Deconstructing Myths of America: Rachel Maddow and Prof. Tricia Rose on Reid’s remark: “we seem content with proper language, but structural inequality”

In her segment last night, Navigating race in America, Rachel Maddow hosts the very articulate chair of Brown University’s Africana Studies Department Professor Tricia Rose for an enlightening trip down metacognition lane, examining the reactions to Reid’s remark. "We seem to be content with proper language, but structural inequality," Prof. Rose concludes. That disconnect, between rhetoric and reality, is a measure of the power of myths over facts in the minds of electorates.

RACHEL MADDOW: It is interesting, too, to talk even the distance between the words being used to describe making an observation and the content of the observation itself. Course when Trent Lott made those comments in 2002 he didn’t use any racially charged language at all. Harry Reid making the completely opposite point but using language that sets us off and we assume means offense when it does, as you say, reflect a more complicated relationship with language and race, I think reflecting our overall discomfort with talking about it at all.

PROF. ROSE: Right. It’s not only discomfort but a certain level of illiteracy and that’s why the consequences are so vast and weird and uneven: because we don’t have a real exposure and confrontation with the reality of structural racism, and how it operates at so many levels.

At this point, we seem content with proper language, but structural inequality. And so where is the outrage for the extraordinary range of unequal circumstances for African-Americans? I mean, the literature is filled with, not only for the specific support for Reid’s point, which is that color matters and that there’s a color hierarchy, and the blacker somehow one is considered to be is whether it’s dialect whether it’s style whether it’s clothing no matter—dance, you know, whatever it is, that those associations serve to reduce one’s viability no matter the gift—those facts are all over the literature, so where are we in our conversation about that matter?

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For more on this issue we turn to The Daily Show’s senior black correspondent, Larry Wilmore, for lessons on Playing the Race Card.

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