Respectful political discussion on Facebook

How does one know if those things – racism, sexism – are getting better or worse?

fightYes, you read that correctly: “respectful”, “political discussion” and “Facebook” in the same headline.

Someone I’ll call Brett posted on Facebook a link to an article titled Check the Race Box or Else . It indicated that, according to the Boston Globe:

“Newly hired [City of Boston] employees fill out forms… that ask them to indicate their gender and to identify their race or ethnicity in one of five categories set by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.” Further, “employers may obtain the necessary information from existing employment records or visual observation if an employee declines to self-identify. Employment records and visual identification may be used only if an employee refuses to self-identify. ”

Brett wrote: “This is why we continue to have problems between the races in America. Only one option on an employment form is needed. Human Race — yes or no!” That, BTW, is something I actively do not believe.

Other person: Is it necessary to even ask the question???

Me: Or government wants to know what kind of progress (if any) is being made in discrimination in employment, lending, et al.

Brett: Roger, That’s the ostensible reason, but the unintended consequence is to perpetuate the very thing we supposedly want to get rid of — thinking that one’s ethnic background, skin color, gender, etc. are more important than our individual characters and accomplishments.

Me: So how does one then know if those things – racism, sexism – are getting better or worse? There are plenty of folks who believe racism is over, because of Obama, Oprah, et t al.

Brett: That is a good question. i’m not sure, however, that having to put one’s race or gender on an employment or census form tells us very much. What ‘race’ is my grandson whose biological father is African and whose mother is “white”?

Me: No doubt definitional stuff is tricky. 1 out of 7 marriages in the US this decade is mixed, including mine. There may be a point when this becomes impossible to calculate, at which point, the question will become moot.

That was pretty much it. Difference of opinion, but no nastiness or animosity. Hey, maybe all of Facebook is like that! (I SO do jest.)

Oh, the last word came from another guy: After my DNA test, I was told that my ancestors were from Africa over 100,000 years ago. So, now I check African-American on that box every chance I can. Rumor is we’re all African American…

That is probably true.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

11 thoughts on “Respectful political discussion on Facebook”

  1. I have occasionally experienced respectful exchanges on FB or other social network sites like News vine, but not often. More often than actual rancor, however, I’ve experienced attempts at serious conversations being derailed by nonsequiters or irrelevent commentaries. Too many people seem to think that they’re being “cute” with their “contributions:” I just find them frustrating. These sites COULD serve as powerful communication tools, but rarely do because of such events.

  2. Uthaclena – I’ve noticed that on conversations YOU have attempted to host. I bail quickly when it starts that downward track…

  3. Roger, you hear me harp on this all the time. We are ALL African, Syria and the Tigris-Euphrates being part of North Africa. The “Middle East” was made up to differentiate between those peoples who stayed vs. those who scattered in every direction, including the heart of Africa. If you look at Palestinian and Israeli kids, that’s about the color Jesus would have been.

    I, for my part, refuse to check off “white.” I mean, I’m beige, melanin deprived, Anglo-Saxon by way of Africa… I understand the need for balance in hiring, etc. I really do. For myself, I check “other” and write in “American.” I’m such a pain in the ass. fascinating conversation! Amy

  4. I’m less troubled by the race question—which for me is pretty unambiguous using existing terminology—than I am about ethnicity, which is usually far more complicated, with multiple boxes often being appropriate. Maybe, as your mixed-marriage statistic suggests, the answer is to provide more choices? Still, I’ve seen some boxes that ask people to tick the box “that best describes the race you personally identify with”. Not a perfect solution, but maybe a compromise for now?

  5. I need go back only two generations to find ancestors in the Levant, so I’m probably about the same shade of pale as Amy.

  6. I’ve heard that “don’t need to ask race, just ask human race!” My ex’s mom was a big one for exactly that phrase.

    Where is that coming from? Why does it upset them?

  7. I believe it comes from the notion that if we stop talking about race, racism will go away. There is NOTHING in my experience that suggests this is true.

  8. I’m not sure that’s it.

    If their primary motive was to make racism disappear, then they would be engaging in other behaviors that actually help fight racism.

    But the people who say that overwhelmingly don’t do that. They don’t – in my limited experience of my ex’s parents – even engage in any equalizing pro-community activities whatsoever.

    Honestly I think it makes them just plain uncomfortable. Both my ex’s parents are really, really uncomfortable and awkward around anyone who isn’t white.

  9. Except that at least some of the people I know personally BELIEVE that not talking about racism IS engaging. It’s those “race baiters” who stir up conflict where there would otherwise not be conflict. But you’re right that talking about race makes people uncomfortable. It makes ME uncomfortable, and slightly bored to boot. But I still do it, because it’s important, or so I believe.

  10. That you do it in groups that are mostly white is admirable and brave.

    Recently went to a party where I was the only white person. While that wasn’t uncommon for me in college, as an adult attending a party where people had a mixed education and socioeconomic… I understand a little better why most people of color don’t go to parties where they’ll be the only _______.

    Also saw it while I was dating my former choir director last spring. The things people felt comfortable saying to him and asking him kinda floored me.

  11. Unfortunately, civil discourses in social media are not the norm. Seems like the platform is used more as a soapbox or an opportunity to leave caustic comments. As for the race designation, I wonder what would happen if we all started writing in “human” in the Race field?! 🙂 Bet that would get someone’s attention.

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