Crying wolf

Cone writes about Guilford County’s black leadership’s love/hate affair with the words “racist” and “racism” in this morning’s N&R.

“…issues raised by the declaration (PDF file), such as unequal economic opportunity or the disproportionate school suspension rate for black students, reduce complex social issues to “racism,” which would seem to dilute the power of the word as an explanatory device.”

I agree.  Over use of powerful words only serves to lessen their impact and, over time, erodes the credibility of the user.  The lessons taught by the ‘Boy Who Cried Wolf’ has apparently been lost on our out-front African-American leadership.  Evidence of this may be found in the turn out for last Thursday’s Board of Commissioner’s meeting.

During the rally in support of The Declaration a couple of weeks ago, speaker after speaker implored the 100 or so in attendance to come out in force to the July 20th Commissioner’s meeting (N&R) to protest Willie Bests’ firing (which was cited as “the straw that broke the camel’s back” and the main impetus for writing the Declaration and the subsequent ”call to action”).

In light of the seriousness of the charges as framed by our black leadership, few protesters showed up to the first event following the rally.  After asking those in attendance to stand in support of the group’s Declaration, fifty people came to their feet, promting Rev. Cardes Brown to explain away his disappointment, “By no means is this all of the citizenry that supports what I just said.”

While I personally know more than fifty people who agree that Guilford County has myriad race problems, apparently few are buying into the claim that Willie Bests’ ouster was racially motivated.  This latest crying of “wolf” is being widely heeded as a call that is best ignored.

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  1. Posted July 23, 2006 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    I don’t think it’s “wolf,” Hogg. I think it’s generational. Young professional African Americans have to a much smaller degree been victims of overt racism than have been their fathers and mothers, let alone their grandparents. Just like young women don’t self-identify as feminist because they have mostly equal rights, young African Americans have the fortune to have the same.

    They read about Jim Crow in history books. “Colored” is a faraway term with little meaning. This is a good thing; no one should be a victim of any “ism,” and I’m glad society has made progress.

    The older folks who are mired in the ‘we fought the struggle’ and aren’t looking at the current struggles (which are way more complex than race alone) are the ones who can’t generate young people into a boycotting mass. IMO, I think this is all good and we older ones are going to have to change our tune if we want to keep singing a song with meaning.

  2. Posted July 23, 2006 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    You are probably right, Sue. People speak in the language they are familiar with and “isms” just aren’t groovy anymore.

  3. Posted July 24, 2006 at 12:42 am | Permalink

    50 out of 100 is an astounding success rate in getting people to show up for a meeting two weeks later. Most meeting organizers can only dream of such a good response. It’s quite a leap to use that figure as evidence that “this latest crying of ‘wolf’ is being widely heeded as a call that is best ignored. ”

    Too simplistic, Hogg. You have a way of looking at this that is perfectly valid, but Thursday’s turnout hardly signifies that most of Guilford County agrees with you.

  4. Karl
    Posted July 24, 2006 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    100 people representing an entire population … then 50 show up to a follow up meeting and you chastise David for draawing a conclusion that his point is supported.

    Let me state a point … apathy!!!! Oppression isn’t the problem noit caring to change your lot in life is a problem.

    Look to the Sea Island Schools and Highlander for examples of how to motivate change among a population. Rosa Parks didn’t just one day determine I have had enough and I refuse to go to the back … she was motivate by learning. The Voter’s Rights Act didn’t just happen it was planned and worked for. Blood was shed. Lives lost.

    David might be wrong but that turnout may be good for modern times, but Skip and the folks should be ashamed that thats all they can get to turn out if David is wrong.

  5. Posted July 24, 2006 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    If you spoke English Karl, you might have made a point. As things stand, I can’t tell.

  6. bonnie
    Posted July 25, 2006 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    I’ve grown to expect more from you than drawing a parallel between African American leaders in Greensboro and the “boy” in a fable. What does that make you? The adult responsible for running in and saving the boy? Do you think the African American leaders are helpless in the face of a wolf so they need to call on the white community to save them? And, if there is no wolf, as you allege in this post, do you think these leaders are just playing games like the boy in the fable? Are they just bored and, therefore, have nothing better to do than to “cry wolf” to get attention? And are you really in a place to make a definitive decision about whether or not there is an actual “wolf” or the “boy” is just crying out for attention? Would you really recognize a “wolf” if you saw one?

  7. Posted July 25, 2006 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    Bonnie, You have just politicized an instructive fairy tale by misrepresenting my useage of the word ‘boy’. Therein lies the whole problem: A profound difference of perception.

    I never, ever, would have even CONSIDERED “The boy who cried wolf” to have racial implications in the way you allege.

    I’m not calling for anyone to ‘save’ anyone, and I’m not saying there is no wolf. What I am saying is that don’t believe the “wolf” comes calling nearly as much as some insist.

    If you have “grown to expect” anything from me, then you have read more than this one post to form your opinions of where I stand on matters of race. With that as a given, I find your characterization of me and your interpretation of my post above to be quite shallow (and, may I say, a bit hurtful).

  8. bonnie
    Posted July 25, 2006 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

    I was not implying that you understood the paternalistic underpinnings of the metaphor you used. In fact, I was quite certain that you did not and would not have written what you did if you had realized how it could be read. Differing perceptions are a problem, which is why we’ve got to examine the language we use to express those perceptions. Underlying that language are assumptions and paradigms that need to be explored and challenged if we are going to move beyond this stalemate in Greensboro (and, indeed, the entire country). Paternalism, as I see it, is one of the major underpinnings of the “intolerable racism” that is being challenged by this declaration. To be paternalistic does not mean that one is intentionally trying to undermine another group. In fact, I believe parents generally have the best interests of their children at heart. It is the underlying assumption that one is a parent who needs to protect another that is problematic in the situation we are discussing.

    Based on your previous posts, I do believe that you are genuinely struggling with these issues and I respect that. You, as a white man, are not forced to struggle with the issues in the ways that others are. You’ve shown yourself to be open to new ways of thinking and have even admitted when you have changed your opinion. For those reasons, I don’t believe that this particular paternalistic metaphor adequately sums up your underlying beliefs, but I also think that we as white people always have to keep that impulse in check.

  9. Posted July 26, 2006 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    Thanks for clarifying your perceptions of me and where I stand on matters of race, and you are correct: I am struggling, mightily, with all of this.

    Is it your position that we, as white folks, should have no opinion on what we perceive as ‘wolf crying’? Is it not important for our black leadership know how their message is coming across to many? Or is any white opinion that differs from black opinion to be considered ‘paternalistic’ and thereby discounted.

    The basis for the above post was the firing of Willie Best and how that was “the straw” according to The Declaration. I just don’t see it that way. Not at all. But I think you are agreeing that it was racially motivated in some way. Either that, or you are implying that we white folks should stay out of the conversation because “It’s a black thing and we just don’t understand”

    How can this Willie Best “straw” be proven either way? Truth is it can’t, which leaves us only with opinion and ‘feelings’. So what I hear you saying is that because of my inherently-white bent for ‘paternalism’, my opinions and ‘feelings’ are less valid than, say, Skip’s.

    I’m sorry, but I disagree.

  10. Posted July 26, 2006 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think there’s anything paternalistic about the crying wolf saying. It boils down to complaining about something when it’s not there, then complaining about it when it is there. Others don’t listen when they need to because they have been desensitized. If every bad outcome that befalls an African-American is called racist then when actual racist actions take place they will not get the attention they deserve. There are two problems – the false cries of racism, and, in my opinion the more important, the lack of attention when real racism happens.

  11. Posted July 26, 2006 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    “when actual racist actions take place they will not get the attention they deserve.”

    Jim, what kind of proof would you require before you would deem something an actual racist action? On whom would the burden of proof lie? Are you satisfied that you could prove such a case to someone like yourself, if you were the target of such an action? Would your word be enough? Would it be OK with you that the rest of society could ignore you or call you a liar or a wolf-crier unless you could prove you were the victim of such an action beyond a reasonable doubt? How would you feel about these actions against you being considered false until proven true? Would you think yourself less capable of determing whether something was racist against you and your kind than others of a different race? Would you let them be the arbiters of what should bother you and what should not? Would you like to be told when to speak about your oppression and when not to, and to be told that to do otherwise is to lose the support of the broader community in your quest for justice? How well would you tolerate people of other races denigrating your fliers, your meetings, your turnout, and the leaders you felt were speaking on your behalf when no one else would? Would you feel that those other people know better than you what the truth really was about your situation? Would it be okay with you if they reduced your insistence that you had been wronged to a fairy-tale morality play? Would you feel respected by your neighbors and the broader community if this is how they responded to you saying, “There’s a problem here, and I’m suffering because of it”? Would that make you want to keep quiet, or speak out stronger and louder than ever before?

One Trackback

  1. By Hogg’s Blog » Past their prime on March 9, 2007 at 7:49 am

    [...] In a similar fashion to last year’s calls for mass demonstrations and ’only buy Black’ efforts surrounding “A Declaration Against Intolerable Racism”, yesterday’s “rally”, er, discussion, in defense of embattled councilwoman Bellamy-Small seems to have fizzled according to the N&R. “…About 20 people gathered at Greensboro’s Genesis Baptist Church for the discussion.” [...]