The Race Card

The Race CardFrom the tone of this blog you may have guessed that I often get into heated discussions about race all over the internet. It’s true, I admit it. I am angry in many and varied forms. 98% of these discussions devolve quickly due to people’s inability to have a dialogue about things they are A) ignorant of and B) uncomfortable with. When someone backs these people into a corner they usually pull out their one last weapon to use against me. They say something like: “Why do you black people always have to play the race card?” or “You’re just playing the race card!”

This usually has the effect of scattering the discussion into a bunch of smaller squabbles and the offending ignoramus gets away with not really addressing an issue. This is because most black people don’t quite know how to react to this statement. It’s belittling and dismissive and nonsensical all at once. Different people will try to attack it from different angles, but it’s almost as good a discussion ender as calling one side or the other ‘like Hitler’.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this concept of a Race Card. What is it? Is it the Jack of Spades? Or one of those Chance cards from Monopoly? (You look at a white woman wrong in the grocery store, go directly to jail) Maybe the race card is part of the Tarot deck and stands for the ability to never get ahead in any aspect of life simply due to a mistake of birth.

Or maybe, just maybe, it doesn’t exist.

No matter what the race card actually is (or isn’t), there is something white people need to understand: I’m not playing it at all. This isn’t some kind of game to me. The fact that issues which affect my entire life and the lives of billions of people on this planet are dismissed with a crude allusion to game play is not only rude, but ignorant and cowardly as well.

Let me repeat that: This Is Not A Game.

So don’t play games with me. If my bringing up race makes you uncomfortable, then the problem lies with you, not with me. Maybe you should take a step back and examine that feeling for a while before you try to engage me in debate again. I’ll tell you right now, you aren’t going to put me off or derail the conversation with this shit anymore.

13 Responses

  1. […] Apropos of my post the other day, Tim Wise also has some thoughts on the “Race Card”. Recently, I was asked by someone in the audience of one of my speeches, whether or not I believed that racism–though certainly a problem–might also be something conjured up by people of color in situations where the charge was inappropriate. In other words, did I believe that occasionally folks play the so-called race card, as a ploy to gain sympathy or detract from their own shortcomings? […]

  2. “…Race Card. What is it? Is it the Jack of Spades?”

    No. The Joker.

  3. “So don’t play games with me. If my bringing up race makes you uncomfortable, then the problem lies with you, not with me. Maybe you should take a step back and examine that feeling for a while before you try to engage me in debate again. I’ll tell you right now, you aren’t going to put me off or derail the conversation with this shit anymore.”

    Why should there be a need to bring up race? You’re human, is that not your race? Earlier today I asked a person to simply show me their drivers license because they were making a purchase with a credit card. I’ve asked many people, young, old, white, black, or hispanic. I do this for two reasons: 1) I’ve been disciplined by management because a customer made a large purchase and then disputed it with their credit card company.. so it is to protect myself from being fired. 2) To protect a person from someone else using their card.

    TODAY I was told that I was doing this because he is black. Why did he say this? Because I’m white. He played the victim. People need to stop bantering about race and differences. People forget that many “white” people marched along side “black” people in demonstrations and protests. They got sapped with the fire hose too. Its not fair to sit there and act like someone is out to get you because of race. If a person actually makes a reference to your skin color that is another story, otherwise bringing up race is unfounded and nonsensical and flat out ignorant.

  4. hmm. I think I’ll beg to differ on which one of us is being ignorant here.

    Firstly, the “We’re all one race, the HUMAN race!” argument is a classic example of white privilege and denial. Statements like that completely ignore the reality of living in America today. Right up there with comments about color blindness.

    Secondly, being a black person (which you obviously are not), I have the pleasure of knowing that race is generally the 1 ton elephant in the middle of the room whenever I or any other non-white person is around. Therefore, bringing up race usually MUST occur, because to not bring it up with be to deny that it’s being thought about. You seem to be unaware of this and that’s probably because you’re white. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that, but I suggest you read the “Required Reading” section before continuing any discussion with me.

    Thirdly, this is not the place to come and complain about the black people you encounter who annoy you. It’s really not. I am not the ambassador of blackness. I am not the black folk complaint department.

    If some black person pisses you off in life, it’s not advisable to then go to the nearest black person you know or feel comfortable communicating with and tell them about it. We can not all answer for each other, just as I don’t expect you to answer for all white people. Just today a white person shoved me on the subway. Are YOU going to do something about it, explain why he did it, absolve him of guilt, make excuses for him?

    No? Then don’t expect me to.

    That being said, I’ve been to plenty of stores that don’t ask for ID with credit card and some that do. Considering the color of my skin, it’s not wholly insane to think that sometimes I’m asked for ID because of racial profiling. I don’t jump to that conclusion every time, though, because it doesn’t happen a lot. Were I a different kind of person – black male instead of female, dark skinned instead of light, tall, well-built, wearing clothes coded as ‘thuggish’, or any number of other factors, getting IDed might happen to me a lot more, and if I were any kind of smart person I would know why that was.

    You may have a perfectly legit reason for checking IDs, but how is a person supposed to know all that? Are they supposed to read your mind?

    And finally, why does this upset/offend you so very much? It seems like white people are always finding a reason to complain about black people!

    (in case you don’t understand my sarcasm there, I will point out that I did indeed employ quite bit of it.)

  5. I agree with your reply, except for this:
    “You may have a perfectly legit reason for checking IDs, but how is a person supposed to know all that? Are they supposed to read your mind?”

    Isn’t it common sense that IDs are checked at stores to protect the customer? Why would one assume that the reason the clerk is checking their ID is because the clerk is racist? I think that’s reading too far into a situation.

  6. Isn’t it common sense that IDs are checked at stores to protect the customer? Why would one assume that the reason the clerk is checking their ID is because the clerk is racist? I think that’s reading too far into a situation.

    Example:

    *Btw, I’ve already told this story before, so longer readers may want to skip this section.

    One Sunday afternoon after church, my dad took a trip to the local Sears. He found something he wanted and took it over to the cashier. He gave the clerk his credit card to pay for it – his “Titanium” card. The clerk looked at the card, looked at my dark-skinned father, and asked for his driver’s license. He was happy to show it. The clerk took her time comparing the name and the signature. Then she called for her manager. The manager asked if he had another ID. (Mind, this was before anyone even ran the damn card.) My dad showed him his military ID. They compared the 3 and they also called the bank to see if it the card was good. Nobody had yet to even try to run the damn card!

    Remember the scene: My father, dressed in a suit and tie for church, trying to buy something with his credit card. The last time he had a smudge on his credit report was about 20 years previously. (He pinches pennies so hard, he makes Honest Abe cry.) After showing them two forms of ID, both with his pic and signature, they still didn’t want to believe that that dark-skinned negro was carrying that kind of plastic.

    Eventually, they him buy the damn thing with the card. (What choice did they have?)

    Moral of the story: Yes, store clerks check IDs for the protection of the customer and for the merchant. But if it walks like a duck, sounds like a duck, you break out the orange sauce.

  7. keep in mind, not all store clerks check IDs. it’s such a rare occurrence that it’s not unreasonable for a customer of a darker persuasion to wonder why it’s happening.

    I purposely don’t sign the back of my card to get clerks to ask for my ID. and yet, 19 times out of 20, they don’t even look at the back of the card.

  8. Angel,

    I don’t think I’d heard that story before. Damn. O_o That’s awful.

    Even though technically we were supposed to, I don’t think I ever checked ID’s when I was working as a shopkeeper/salesperson, except on the rare occasions when someone youngish looking purchased booze, or when I had really big purchases. It tends to annoy customers and slow down transactions when you have a lineup, so generally we didn’t do it. On *rare* occasions I’ve met someone who has checked my ID in a store, but that has happened maybe once or twice out of many shopping trips.

  9. Thanks, Ico!

    When I worked at “Wally-World” (*Flashback: “Please, please, may I take break?…Sorry, sir this coupon’s expired…I’m not calling you a liar; I just asked if you had a receipt for those DVDs…No, ma’am. I am not trying to steal your identity…Dear God! Where does the line end?!!…*shudder), most customers use the card-reader in front of the register. Unless, they handed the card to me, or the machine gave a beep to tell me to double cherk their identity, I hardly ever checked IDs.

  10. I really like when you say “Firstly, the “We’re all one race, the HUMAN race!” , but one thing to remember that non-white people should have equally say just about the same thing. Moreover, non-white people should build our own self confidence and stand equally. If there are some people prefer to have mind set of the dark ages treating people wrongfully based on their skin tone, then it is their problem, not ours.

  11. “People forget that many “white” people marched along side “black” people in demonstrations and protests.”

    Its true that all white people are not racists. At the same time, it is a also fact that racism is still rearing its ugly head with ultra nationalistic and jingoistic political parties (for example: BNP in England) trying to keep the obnoxious practice of racism alive.

    Let’s strive to eradicate racism and all sorts of regressive practices once and for all.

  12. […] it seems needed: Angry Black Woman: The Race Card, “How to Suppress Discussions of Racism” (Notably […]

  13. Advice: if I were in this situation as the cashier (assuming the store does card everyone) how should I respond–“should I offer an explanation of the policy in explanation or would that just be seen as getting defensive? simply “I am sorry, I didn’t mean it that way” and move on. I would feel embarrassed, and want assure him that I didn’t mean offense, but wouldn’t be sure how to do it without “Im colorblind/not racist/have black friends yada yada”.

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