The Race Card

jennifer trannon discusses "the race card"

In Her Words

The Race Card

I understand it now

-Jennifer Trannon

two women of different racesI’ve heard it more times than I can count: Why do Blacks make everything about race?

To be honest, I probably wondered the same thing one or two times in my previous life. However, after spending a decade and a half as a member of a Black family, I do not wonder any more.

Here are a few of the things which have happened in the years since I have become an adjunct member of the Black community:

• While walking around a major department store on Michigan Avenue in Chicago with two (professional, well-dressed) Black men, we were followed the entire time by a security guard.
• When my daughter was in Kindergarten, one of her classmates invited every child in their class to his birthday party, except her.
• After a softball game when players were shaking hands, a man on the opposing team put his hand down when he got to my husband.
• My husband’s aunt and uncle, who are in their 70s and dressed in church clothes, were denied service in a restaurant (in 2004!!!)

Is it possible that these things were not race related? Sure, I suppose. It’s possible that that boy just didn’t like my daughter, or that man my husband. Perhaps my friends and I looked like we were just in the mood to shoplift things we could clearly afford. The thing about it is that once you’ve experienced racism, even in small degrees, it makes you wonder about everything.

I was so enraged walking through that store, and my friends laughed and told me to get used to it. But once you’ve felt it, it changes the way you look at people. It changed me. It has made me look at everyone differently, wondering at people’s motives and true, way-down-deep feelings.

I have experienced only the tip of the iceberg, and really, by proxy. I have not really, personally felt the experience of not being liked/trusted/respected for my skin color. I have thought many many times in the past 15 years how amazed I am that more Black people are not more angry than they are. I could go on for pages and pages listing incidents from accidental slights to blatant discrimination which my husband and his family have experienced. Most of us wouldn’t stand for a fraction of it.

I don’t want to get used to it. I don’t want people to cross to the other side of the street when my son walks by. I don’t want my husband to worry about going to let our friends’ dog out because someone might call the police.

I ask just one thing of you: the next time you hear a story which begins or ends with someone “Playing the Race Card,” take a second, just a second, to consider what may have led up to that person playing that card. Then you can still roll your eyes if you want.

Read more about Jennifer’s thoughts on race: “It’s OK to Say Black,” and “Barack Obama, MLK, and My Children

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27 thoughts on “The Race Card

  1. Wow. You get it. You really get it.

    All those things have happened to me.

    How about this: A co-worker switches to a Southern accent whenever he has to talk with me. He is quite jovial with it.

    I am a native New Englander and attended private waspish private schools from 1st grade through college. I cannot imagine for the life of me what this person hears when he talks to me. Obviously he “hears” the color of my skin and nothing else.


  2. I think it’s easy to dismiss racism as something that happened in the past when you don’t see it all the time, when you see a black man elected president. But as you point out, it’s extremely and unfortuantely alive still today.

  3. “Most of us wouldn’t stand for a fraction of it”????

    Don’t you mean ” ‘most white people’ wouldn’t stand for a fraction of it’ “?

  4. Delete/censor this comment if you must but how about this (and I swear it is all true):

    I happen to be a white girl who works in a black neighborhood in NYC. I am CONSTANTLY harassed by black people screaming “you gonna die here whitey” or “go home white b1tch” or “wat da fukk u doin here white girl” or other menacing threats to my life.

    I know three people – all white – who have to work or go to school in this neighborhood from time to time. One was raped, and the other two robbed- twice each. All the while there were racial epitaphs hurled during the crime. I always travel with some black co-workers which seems to be some sort of talisman against actually incurring physical harm.

    The point is: I don’t know any black people “afraid” to go into a white area, even poor white areas. I don’t know any black people who have to fear their lives because they shop or work in a white neighborhood.

    So yeah, it is sad that your daughter was snubbed for a party, or that hubby didn’t get a handshake at a baseball game, or that you were followed around at a store— but at least you can live and work in peace around white people without fearing for your life.

    This comment will probably never make it to the message board, because it is so un-pc, but my experiences have led me to believe (and I have actually dated black men) that the solution to race is to STICK TO YOUR OWN KIND.

    I really wish I could NOT work here, and believe me..if I get another opportunity, I would take it in a heartbeat.

  5. well done sticktoyourownrace, well done.

    I can’t imagine why a race of people would–so ignorantly, admittedly–be angry at another race of people when for decades they experienced exactly what you described.

    Do you maybe recall an America where blacks were lynched? And blacks were indeed raped and taunted and brutalized in every way you’ve just described?

    Do you perhaps recall a time in history where blacks could not even dream of living or working anywhere near whites?

    Which of your ancestors weren’t allowed to ride in any seat on the bus? Which one of your ancestors were jeered at the first time they were ‘allowed’ to attend a school.


    I thought so.

    The blacks you encounter are ignorant. What they do is not right, but with your solution, you are just as ignorant as they are, and as dangerous to peaceful society.

  6. I’m British. I am white.

    In the first half of the 20th century we invited hundreds of thousands of people from our mighty Empire, and then the Commonwealth, to live and work here. At the partition of India, we invited hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of Islamic refugees who were escaping Hindu persecution. They were all, in the eyes of the law, British Citizens. But no one seemed to realise. The families came, expecting the glimmering workshop of the world to welcome them, help them to build a life in this, their mighty bastion of democracy and all they found was hate.

    Even now, in a society that is seen in the world as the epitomy of multicultural cohesion, but parties like the BNP (“nazis for the working class english”) constantly harang us into hating.

    We conquered the world, invited it round for tea and then served it dog food because it was scary and different to us.

    I’m not proud. Are you?


  7. I'm British. I am white.

    In the first half of the 20th century we invited hundreds of thousands of people from our mighty Empire, and then the Commonwealth, to live and work here. At the partition of India, we invited hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of Islamic refugees who were escaping Hindu persecution. They were all, in the eyes of the law, British Citizens. But no one seemed to realise. The families came, expecting the glimmering workshop of the world to welcome them, help them to build a life in this, their mighty bastion of democracy and all they found was hate.

    Even now, in a society that is seen in the world as the epitomy of multicultural cohesion, but parties like the BNP ("nazis for the working class english") constantly harang us into hating.

    We conquered the world, invited it round for tea and then served it dog food because it was scary and different to us.

    I'm not proud. Are you?


  8. @Rush:

    As a Jew, I think my ancestors knew a thing or two about hate and bigotry. Fortunately for me I didn’t experience it first hand, so I don’t feel any inherent hatred towards Germans (or the rest of the Gentile world for that matter).

    Every race, nationality, and creed had at one time or another suffered at the hands of another. It seems to me, however, that only some blacks still feel the need to express themselves through violence.

    You want to say that the blacks I met are just ignorant? Fine. The same thing can be said for the white people the author of this post and her friends encountered. There is certainly enough stupidity to go around.

    The difference is, and the point of my origingal comment was, in this day and age, it is far more dangerous for a white person to be around all blacks than vice versa. So while the ignorance a black person might encounter could be annoying, the ignorance a white person might encounter can be downright menacing.

  9. When Brandon McClelland, a 24 year old black man, was dragged behind a truck which was driven by two white men, killing him and partially dismembering him. . . that was annoying, too, no?

  10. I am a white teenage girl. I chose to work with my friend on a class project. She did no work and I did everything for her. I told my teacher and showed him what I contributed compared to what she contributed and he gave me an A and she got a C. The next day all of the black kids in school were calling out threats to physically harm me because I was racist. I sympathize with black people because their ancestors did have to suffer. Many blacks died for the right to be free. But think about it: this is what you choose to do with your freedom? Revenge? Retribution? I personally never did anything to harm a black person and I am not a racist. I don’t appreciate feeling like a criminal.

  11. I am also a teenage white girl. This is mainly sticktoyourown race. First and foremost I find all of your comments offensive. Have you heard of the KKK? Or maybe you have chosen not to remember. They still in fact do exist and to this day there are numerous hate crimes against blacks and all non-white races for that matter. Please do not go around saying that blacks don’t fear for their lives. And as for the people taunting you with racist remarks, just remember the adversity that all of those people have faced. If I taught a child from day one to hate all people with blue eyes, they would learn to hate them and show hatred.It is not the fault of the African American race but society’s fault for breeding such hatred toward different races. I am not saying this justifies any violence that has been carried out but your comments, as much as you may feel they are justified, are extremely misinformed. To place blame in this situation is not the way to solve anything and if you truly felt strongly about your cause, maybe you should find a more productive and less hateful way to express yourself.

  12. Wow just wanted to say the other day I was at the park I live in a very mixed comunity and my sons are mixed half peurto rician and half white well on the play ground there was 3 little white girls and my two sons and a black girl one of the white girl grabbed a branch from a weeping willow and started hittting my sons and the black girl i was horrifide i left the park. and for all u bigots black people statisticly do more crime to other black people than to whites, and we are all human. stop judgeing

  13. Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to focus on the strengths of a certain race instead of focusing on the persecution and segregation caused by a different one? Can

  14. I think the point of this post wasn’t to say that the suffering of any race excuses that race’s behavior or elevates them above any other race, etc.
    I think the point of the post was to show how a phrase like “play the race card” is dangerous because it belittles/underestimates/denies the fact that racism exists; it makes the race being persecuted unable to defend themselves, and it makes it easy for the persecuting race to dismiss them. It’s not about who did what to whom and who deserves the most sympathy. It’s about tackling difficult issues in society head on, and not sweeping them under the carpet and pretending they don’t exist.

  15. By the way, I often go shopping with a WHITE friend of mine who likes to dress “grungy”, although she has a fair bit of money…and guess what…she gets followed around stores or doesn’t get waited on when she walks into one.

  16. I’ve heard of the US Department of Justice, and according to their statistics, whites are killed by blacks about 8.8% of the time, and blacks are killed by whites about 3.2% of the time. Now, I’m no math whiz, but I’m pretty sure 8.8 is not ten times 3.2. You might want to check your stats before posting, instead of just cutting and pasting them from the New Nation website.

  17. it is ignorant to say that white people have a reason to treat black people any differently than anyone else. It is equally ignorant to imply that because of what their ancestors went through, it is excusable for a black person to treat a white person badly. Hate breeds more hate. the “stick to your own race” mentality will only mean more of the “us and them” mentality.
    If you flip us inside out we are all the same color.

  18. I dated a professional educated black man once and we never encountered any problems except the occasional staring which was annoying, but who cares. I do not think we have to stick with our own kind. I do not see how that solves the ignorance that surrounds racism. I do think it is shameful on both the black side and the white side that we all go around with hate in our hearts because of what people did way before any of us were ever born. People forget that white and black men fought for freedom of slaves in this country. I personally have no problem with educated people in general who have jobs, good decent morals and treat others with respect- no matter what their race. I do have problems with ignorant, uneducated, people who are disrespectful to their fellow humans and harbor hate – again, no matter what their race. Not only black people get followed around stores, either — my husband and I are both white, working, educated individuals, and we have been tracked in a store also. I have also been cat-called by black men, white men and mexican men; black people have been my friends, and others have cursed the ground I walk on. Everyone needs to drop the racism card and see the world as if we were all human and not segregate by color. I fear there is a long road to hoe before we get there – but i’m hoping.

  19. Rush, you just dismissed the real honest feelings of a person who is being harassed. Maybe your ancestors are more-repressed-than-thou, but regardless of who you are and what you come from, being harassed HURTS.

    How would you like it if you had to hear the same thing? NOBODY likes being treated like dirt, and it happens to everybody. Your particular ethnic/racial/religious/cultural group is not alone in it.

  20. Society is the human context, people. It doesn’t exist without us and we don’t exist without it. It’s not the work of rich white men in suit or committees of hippies. Blaming society for your problems is a waste of your time.
    Long-standing social issues such as racism and sexism are present in the histories of every people, of every ethnicity, religion and geographical location.
    It doesn’t begin in white against black; it doesn’t begin in America, and it isn’t solved by defending your own race.

  21. I have to say that as a white woman, I get it to. I worked for over a decade with my high-profiled co-author who is African American. I too experienced not getting the service I thought we deserved in a restuarant when my high-profiled co-author was not recongized as the celebrity she was. I have been around some of the most powerful and accomplished African Americans in the country, and the common thread of their conversations is how rascist of a country we are. I have seen it, and have been bothered by it ever since.

  22. Wow i think it’s great that so many people care about the race issue.There are so many true and interesting facts. I have noticed a lot of anger in a lot of the post. I think it is great to be passionate about something but we must be careful not to become to emotional because that ends up in people getting angry and eventually getting violent. We should let everyone have there say and respect one another for there views and believes. i think if we stop to really listen or really try to understand we will see there is more truth in the debaters words then what we realize. And that will bring us much closer to answers to our problem called race.

  23. While I appreciate everyone’s experiences and points of view.. I seem to be reading a lot of excuses for behaving in a prejudice way. I am Chinese but above all I am human, and I have witness discrimination of many kinds, to myself and others due to a huge number of essentially stupid reasons. There is no excuse for discrimination, not from blacks or whites or reds or yellows or anybody. If the group of people you identify with (e.g. ethnicity/religion/sexuality) have been wronged in the past/present/and most probably will be in the future, there is no reason to perpetuate the hate by doing it to someone else.

    Personally I have been verbally and physically abused for who I am, my ethnicity, my gender, my religious views. But I refuse to act that way towards any one else regardless of who they are, that to me is the greatest betrayal to myself and all those people I may associated with. Hatred and prejudice only perpetuate hatred and prejudice, why not be nice to someone because someone else was nice to you? If one is conscious enough to distinguish right from wrong then why do wrong?

    Having said that I am by no means perfect and I do occasionally let prejudice judgments get better of me but I would never allow others’ prejudice be an excuse for my actions. Do onto others what you would like done onto you, not do onto others what you have had done to you. Makes no sense to.

  24. Very important dialog we are engaging in here. Race is still a big issue everywhere. I noticed as a teacher that many of the youth in the poorest neighborhoods are from Mexico, Central America, and South America. Many blacks have moved out and the few who remain are often angry and resentful towards the Spanish speaking students and visa versa. Racism erupted strongly in Los Angeles when Blacks and Koreans squared off over the senseless murder of a young black girl at a Korean grocery store. There is so much institutionalized racism and invisible racism that shows up in the ways described in this article and comments. One well spoken black friend of mine (I’m white Jewish) was turned away from a face to face interview after having very positive dialog with the recruiter on the phone (before color was noticed). The more honest dialog and communication we have as intelligent, kind people with open hearts, the better!

  25. I am a white woman who moved from a middle class suburb to the south side of Chicago in order to lessen my commute time to work. This is a ‘changing’ neighborhood, with a lot still to be changed, i.e. empty lots strewn with garbage, abandoned apartment buildings, and whole city blocks with former shops and restaurants now boarded up.

    I have now been here for 3 1/2 years and have experienced the following: a black neighbor helping me carry heavy groceries from my car; someone stealing my wallet as I shopped at a neighborhood grocer; two black men stopping their car in the midst of a horrific snowstorm to help me get my car out of a snowbank; a black girl at a deli counter pointedly ignoring me to wait on other (black) customers; a black man following my car for several blocks, wildly honking his horn — at a stop sign he shouted that I had lost a hubcap a mile back (he actually went back and walked around with me to help find it). Interestingly, these events are on a par with those I experienced while living in the ‘burbs.

    In short, I have experienced the good, the bad and the ugly in my new ‘hood…but most definitely, the balance is weighted on the side of good, even though there is much negative sentiment from locals about losing ‘their’ home turf to the gentrification that’s taking place.

    Taking the long view, I, too, often think that, were I born black in 20th century America, I might (justifiably) feel lots of anger toward that segment of society that had caused me and my loved ones so much heartache in so many different ways. That I have experienced so little of this directed toward me says a lot for the character and inherent good in the majority… even though they are the ‘minority’ when it comes to news reporting.

    And meb2611, with a ‘friend’ like you, who needs enemies?

  26. yeah, it’s true lots of people hate. and you aren’t going to stop them by hating back. the only thing that will cause them to quit hating is for the people they hate to defy the stereotype [whatever stereotype gets applied to people who look like you do] and show the haters that their hatred is misplaced. be the exception in their mind. once they’ve met enough ‘exceptions’ their preconceived notions about people [who look like you do] will begin to erode. you can only control yourself. use that control to change the perceptions of those around you.
    quit defining yourself in ways that you don’t want others to define you. there is no ‘typical’ white person, black person, latino, etc. so it makes no sense to define ourselves by these labels which can only describe our appearance. i want to be seen as myself, an individual, not a member of this race or that. so i don’t define myself by my race.
    in the end you make choices about the things over which you have control and need to relinquish any attempt at control over things like other people’s behavior and attitudes.

  27. Dearest sticktoyourownrace, you’re attitude is atrocious and you are not very intelligent.

    Biologically, THERE IS ONLY ONE RACE: it’s called the human race.

    Why can’t I date someone with a different amount of melanin?

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