Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Will We Ever Be Post-Racial?

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 5/07/2008 1 comment

After attending an event I find interesting, I usually don’t blog about it until the following day. The common reasons are because when I get home I don’t feel like it, it’s late, and having a night to sleep on it usually gives me a fresh perspective. But I literally just got home from the events of tonight that I’m blogging about and I felt compelled to do it now.

This evening I attended Business After Five, an event for minority business owners sponsored by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Black Chamber of Commerce (CMBCC) and Charlotte Mecklenburg African American Agenda (CM3A). It was held at the Charlotte Chamber, which CMBCC created a partnership with last fall after founding in 2005. This was part of CMBCC's big membership push through its new alliance. The event was scheduled for 6-8 p.m. (though it lasted longer) and I arrived promptly at 7. I got there during the portion of the program where a few of the organizers were speaking. This apparently was after about 45 minutes or so of networking and mingling by the attendees. After the speakers, which included Terry Jones, Malcolm Graham, and Lenny Springs, the event concluded with more networking and mingling over what I must say was excellent food (mostly catered by the Coffee Cup).

All in all, it was a great event. It was heavily attended (all seats were filled and I was one of several who were standing). There was some great networking, as I left with a back pocketful of business cards and fliers. But you know, during the event, the first thing that came to mind was this: Why in 2008 is it necessary for us to have a black chamber of commerce? This question that I posed in my mind would also be introduced into a conversation later in the night, and is the reason I felt compelled to blog about it so soon after. I’m basically continuing the conversation here.

So after leaving Business After Five, which was held downtown at the Chamber of Commerce building (or should I say regular Chamber of Commerce), I met up with a couple of friends at Arpa. Try to follow me here, okay. One of those friends is a member of Good Eats! Charlotte, a local Meetup group (I blogged about Meetup a couple of weeks ago). He invited me and another one of our friends. I told him earlier in the day that I was planning to go to the chamber event but would come by afterwards, so that’s what I did. I chatted it up with my friends and a couple of the other Meetup folks, learning more about their group and how they choose different restaurants at which to eat.

Many of the Meetup folks started to leave less than an hour after I got there, including my two friends. But I wasn’t ready to go home yet. I saw two young ladies sitting at a table conversing with each other. I told them that my friends had left me and asked them if they minded if I joined them. I said, “It looks like you two are having a great conversation.” One of them said, “We’re talking about politics.” I said, “I like talking politics.” They were talking about Reverend Jeremiah Wright. So that meant the conversation was going to be about politics and race.

The three of us seemed to share similar views, but I’ll only recap what I said so that I don’t misrepresent them. Here are some of the points I made:

  • “I work in the media but I think the media has caused the Reverend Wright controversy to get entirely too much attention.”
  • “I feel bad that Obama is having to deal with this, but at the same time I wonder how much of Wright’s controversial remarks he’d been aware of while attending the church.”
  • “Obama’s speech on race following the initial outbreak of Wright’s clips of controversial remarks being shown is one of the greatest speeches I’ve ever witnessed.”
  • “Obama has talked about trying to be a post-racial candidate, but not only did that not happen, but I’m not sure if that’ll ever be possible for a black candidate.”
  • “Yesterday in North Carolina, Obama carried 92 percent of the black vote.”
  • “You know what, I was just at an event earlier this evening sponsored by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Black Chamber of Commerce. And as I was there I was asking myself, ‘Why in 2008 is it necessary for us to have a black chamber of commerce?’ The only color that should matter in business is green.”
  • “I’m not against a black chamber being formed. If they felt the need to start an organization, it must be because they felt underrepresented in the larger chamber or other segments of business.”
  • “In fact, I’m president of the Charlotte Area Association of Black Journalists, which is an affiliate chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists. We started our organization because there are so few of us in newsrooms within newspapers, magazines, and TV and radio stations. Not only do we work to ensure that African Americans are portrayed fairly and equally in the media, but we also try to encourage more African Americans to enter the field of journalism.”
  • “But you know what, I look forward to the day when a black chamber or a black journalists group isn’t needed. Or a Hispanic or Asian association, for that matter. Because every time we form one of those, we get further away from the racial unity and understanding that we claim to aspire to. Starting our ‘separate but equal’ organizations (I called it that because that’s what it seems like to me) is essentially us giving up on all races effectively working together.”

I could go on and on listing my viewpoints from the conversation with those ladies. It was a great discussion. I could also go on and on now as I continue to think about it. But I’ll call it a night for now. I’m sure I’ll revisit it sometime soon.

In closing (for now), if we ever want to truly be a post-racial society in America, we still have a lot of work to do. And it has to start with open and honest conversations. Maybe like this one.

1 comment :

  1. I feel you on the post racial stuff, but I think all these sub-commitees are necessary "for now". Just like their are people who are voting for Obama cause he's black and not his political views, their are people who will join or pay attention to these organizations because of whose representing them. I feel you but I dont see it happening in our lifetime.


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