Vital Signs

Race Relations

I was part of a group of several hundred social workers, nurses, and other community health-care providers whose employers shelled out a lot of money for a conference that promised to help us work more effectively with “minority populations.”  In fact, precious little attention was paid to the people with whom we work.  Instead, for six hours the (mostly white) audience was informed how racist it was by a dapper black college professor from New York.

After you have been through a few of these dog-and-pony shows, you learn to come prepared.  Having brought along enough office paperwork and reactionary literature to pass the day quite comfortably, I settled in the back row and prepared to ignore the entire presentation.  At the front of the room, our speaker, Professor Hardy, prepared to start an argument.

After ingratiating himself to the audience with jokes and banter, Hardy showed a video of some young, white American punks saying some very politically incorrect things about black Americans.  The video was an obvious provocation, and, when it ended, the blacks in our audience bit hard, complaining that the kids were racist.  This complaint was quickly generalized to include white America—another fairly obvious provocation, to which the whites in the room bit hard.

The whites agreed with the blacks that everyone in America was racist (except for them) but tended...

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