Welcome to this week's Reno News & Review.
I've said this before—and maybe it's the kind of thing that's so universal as to be unnecessary to say—but I spend an awful lot of my time trying to distinguish what's important from what's illusory.
Just last week, this country was discussing Rachel Dolezal, the ex-NAACP chapter president who was accused of pretending to be black. I heard many people passionately discussing the issue—in person, on TV, on social media. Issues of self-perception or intentional lying aside, I've got to ask some questions: Who really cares? Is this story important or is it just a distraction?
It's Thought Lite. This country needs to have a real conversation about race. We need to understand many complex issues from systemic, systematic methods of oppression of people of color to concepts of white privilege. Since a large number of Americans recognize there's a problem—even though most would be loathe to say we're a racist country or that we practice a defacto apartheid—and since the Rachel Dolezal story has superficial aspects of race, it makes us feel as though we're talking about something important.
But it's not important. She's one woman out of 320 million people who got caught misrepresenting herself in order to benefit herself in some way, and then attempting to create a rationalization after she got caught. But it sidetracked the issue from a conversation we were beginning to have, a conversation that grew out of Ferguson, Missouri, last summer.
But we allow ourselves to be distracted at our peril. The nine murders allegedly committed by Dylann Roof at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church sure refocused the dialogue to something that mattered. But I'm reminded that one of the big racial discussions about South Carolina was the possible murder of Walter Scott in April by a police officer.
There is a takeaway, although it's probably an impotent gesture: Think about what the media feeds you. If it doesn't directly impact the life of you and those within a five-mile radius of you, it's not important.