“Everything is not about race.”
It’s true. Most things humans experience in their lifetime are not directly tied to race. Things like finding a reason to get out of bed in the morning, paying bills, educating your children, and feeding said children have little to do with race on the ground when they are happening.
Race, however, impedes many of these basic experiences for the majority of people on the planet. That’s right, a majority. The race card is used in America when a person (usually a black person) is accused of making an issue about race when it is not. The thought behind this is if we don’t talk about it, it’s not there.
The thing is, the people who use the term “race card” in earnest are often the people for whom race has never been an issue. When your race is the dominant one, when your face looks like the faces of most people on TV, in movies, in politics, in law enforcement, in business — you take for granted the way your society views and treats you, and you begin to assume that everyone lives that experience.
When people utilize “the race card,” it’s probably because they have experienced the ways in which not looking like the predominant race can negatively affect a person. They are thinking back to the times they were pulled over but were not given a reason why, or the times they were followed around in a store, or when they were told they are “pretty for a ____ (non-white) person.” The race card is a collection of LIVED experiences that amounts to general distrust. It is the direct result of a life lived without the collective benefit of the doubt from a society.
When politicians cry race card, much like when they cry “class warfare,” they are appealing to the most basic animal instinct in humans — fear. They are relying on people to have a gut reaction and to think they are somehow threatened by the topic at hand, which if given credence could become a larger conversation, which could lead to discontent.
But discontent is what shapes societies. America would not be here without discontent, and frankly it would not be here as we know it without racism.
The race card may be used by the boy who cries wolf, but the reason the tale holds water is because the fear of wolves is legitimate (and ultimately the thing that does the boy in). In America race is the wolf lurking behind (but not necessarily always preying on) anyone who is not white. It is the benefit of the doubt people of color are not afforded. It is a card that is disproportionately represented in a deck that is stacked against people of color.
*Side note: When I went to find an image for this post on Google I could not find one that worked because all of the images were offensive, and a disproportionate number involved Barack Obama’s face. If you read this and think I too am being overly sensitive, feel free to do a Google image search for “race card” and see what comes up.