A snapshot of a discussion on race at the National Constitution Center.
A snapshot of last night’s discussion on race at the National Constitution Center.
Storified by PhiladelphiaMagazine· Tue, Mar 19 2013 05:45:20
A full house joined Philadelphia magazine and the National Constitution Center last night for the event “Can We Talk … About Race?” The event was planned after Philadelphia magazine published a controversial cover story titled “Being White in Philly.”
Packed house for #phlracechat @ National Constitution Center http://instagr.am/p/XBA97wCUtu/Philly Mag
Panelists joined editor Tom McGrath on stage to discussion the story and to have a larger conversation on race in Philadelphia.
#phlracechat panel @ National Constitution Center http://instagr.am/p/XBBZsoCUuQ/Philly Mag
Panelists: #BeingWhiteinPhilly author Bob Huber, writers Christopher Norris + @solomonjones1, Walter Palmer, and Farah Jimenez. #PHLRaceChatPhilly Mag
To open the discussion, Philadelphia magazine editor Tom McGrath began with a statement of apology to those offended by the story.
McGrath said sorry to those hurt by story, but doesn’t regret publishing story #PHLRaceChatRobert Moran
@phillymag #phlracechat has begun with an apology from Editor Tom McGrath http://pic.twitter.com/SMuRjVZnavBobbi Booker
McGrath asks “Being White in Philly” author Robert Huber to explain what made him write the piece.
Huber is explaining his reasoning. Says city is segregated, whites afraid to speak on race, how we relate or don’t relate… #PHLRaceChatDenise Clay
Huber’s response was met with reaction from the crowd:
#PHLRaceChat why is the guy who wrote the article reading straight from a piece of paper?! Just talk; no need for formality now!Angele D. Russell
The way that Huber is explaining it is a whole lot different from how the story turned out. Maybe he needed to write that. #PHLRaceChatDenise Clay
McGrath asked panelists what they thought of Huber’s story and his reasoning.
Chris Norris: "Surprisingly, [the story] didn’t offend me." But says the article was written from one side. #PHLRaceChatPhilly Mag
…but Chris Norris wasn’t really offended; this was one guy who went looking for something & found it. #PHLRaceChatSandy Smith
Journalist Solomon Jones says article "ironic" because no people of color on editorial staff of @phillymag #PHLRaceChatRobert Moran
@solomonjones1 "From a marketing standpoint, [the story] was genius." #phlracechatLaura Munich
Farah Jimenez: @Phillymag "an inappropriate messenger" for this message #PHLRaceChatSandy Smith
"@phillymag: Walter Palmer: "We’re not in a post-racial society. We’re cowards when it comes to talking about race in US." #PHLRaceChat" #fbDon Shappelle
McGrath later asked: Why is it so hard to talk about race?
Mistrust due to intent. Intent keeps us from talking to each other because folks are afraid intent will be assigned. #PHLRaceChatDenise Clay
Palmer: White people are afraid of being called racist; Black people are afraid to be accused of using the race card. #PHLRaceChatMjumbe Poe
"We’re not willing to let words wash over us," says Jimenez on why it’s hard to talk about race. #PHLRaceChatPhilly Mag
The discussion continued that as panelists discuss larger issues of race beyond just black and white:
30 minutes in, and Solomon Jones (@solomonjones1) is first panelist to point out that race is not just black & white. Who knew. #phlracechatEmaleigh Doley
"If we really want to hav a real conversation abt race, we hav to include everyone" Solomon Jones #phlracechatJenice Armstrong
Huber explained that his goal was not to be all-inclusive but to look at one small slice of life in Fairmount. Jones responded.
"If you really want to learn something, you talk to people who have something to teach you." @solomonjones1 calls #bullshit #phlracechatLaura Munich
Huber: "What makes you think I’m looking for people who think exactly like I do because I’m talking to white people?" #PHLRaceChatSandy Smith
"You already talk to white people, all day long," says Jones. Why not talk to other people, he asks. #PHLRaceChatPhilly Mag
Applause for Jones after condemnation of Philly Mag’s all-white staff and this story. #PHLRaceChatPhilly Mag
The panel also discussed whether this was truly a story about race, or if it was actually about class.
Jimenez: "I can guarantee you that the person living next to Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods is not fearful." Points to class. #PHLRaceChatPhilly Mag
Jimenez: It’s when you use race as a substitute for socioeconomics that you have problems. Amen, sister. #PHLRaceChatSandy Smith
#PHLRaceChat Race confused with socioeconomic status. Conversation about distorted realities.Denise Nakano
Low income blacks are what whites fear. Need to talk about socioeconomics. Not about middle class blacks. #PHLRaceChatDenise Clay
Panelist Walter Palmer talked at length about the Black/White Binary.
"You cannot use people’s struggles to make gains in society without acknowledging that." #blackwhitebinary #whiteprivilege #phlracechatLaura Munich
Race as a binary is informed by this country’s "one drop" legacy as a means to understand whiteness @angeledrussell #PHLRaceChatMF
Moderator Tom McGrath asked:
What are practical things we can do to move the conversation or reality forward? @tmcgrathphilly #PHLRaceChatPhilly Mag
Norris: There needs to be an investment in diversity in media + mobilize communities to produce content to debunk stereotypes #PHLRaceChatPhilly Mag
Education is the tool for liberation-Dr. Palmer #PHLRaceChatShaniceSmith
There needs to be a citywide effort to deal with issues of race, says Palmer. #PHLRaceChat Crowd applauds.Philly Mag
The session opened up for questions and audience members rushed to the mics. Emotion in the room was palpable.
Line for questions #phlracechatPhiladelphia Magazine
Audience: "You will not find anyone at 17th and Diamond doing anything productive." #PHLRaceChatPhilly Mag
Jones argues with audience member. Tensions high. #PHLRaceChatPhilly Mag
18th and Diamond was where the Black Power Movement started. Art Sanctuary started there. Know the history. #PHLRaceChatDenise Clay
One audience member wanted to know why there were two covers of the magazine. McGrath explained.
McGrath: We did it practically—to go in hotel rooms. We’ve done this before. #PHLRaceChatPhilly Mag
Other audience reactions:
26-y-o white guy: Might this be a self-correcting problem? It doesn’t seem to be as much of a prob for my cohort #PHLRaceChatSandy Smith
"You can’t dress like a thug or a drug dealer & be mad when they treat you like one," says crowd member. Crowd reacts strongly. #PHLRaceChatPhilly Mag
"Why is the onus on black people to do better?" asks audience member. #PHLRaceChatPhilly Mag
"I have never been so embarrassed as a journalist," says an audience member who recently came back to Philly from Mississippi. #PHLRaceChatPhilly Mag
"It hurts to see this. I really think no one was thinking upstairs," says same audience member. #PHLRaceChatPhilly Mag
Next City journalist wants to know if @phillymag editors/writer considered including class. Crowd shouts at Huber to answer. #PHLRaceChatPhilly Mag
A recurring theme of the night was the diversity of Philadelphia magazine’s editorial staff.
Audience member: Why has it been difficult for your magazine to find qualified African-American journalists? #PHLRaceChatPhilly Mag
What has @phillymag learned, asks audience member. Is it a dog and pony show? #PHLRaceChatPhilly Mag
PABJ/BPRSP member Vincent: "This is a dog-and-pony show. If I don’t see this from Dave Lipson, I don’t believe it." #PHLRaceChatSandy Smith
McGrath: I am committed to having a more diverse staff. Audience member pushes for timeline. #PHLRaceChatPhilly Mag
One positive coming from #BeingWhiteInPhilly symposium. Blacks of all ages getting the opportunity to take the floor & respond #PHLRaceChatEmaleigh Doley
So from what I gather, it would have been more successful for @phillymag just to set themselves on fire right? #PHLracechatBean
I’ve been following the tweets. Doesn’t seem that anything was accomplished this evening. Did I miss something??? #PHLRaceChatKaren M. Turner
NBC10 covered the event. Click below to see footage from the Constitution Center as well as Denise Nakano’s interviews with Tom McGrath, Robert Huber and Solomon Jones.
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WURD taped the discussion and will replay it. Keep an eye on their site for info.
#PHLRaceChat is wrapping up now, but we have the entire event broadcasting live #onWURD @900amWURD and you WILL hear this again!Qualified Qool
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