This line is actually the closing for an editorial in the Greenbay Pressgazette last week about a radio station that pulled a song it had played regularly for weeks, when listeners raised questions and the Menominee tribe said it would pull its advertising:
WIXX (101.1FM) rightly decided to stop airing a peculiar 1950s ballad about a love-struck Native American couple after listeners complained about the banter surrounding the song, “Running Bear.” Listeners told Menominee tribal member Richie Plass, a Native American activist, that whooping and inappropriate comments regarding Native Americans accompanied the song, which aired regularly on Fridays on “Murphy in the Morning” until last week.
Another recent event that screamed cultural ignorance was the students who dressed as the KKK to create a film for a history class in Lumpkin County, and caused concern and fear when they walked through the cafeteria at their school. One response of the school district (in addition to putting the teacher on leave while the incident is investigated) was to “review all class films for approval before proceeding.”
I would love to create a “tool kit” sort of dialogue box that would be required any time an incident like this happens. As the Greenbay editorial says, ignorance should no longer be an excuse for perpetuating stereotypes. That said, the dialogue following an event like this usually gets stopped at”what were they thinking,” or in a contrast between “you’re racist” and “you’re too sensitive.” (If you’re not sure what I mean, read through the comments following reporting of any incident of this kind.)
And in the end, the solution is usually “we will never do this again.” That sounds good–public institutions, media, etc. should not be perpetuating racism.
But the unfortunate side is that in the absence of good, deep facilitated dialogue to understand the origins of the stereotype, the different cultural perspectives and how we can learn from this incident, we end up silenced.
And it was silence and complicity that allowed racism to grow in the first place.
What conversations are you not having?