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How Not to Win Friends and Influence People

Those of you who've read my blog for more than a day know that one of my constant pet peeves is stereotyping out of context and uninformed broad generalizations.

It's a conversation killer. It's a negotiation killer. It's a healthy compromise killer. It's a trust killer, and an understanding killer. If we were talking romance right now, I'd say it - the stereotyping and broad generalizing - is a deal breaker.

I try to make it clear regularly that no one is ever going to typecast me as being "conservative" or "liberal" or all "pro" this or all "anti" that. I'm pro good sense, no matter what it "looks" like.

So, I was amused Monday evening to receive the following blog comment from a reader identifying himself as "Al Charteer," in response to my post announcing my new Metro column:

I'll be in your corner until the second you become a "black columnist" instead of a "colunist."

If you decide to be the champion of black causes or Obama or the race card, I'm out. If you decide to be the champion of all people, including whites, Hispanics and conservatives, I'm for you.

Truth knows no race or political leaning. Truth is deserving of a champion. Be that.

Hmmm, so let me get this straight, Al Charteer, in order to exhort me to not be a racist, and to not be a "black colunist (sic)," and to not play "the race card," you write me a note that assumes from its start that I fit any or all of your stereotypes.

Well, I hate to disappoint you, my friend, but you might want to get out of my corner now, 'cause I'm going to be a "black columnist."

I have no choice. Like my grandfather told me when I was a kid, there are only two things that I will always be 100% certain of at all times: that I am black, and that one day I'll die. Those are the two elements of my life that will never change, unless that machine Walt Disney supposedly slept in really does exist. And no amount of scrubbing is going to alter the color of my skin. Turning white didn't do Michael Jackson any good.

Get used to it.

Yes, I'm being coy. I know by "black colu(m)nist," you mean a stereotypical liberal who fits your description of a soldier in a vast leftwing media conspiracy, a colu(m)nist who uses his pulpit to preach that the world revolves around African Americans and African American "issues." I know that's what you meant, because your entire comment in context proved it. But what I'm trying to demonstrate to you and your ilk is that your arguments - whether baseless or legit - are indictments of culture, not color. Sadly, you don't get that because you assume that people who look a certain way are all but guaranteed to think, act, and opine a certain way.

You can't have read my prior opinions on anything. If you had, you'd know that my opinions run the gamut from right to left, and most often rest firmly in the middle. And you would know that trying to tell me that truth knows no race or political leaning is like trying to tell a golfer that his goal is to hit the little white ball into the cup: unnecessary. It's like me feeling the need to tell you that "white ball" isn't a display of my racist feelings toward white balls. It's just a common sense analogy about golf.

So, I am a black columnist, and as I've always done with my opinions, I'll cover a wide range of social issues - sometimes issues of specific interest to black people, or Latino people, or white people, or Albino people, or men, or women, or children, or porn stars with one leg, or roosters who only crow on a lunar equinox, or politicians, or people who make assumptions about writers whose work they're not familiar.

Did I say get used to it, already?

PS. Follow me at http://twitter.com/jamesburnett.

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Jeni Hill Ertmer

James, there's not a doubt in my mind that you will be a terrific black columnist! Keep on doing just as you've been doing the whole time I've been reading your blog and if people can't see the common sense, usually nicely moderate approach you take in your views, well that's their loss. You give a good approach to things that really make a person think twice about some tough topics.

BobG

I'm confused; you're black?

James B.

Thank you, Jeni.

Ha ha, BobG. Thanks! Tune in tomorrow.

og

Crap. You're not chinese?

James B.

Og, you found me out! ;-)

og

I was hoping for some killer Dim Sum if I ever got to see you. And I wanted you to look at my taxes for me.

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