity.
There are scientists, inventors, all left out of history
So if you wanna talk, let's get for real.
Let's throw away the stereotypes
Let's deal.
Let's talk about race.
Let's talk about names, the handles, the cultures that they represent
The Colored, the Black, and the "us" of African descent.
The bloods, bros, boons, and names that we did not invent
And how some names can hurt those who are innocent.
Let's talk about my pride and how it's not a threat to you
Let's talk about my name of choice and how that is not up to you.
If with Cassius and Little I can no longer live
Then Muhammad and X are my prerogative.
What you wish to call yourself is a matter of choice
So is it with me, because that is my inner voice.

Let's talk about race.
So let the conversation start, let's see if it will really go
But don't run this time and finger-point when my years of anger start to show.
Are you strong enough to hear the "why²
When I say that I don't trust you?
Or will this be another failed discourse
Just politics, with nothing new?
What we stand to gain's enormous if that's truly what we most desire
Like a love song I heard long ago, it's time to feel the fire.
Without the risk we're where we started
And maybe for a long, long time.
Mr. Bill, you better be for real
It's your call
It's on your dime
Let's talk about it.

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