Until yesterday afternoon, I didn’t know what that four-letter acronym meant. I do now.
It’s amazing that I didn’t know about it. TLDR perfectly sums up my life as a writer/blogger. Most of what I write is too long, or too liberal, or too __________ fill-in an “L-word” here.
While urban dictionary has a host of great descriptions (I liked #1 and #4) in defining the acronym, I also think it could also mean, “Too Lazy Didn’t Read.”
I get it—most people don’t read. That’s not a judgment—it’s a fact! While there are many studies out that detailing American readership, I’ll just go with this one, as they’re all pretty dire to me, a voluminous reader. Well, actually, 12 books a year seemed a bit high (are they counting comic books?), but then again, I’ll read more than 60 for the year.
It’s fitting that my reading here at the end of 2014 has taken me down the path to race in America. Last night, I was sitting in my living room, watching events unfold in Ferguson, and what I’ve been reading from Joe R. Feagin’s Racist America: Roots, Current Realities, and Future Reparations was playing out on my television screen.
Both Feagin’s book and Todd Beer’s excellent blog, SOCIOLOGYtoolbox, have been helpful in framing my own “big picture” about Ferguson and race in in America. Feagin serves up a buffet-like spread, in volume and depth of topic. Beer provides the context, and the sociological understanding (the lens through which I view most topics) necessary for distance and perspective.
While the media was doing its darned-well-best to frame Ferguson as an island, systematic racism isn’t limited to Ferguson.
What is systematic racism? Feagin frames and defines it early in his introduction.
In the United States racism is structured into the rhythms of everyday life. It is lived, concrete, advantageous for whites, and painful for those who are not white. Each major part of a black or white person’s life is shaped by racism. Even a person’s birth and parents are shaped by racism, since mate selection is limited by racist pressures against interracial marriage. Where one lives is often determined by the racist practices of landlords, bankers, and others in the real estate profession. (Feagin ticks of a longer list of things determined by racism in America, but I’ve excluded them, due to length.)
Feagin goes on from there. This snippet, however, is the key and what I was thinking about last night, as the militarized police moved on angry blacks, who were reacting to yet another failure of the system to punish those who randomly kill black men in America.
(again, quoting Feagin)
One of the great tragedies today is the inability or unwillingness of most white Americans to see and understand racist reality. Among whites, including white elites, there is a commonplace denial of personal, family, and group histories of racism. Most do not see themselves or their families as seriously implicated in white-on-black oppression, either in the distant past or in the present. Referring to themselves, most whites will say fervently, “I am not a racist.” Referring to their ancestors, many will say something like, “my family never benefited from owning slaves,” or “my family never benefited from segregation.” Assuming racial discrimination to be mostly a thing of the past, many whites will assert that African Americans are “paranoid” about racism and will often give them firm advice: Forget the past and move on, because “slavery happened hundreds of years ago.”
The election of Barack Obama as president was supposedly an indication that America was now a “post-racial nation.”
Issues like race and what’s happening in Ferguson (and elsewhere) require sociological imagination—the ability to see the relationship between one’s individual life and the effects of larger social forces.
Beer’s “Racism and the Police: The Shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson” post is an example of the deployment of sociological imagination to see the bigger picture of race and the other social forces behind what’s happening on the ground. The media rarely do a good job in this area.
So, not only is this likely too long, it’s also too layered, and leans too far left for most.