Roger L. Simon

Time to be bored with race

I have noticed of late that the moment someone starts talking about race, whether in person or, even more so, on television, my mind wanders and I start to feel very sleepy. It’s almost hypnotic, as if someone had just slipped a triple dose of those time-release Ambien capsules into a cup of Sleepy Time tea and poured it down my unsuspecting throat. Soon my eyes are beginning to close… No more race…. No more race…. You are very sleepy…

And then my eyes are shut.

If I hear one more reference to Shirley Sherrod’s video, I think I will turn into Rip Van Winkle. Wake me up when it’s over. Even if it takes twenty years.

Am I the only one who is feeling this way? I don’t think so. In fact I rather suspect I am in a majority. If there’s one thing most of us don’t want to hear about now, whatever color we are, it’s race.

Eric Holder had it all wrong (as he does about a fair number of things these days) when he said we don’t have the courage to talk about race. It’s the reverse. We don’t have the courage to NOT talk about it.

Like monks at a Zen monastery told by their abbot to STFU until further notice, we need nothing more than a solid dose of enforced silence about race. The minute we mention the “R” word we should be clapped on the back by the abott’s hardwood stick and made to sit endless hours in the lotus position — without a cushion.

There is another way to look at it: Years ago I heard about a treatment used by French psychiatrists to circumvent decades of painstaking and overpriced psychoanalysis. They would put highly troubled neurotics in the hospital and, instead of giving them the “talking cure” or some other treatment, they would just make them go to sleep for two weeks. (I’m not sure that was the precise length, but you get the idea.) When they awoke they would be all better (or close).

That’s the way I feel about race.

I know this sounds a tad sarcastic but actually I think it’s true. The best way to deal with America’s race problem at this precise moment in history is to shut up about it. Everybody. Including me.


Move forward on other issues. Keep race out of it. Really we can. And if we can’t, discussing the matter isn’t going to help. Not a jot. It’s just going to make us angry — or, in my case, tired. And I say that as someone who spent a fair amount of time as a civil rights activist. But those days are over. Period. Time to move on. And if you don’t get that, you really do need a Zen Master.

But as inducement for you to be “bored with race,” allow me to share this from my increasingly long and relatively fortunate life. I have had the privilege and fun to visit dozens of countries, even to live in a few for significant lengths of time. And of all those locales from Western Europe to Southeast Asia, the least racist place I have ever been is the United States of America. Yes, you read that correctly. And, yes, America has had a miserable history with regards to race. We all know that.

Still, we have struggled through it, not perfectly but — and here’s the good and bad news — about as perfectly as human beings are likely to do. Some of us, in fact many of us, will always blame others, to one degree or another, for our failures. That’s just the way it is. And we all end up living with it, whether we like it or not. Expecting that to change is expecting human nature to change.

So I recommend the Zen French Not Talking Cure — in other words, deliberate boredom — for this temporary exacerbation of our race problem that we have all been experiencing of late. Enough already. Stop scratching a scab and it will go away. Or at least scar up to the degree that we can pick our self and go on.

Okay, are we quiet now? Are we bored with race?

Are we feeling better?

I am. Not quite wide awake, but… not quite as sleepy.