It was unfortunate that the recent Royal Gazette online article, published on June 23, entitled “Speaker draws race card on public registers”, used the terminology “race card” in the heading, even though it was not used anywhere in the article.
Unfortunately this phrase and associated attitudes are the biggest obstacles to progress on racial issues today. It is often used to allege that someone has deliberately and falsely accused another person of being a racist in order to gain some sort of advantage.
Today this statement is mostly used by white individuals when a black person brings up racial issues or calls out instances or experiences of racism as “playing the race card”.
This is perhaps the least helpful and least productive response that can be made when a person or group claims racism or oppression. In fact it is the marginalisation, denying and devaluing of problems that leads to consequences of protests, riots and resentment.
In my opinion, to even use this terminology when referring to a black individual or group is highly likely coming from a level of bias (implicit or otherwise) or racism, and at the very least its use proves a very insular world view and limited understanding of the dynamics of race and oppression. From a media perspective it is inflammatory and purposefully used to gain reactions.
To imply that the Speaker of the House of Assembly is using the “race card” in questioning the possibility of racial bias behind the decision by the United Kingdom’s Parliament to only request that its territories that have a predominantly black population to publish their registers is unfortunate at the least, and at worst, can be perceived as an example of casual racism and/or a microaggression. It is the impact of such remarks that make them an act of microaggression, even if the motive might not be mischievous or malicious, it doesn’t mean it isn’t racism.
This letter is not about the pros and cons of public registers, nor about the implicit bias that might be behind the actions of the UK Parliament. It is about the language we use to demean, marginalise, sideline, shut down and devalue conversations on race.
Unless we talk about racism and its current-day legacies, it’s not going to get better and nothing is going to change. It’s like putting a Band-Aid over an infected wound … leave it long enough and you’re going to get blood poisoning.
Unless we look at what is dividing us as a people, examine the root cause, and repair the harm, we are never going to get better. It is going to be uncomfortable, but it can also be liberating. It is possible to confront the deep problems in our society without being confrontational.