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Unpublished Paper
Can We Talk (With or Without Beer)? How Triggers for Unconscious Racism Strengthen the Importance of Dialogue
ExpressO (2009)
  • Adjoa A. Aiyetoro, University of Arkansas, Little Rock

This article is ultimately about healing the racial divide illustrated by the recent arrest of Henry Louis Gates. It expands on the scholarship of unconscious racism by exploring a trigger for unconscious racism that up to this point scholars have only alluded to: the language of race. It argues that society often censures an African descendant speaker who uses the language of race or racism. This censure occurs because many in American society have embraced the myth of a colorblind society. They believe that to assert otherwise and to question whether there are racial implications associated with a given action or decision is to call the actor a racist – a disparaging remark given society’s view that race discrimination is now illegal and someone who is engaging in racially motivated behavior is an evil doer. To support my thesis, two cases are examined: those of Lennox S. Hinds, past director of the National Conference of Black Lawyers, and Wendell L. Griffen, former Judge on the Arkansas Court of Appeals. These legal professionals were subjected to reprisals for suggesting that highly respected officials in the majority society engaged in behavior motivated by race. The article recommends that the dialogue on race become open and free flowing, ending what has become a taboo about speaking honestly about race. It therefore concurs with the position of the White House that instances of accusations of unconscious racism should become “teachable moments” and the subject matter of conversations in communities across the country. Finally, the United States has never gone through a reconciliation process. A part of that process is to have a national conversation on continuing racism. This article suggests that one way to have such a conversation on unconscious racism is to pass H.R. 40, the Reparations Study Bill, which requires investigation into whether American society continues to reflect the vestiges of slavery and Jim Crow and, if so, what remedies can be offered to repair those vestiges.

Publication Date
August 31, 2009
Citation Information
Adjoa A. Aiyetoro. "Can We Talk (With or Without Beer)? How Triggers for Unconscious Racism Strengthen the Importance of Dialogue" ExpressO (2009)
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