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It’s time to discuss race relations in US intelligently, reasonably



Published: Sat, August 7, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

My July column on interracial marriage and dating kicked off a pretty lengthy debate on race on Vindy.com.

More than 100 posts were attached to my column, most from just a few people going back and forth at one another on whether Italians are white, the proposed lack of the president’s birth certificate and other political rhetoric.

The gist of the column was this: Based on statistical evidence, interracial marriage is on the increase in this country, and I believe it is good to see such marriages based on similar life experiences, education and values as opposed to skin color.

I thought that was a small, positive step toward breaking down racial boundaries.

But judging from a few of the Internet posts, it seems writing about racial issues continues to be a sore spot for some in the Mahoning Valley.

Not everyone in our area has a computer, and those who do probably don’t spend a lot of time reading the responses to a particular column.

So I will share a few.

One of the posters called me a racist and called me despicable for making my living that way. Another said the subject of interracial marriage and dating was essentially 20 years too late and would never be allowed in print in a reputable paper such as The Plain Dealer of Cleveland.

For the record, two major media giants, CBS and CNN, broached the subject of interracial marriage and its place in the 21st century before little, ol’ me wrote about it in this newspaper.

Another said he was Caucasian and married to a Chinese woman. They have two beautiful children representing both races and cultures. He suggested I move on to a more pressing topic.

One person, however, chose the old-fashioned way of commenting on the column. He wrote me a letter, unsigned of course.

He began by praising President Obama for being a black man raised by white people with white values. He pointed out the president was immersed in an environment where things academic mattered. He said more black kids should do the same.

In his house, when they see a black man and white woman together, they have this saying, “She must like gettin’ beat up!”

It gets worse, and I won’t print the rest of the inane babbling.

But I believe the problem in the Valley specifically, and in America in general is that we don’t want to discuss race in an intelligent, non-inflammatory manner. The amazing thing about the United States is that despite our racial differences, we still thrive as a nation.

The purpose of most of my columns is to extol and advocate how we can all live together as opposed to separately. I certainly won’t apologize for writing about injustices still going on in the black community. And I have criticized the community on several occasions for not taking responsibility in the areas of parenting, education and domestic violence.

This space also has been used to showcase the positive events happening in the black and Latino communities.

We can be a better Valley when we can embrace our differences while looking for the good that can be found in most of us. Everyone should be proud of their ethnic heritage. And everyone should be seen as individuals, judged by the content of their character.

In their 1997 book “America in Black and White,” authors Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom penned these words in the chapter titled “The Racial Climate:”

“It is on the ground of individuality that blacks and whites can come together. Large and important race-related problems still remain. Together blacks and whites can address them; as separate nations within our nation, they cannot – and will not.”

Ernie Brown Jr. is a Regional Editor at The Vindicator and writes a monthly column. Contact him at ebrown@vindy.com


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