Thank you very much Mr. Martin

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 3, 2006

&uot;There is no truth, there is only perception&uot;

Gustave Flaubert, French Novelist

No truer words have ever been spoken.


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Years ago I read a book titled &uot;A Critique of Pure Reason&uot;, by German philosopher Immanuel Kant.

In his book, Kant asserted there was something called ‘a priori’ knowledge, which is the only absolute truth about a person, place, thing or event.

All other knowledge is tainted by our perception.

In other words, if five people are looking at the same thing, then you will receive five different viewpoints about that thing.

Kant says that regardless of the varying viewpoints, there is only one absolute truth to be found.

In recent weeks, one of our guest columnists, D.G. Martin, has wrestled with the term ‘tar-baby’.

Martin tried to explain the origin of the phrase and its place in early black American literature.

Martin also detailed how the phrase ended up being perceived by many blacks as a racial slur and he tried to articulate the difference between the two perceived meanings.

After addressing the topic in one column, Martin claims that many people took him to task for attempting to explain the dynamic of perception as it applied to that term.

The response to his first column was obviously vigorous enough to make Martin compelled to visit the subject in his next column.

Mr. Martin, I feel your pain.

When I discuss race issues in my columns, my purpose is twofold; firstly to bring to light what a person of my color and background has to witness and endure in what is supposed to be the greatest nation in the world.

Secondly, to allow intellectuals to have open discussions about these matters without fear of being stigmatized for openly discussing sensitive topics.

In a nutshell, if Curly Morris speaks about it in the newspaper on Saturday, then it’s cool to discuss it amongst each other at the office on Monday, regardless of how sensitive the subject may seem.

A local businesswoman ask me recently what we as a society could do about racism.

Although I was flattered that she even felt as though I was some type of racism guru, I had to honestly tell her that I didn’t think there was any single answer to that question.

The best advice I could give her was that if she felt as though her and someone needed to work out a philosophical difference, the best thing to do was to invite them someplace and talk.

Over the past several weeks I’ve had dozens of members of the black community ask me to discuss what is being perceived as a scheduling conflict between Heritage Day and the Atlantic District Fair.

I’ve been hesitant to do so because I personally do not have enough experience with either event or the history of them both to make any judgment.

What I do know for a certainty is this; many blacks in Hertford County think that Heritage Day was purposely scheduled during the same week as the District Fair to undermine the efforts of a black tradition that has run for 86 years.

I don’t know if that is true or not, but I do know that if enough people believe that it’s true then it’s gospel.

Here is another thing that I know is true, everyone here is allowing that perception to fester and grow and some day it is going to reach a point that could negatively affect either or both events.

It is entirely possible, and likely, that I won’t attend either event.

Not because of any political or social perceptions, but simply because I have other things that I like to do when I’m off work.

The Atlantic District Fair started in 1920 and ran for 82 years before Heritage Day appeared on the radar three years ago.

It’s easy to see how the caretakers of the ADF would be offended by the city’s efforts to host a similar type of event during the same week, conspicuously dodging the other 51 weeks available in a calendar year.

I have no evidence to support a conspiracy or purposeful effort to sabotage the ADF, but if many people believe that Heritage Day was created as a slap in the face to blacks, then for all intensive purposes it just as well be written in stone.

The question now is whether or not everyone is happy with that, or would the powers that be like to fix that perception.

It is how a community deals with matters like these that define the true nature of the people who live here.

Good luck with that.