How many Black friends do YOU have?
I want to thank the always racist and problematic charming and P.C. Ann Coulter for causing me to suffer from one of the most intellectually ambivalent moments of my life. In a new book and this infuriating/hilarious Fox News interview, Ann Coulter criticizes the left, admonishing liberal MSNBC hosts like Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow for racial bias, saying “…these are not people who have black friends, who know black people…” Now, there is a catastrophic irony in a prejudiced and conservative woman admonishing white liberals who are ostensibly sympathetic to the interest and concerns of Black people. Even though Ann Coulter probably skirts past this nuance like a spun out car in the Indy 500, white liberals do have a legacy of using Black plight to advance their own political agendas. Therefore, we should be equally critical of the messages that white privileged pundits trumpet on behalf of the Black race. But more importantly, deeply–and I mean deeply–entrenched in Ann Coulter’s incisive trash is a point that we must consider—namely this notion of friendship and relationship, particularly between people of different races.
The non-partisan Civil Rights Project just released three different reports detailing information that many of us feel intuitively. Schools systems, despite the increasing suburbanization of non-White families, remain largely segregated in terms of both race and class. Minor gains in the South resulting from the Brown vs. BOE decision are starting to reverse, and school segregation is particularly dire for Latino students in the West. This information has tons of implications for housing policy, opportunity, and educational equality, but on a basic level it means that though our country is increasingly multiracial, people of different races aren’t interacting with one another.
Fortunately, my moments of friction with other races, particularly White people, usually haven’t stemmed from intentional maliciousness, but from ignorance. Questions like “How did you get your hair like that?” or “What’s soul food?” are indicative of the fact that many of the white people we encounter have never had meaningful interactions with people outside of their race. And when most students attend schools where three-quarters of their peer are also white, what is to be expected? Conversely, it wasn’t until college that I realized how impactful it was that my upbringing in Detroit had been filled with Black faces. Asian people were merely people who owned restaurants and gas stations, and Latinos were the people who lived in the Southwest part of the city. No more no less. No nuance, no understanding, and no dialogue.
Ann Coulter simultaneously makes a point while missing it. We must understand that racist housing policies and white flight has forced many of us to lead segregated lives, and mere proximity to people of other races does not equate to true and meaningful understanding. If at all possible, we must endeavor to interact with people from different cultures, we should ignore some questions but we should answer others, and we should ask questions ourselves. We must challenge ourselves to rebut against our own biases and prejudices that are often not fueled by lived experience, but by damaged media portrayal of other cultures. As our country grows more diverse and more minority-majority, the only way we can hope to understand one another is to know one another. The future of the country, and our own social complexities depend on it.