Columns, News, Opinion

RYAN: It’s not black and white

As usual, I was stumbling around the Internet looking for something to write about this week when I somehow ended up on Sarah Palin’s Facebook page. In between promotions for her new reality TV show and photo-ops with Phil Robertson, she had posted a picture for Martin Luther King Jr. Day and at the end she wrote, “Mr. President, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. and all who commit to ending any racial divide, no more playing the race card.” And all of a sudden, a topic for this week’s column was born.

Now before I launch into what will undoubtedly end up offending half my audience, I have a confession to make: I have never liked Sarah Palin. I think anyone could probably be a better example for young girls who want to get involved in government. Heck, I’m pretty sure Tina Fey would’ve been a better Vice President. Also her name has an “H” at the end, which is the inferior way to spell Sara. But anyway, back to what really matters — Facebook posts!

I am all for a discussion about race in this country. Those in power have become far too comfortable with the current balance. However, I don’t think the “Sarah Palin approach” was really the best one here.

While there may be a few things wrong with Palin’s statement, what really strikes me is her oversimplification of the issue. Race is an incredibly complicated issue we face as individuals and as a society. I’d rather attempt Chemistry 101 than try to solve all of this nation’s (and world’s) race issues, and here is Sarah Palin, saying that Obama needs to stop using the race card. It’s as if Obama were to stop talking about being black, all of America’s race issues would be solved, at least in Sarah Palin’s mind.

I’m not saying that you have to be a minority to be able to discuss race. That’s completely false. I, a white girl from the Chicago suburbs (#Southside), have had plenty of good discussions with my fellow melanin-challenged peers about race in this country. I just think people should demonstrate some understanding of its complexity before opening their mouths — especially on a holiday dedicated to a man who sacrificed his life for real racial equality.

According to a Pew Research poll published on Aug. 22, 79 percent of blacks, 48 percent of Hispanics and 44 percent of whites still think there’s a lot that needs to be done to achieve racial equality.

Funnily enough, I don’t think the resolution they have in mind is, “Obama should stop talking about race and racial issues.” That’s like my dad thinking he could subside his backpain if he pretends it’s not there.

The real solution is to keep talking about the issues, and I’m sorry, Mrs. Palin, but that might require our president, the only non-white male to ever hold his office, to discuss his race. I wish I could ask Palin to provide examples of Obama playing the race card because I honestly can’t think of any.

There have been a few instances where he has addressed race both before and during his presidency. He spoke out after the Trayvon Martin verdict was announced in July and when his campaign was buried under the inflammatory remarks of Rev. Jeremiah Wright. However, those were the instances where he needed to say something.

Obama’s presidency has never and should never be all about the color of his skin, but he cannot simply ignore something that has contributed to who he is. Barack Obama is in a unique, precedent-setting position. Not to put any pressure on the dude (am I allowed to call the president “dude?”), but he is forging a path for minorities in politics. Has anyone looked at the U.S. government lately? It’s like a sea of pastiness and testosterone. A little diversity isn’t going to kill anyone.

Obama has the opportunity to change that. With a successful presidency, who knows what could happen? Obama might just open the floodgates for other minority politicians like Julián Castro and Marco Rubio. He could give new ideas a voice and validate different perspectives that have been ignored for far too long.

The point I’m trying to make here is that we are not ready to stop talking about race. I might not be an expert on race relations in this country (and neither is Sarah Palin), but I know enough to know that we have not come far enough.

Until we stop defining others by their race, we are not allowed to stop talking about it. The only way to fix a problem is to uncover its causes. Race isn’t a black and white issue (pun intended). There are about 50 shades of gray (not the porn-y kind) in between, and Sarah Palin’s oversimplification should remind us all that we still have so far to go.



Sara Ryan is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences studying political science and math. She can be reached at [email protected].


One Comment

  1. Well said Sara!