Once upon a time in America, there were two words that seldom if ever were found next to each other: one was “race;” the other was “card.” Then, in what became a landmark case, defense attorney Johnnie Cochran, while trying to do his job, mentioned that the only evidence that linked the defendant to the crime was held by a known racist. Did that needlessly cloud the issue? Or was Cochran, as a competent defense attorney, merely doing his job by showing “reasonable doubt”? In jest, an African-American entertainer made a thought-provoking point: “If Jerry Springer was accused of a crime and the only evidence against him was supplied by Louis Farrakhan, would that evidence not be considered tainted and thrown out of a court of law?” Oh, but it wasn’t Jerry Springer, it was Orenthal James Simpson. And thus, consideration of the point was “pulling the race card.”
What is this “race card”? Something that black people carry in their back pockets and use when it’s convenient? Some magic card to protect blacks from injustice? Some “ace in the hole” for this poker game of a life we play in the land of the free? I’m checking my wallet. I don’t have one. I’m asking my neighbor who was stopped by police so that they could ask if the Lexus he was driving belongs to him, and nope, he doesn’t have one either. I checked with my mother who was passed over (again) for the promotion she deserved, and her wallet too was card-less. Maybe only ” select few African-Americans” carry such a card. Let’s check the headlines:
Four Caucasian officers fired 41 shots at 22-year-old Amadou Diallo. Diallo was hit by 19 bullets in the Bronx, New York. Could he have pulled out his “race card” to prevent this shooting?
Nineteen-year-old African-American Tyisha Miller was shot to death while sitting in her car at a gas station in Riverside, California. She was hit 12 times by gunfire by four white officers who were called to give her aid. Could she have pulled out her “race card” to prevent the officers from shooting at her?
James Byrd, an African-American male, was dragged behind a pickup truck in Texas driven by three racist, young men. Would his “race card” have stopped such a tragedy from occurring?
No, this “race card” is no magic “save me” card. It’s no trump card. The “race card” is a term created by the media-the same media that portrays racial discrimination as imaginary, as a smoke screen used by black people, as a haze that doesn’t exist except to fit black people’s own selfish needs. The reality of it is, there is no such thing as a race card. Racism is real, and its depths are only reached through experience. Racism has many faces. It’s about race. It’s about power. It’s about superiority. It’s about a false caste system. But in its purest form, it’s about greed and money. In a society where five percent of the population owns 80 percent of the wealth and intends to keep it that way, the rich keep working class white and black folks down by making them think it’s the other race’s fault that they don’t have riches. We can understand how a person in the media can be tricked into using this term if he or she has never experienced racism firsthand. But when a black person uses the “race card” term, it is pretty surprising.