I live in one of the Dallas suburbs and the entertainment/absurbness of John Wiley Price can't be believed. My first memory of him was him jumping up on the front of a woman's minivan to prevent her entering a picketed area and breaking her windshield wipers. This was a soccer mom who had no intention of doing anything wrong - he wouldn't even let her back up because it made better video for TV.
The Dallas Morning News has had a series of articles on Black & White viewpoints, written by two of their staff who are of those races. Very interesting. The Black viewpoint is missing this week as he is on vacation, but Steve Blow wrote his viewpoint today.http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcont....41f4132e.html
For those of you who don't want to register to read it:
Dallas commissioners' 'black hole' brouhaha exposes depths of racial chasms
06:53 PM CDT on Thursday, July 10, 2008
Well, I wish my compadre James Ragland weren’t on vacation this week. The Dallas County Commissioners Court sure served us up a big, juicy topic for another installment of our “Talking Race” series.
To be honest, the matter seems so silly that my first instinct was to ignore it.
But this thing seems to be blowing up, not blowing over, so let’s talk about black holes and racial chasms.
First, the obligatory background: In a discussion among county commissioners Monday, Kenneth Mayfield (white) said a county office seems to have become a “black hole” for paperwork.
That prompted an “Excuse me!” from John Wiley Price (black), who declared the term racially loaded and offered “white hole” as an alternative. Justice of the Peace Thomas G. Jones (black) then joined in, demanding an apology from Mr. Mayfield (still white).
Mr. Mayfield refused, saying later, “Anybody who’s offended by that statement needs serious psychiatric help.”
OK, putting aside the larger question of the county commissioners and mental health, there’s one more bit of background that’s essential:
Kenneth Mayfield and John Wiley Price hate each other.
Oh, that’s probably too strong. Let’s just say they’re a whole lot more like oil and water than ebony and ivory.
They sit side by side on the Commissioners Court, but the conservative white Republican and the liberal black Democrat are miles apart in every other way. So the sparks do fly.
They love to get their digs in. But they also engage in a lot of humorous banter.
And all this began as just the typical half-playful, half-pointed jab and nothing more.
Unfortunately, we live in a time when some will pounce on any racial issue for their own gain. And that includes a lot of white folks as surely as it does the Al Sharptons and Jesse Jacksons.
The conservative blogs and right-wing radio shows are having a field day with this tiny incident because it serves their purposes so well.
I talked to Mr. Price on Thursday and he’s astounded that this has become such a big deal. He said it’s unfortunate that Judge Thomas escalated things by asking for an apology.
“It was never meant to be more than a five-second teachable moment,” he said.
In that regard, Mr. Price isn’t backing down from his initial comment. He said a racially sensitive person seeks to avoid using “black” in its many negative forms.
Mr. Price said Mr. Mayfield handled his comment well, coming back with a quick joke of his own and then moving on.
When Judge Jones asked for an apology, Mr. Price said he quickly brushed that aside precisely because it made too much of the matter.
As I said in our “Talking Race” columns, this kind of hypersensitivity to language really has become counterproductive to racial progress.
It leaves earnest people fearful of discussing race, afraid of accidentally giving offense. And it plays right into the hands of those who are more interested in mocking than making racial progress.
But one thing I also learned from the “Talking Race” exercise is that sometimes we just have to accept that different life experiences lead to different viewpoints.
As a white person, I probably can’t fathom what it’s like for the color of your own skin to be synonymous with — to quote from the The Synonym Finder — evil, dirty, criminal, satanic, corrupt, sinister, disgraceful, foul, ghastly....
There are always other terms to use, Mr. Price said, even for “black hole.”
“He could have just said ‘a file 13.’ ”