Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Q: Where the black people at? A: That’s not the right way to ask the question B: That’s not the right question to ask

OC Weekly is Orange County’s alternative to the mainstream media, and more often than not it shines a necessary light on the dark side of our happy shiny land  -- it keeps a sharp eye on political and police corruption.

In the May 31st issue (available free all around O.C. and online), we have a curious cover story titled “Where The Black People At?”

The title is based on a joke in Blazing Saddles (I won’t spoil it for you if, amazingly, you haven’t seen the movie yet), but the dialect might offend those who don’t know the reference. My issue with the story goes well beyond wording, however.

The author, Gustavo Arellano, claims that a black population of a “pathetically low” 2.1 percent is the “worst” embarrassment in O.C. (Worse than the Kelly Thomas case?) 

In comparison, the black percentage is 13.1 in the entire United States, 6.6 in the state of California, and 9.3 in neighboring Los Angeles County. Black population varies throughout the United States, from 37.3 in Mississippi to 0.67 in Montana.

Why does Orange County’s 2.1 percent matter?

“Because,” says Gustavo, “the harvest of such a pathetic situation bears its bitter fruit seemingly every year, with juvenile incidents that make us the butt of the national media again and again, incidents that can only originate from people who grew up or live without black people around them.”

Hmmm. Mississippi, the state with the highest percentage of blacks in the U.S., was and is remarkably free of racism. Right?

It’s true that Orange County has its shameful history of stupid racists being racistjust like every other well-to-moderately populated county in the United States. 

Then, Gustavo concludes with a paragraph that makes me cringe:

“Our goal for this issue? Read our stories. Learn your history. Be embarrassed that we have such a minuscule African-American community. Then do something about it—that part, we leave to you. Oh, and the other major metro area with a black community of less than 5 percent? Portland, Oregon—its African-American community sits at 2.9 percent. Surely, we can do better than those hipster douchebags, right?”

I say this as a proud progressive: A recurring problem in progressive media is a willingness to go on and on about problems without providing any hint of an actionable solution. What is the average OC Weekly reader (or for that matter, the average Portland, Oregon resident) supposed to do to help increase black population – without coming off as condescending? And what percentage would we have to get to before Gustavo is happy? 4%? 8%? 25%?

I am tired of Crayola-box sociology. Let’s find all the white people, the black people, the brown and yellow and red people! Let’s sort them out, count them all, and act like it’s the first thing that matters.

Photo credit: itshears (stock.xchng)

Do you know what numbers I care about more?

How many freelancers are in Orange County? How many Star Trek fans? How many people who care about good taste

How many are doing their best to do the right thing?

In other words…

Where are the good people?

(The right question, asked the right way.)

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