Sunday, May 1, 2011
What He Said.
The other day in the newspaper I read a sad story about a young man who was convicted of a "hate crime" specifically making racial slurs while physically attacking another man. The story said that the young man's father said "My son is not a racist" as the verdict was read. I had several thoughts about this; one was that we live in a sound bite society, and a good quote will always get repeated in the news, especially if it's short and doesn't require too much thought, and another thing was that no one had said the man was a racist. He was convicted of making racially offensive threats. It would be like a person being arrested for drunken driving and saying "I'm not an alcoholic". I recall that President Bush when being interviewed about his recent memoir said his major regret was being called a racist by "Conway" West. Actually Kanye West said that "George Bush doesn't care about black people". Now, that statement is a provocative statement for sure, and you could easily argue that President Bush's handling of the crisis of Hurricane Katrina was not enough evidence to form a complete opinion of his views on race. But, and this is an important "but" he was not called a racist in that situation. It makes me wonder if we're becoming a society that refuses to accept any critique of our actions. More recently some people have reacted with righteous indignation to the idea that the so called "birthers" the people who doubt that President Obama was born in the USA, is a Christian, "deserved" to have attended Columbia and Harvard, etc., are following a racist agenda. It seems clear to me that the movement that challenges the validity of the president's birth certificate, his faith or his college grades is without a doubt racist. Anyone who is supporting those theories is supporting a racist agenda. Does that make the individual person a racist in all aspects of their life? Are the major cheerleaders of that movement from the carnival barkers to "reality" TV stars, to elected politicians more guilty than the average person at home listening to the lies? I don't know that those points are really that important. More important, I feel, is the way people seem to want to avoid any critique of what they've just said or done by claiming "I'm not a racist" Maybe while we've become a much more coarse and crude society, perhaps we've also become too polite or timid to be honest. Do we need to put a disclaimer on a film like "Gone With The Wind" that says "This movie is based on, and promotes a false view of history, based primarily on the myth of the 'Lost Cause' which purports to give reasons for the Confederacy's starting the Civil War being something other than to continue slavery" No, I think most people understand that those stories are fantasies. I'd like to think we don't need to put disclaimers on news coverage of the birthers and their clan that this is all racist nonsense. But maybe they're the ones who need the disclaimers something like "By supporting this line of thinking you are supporting a racist idea, you may or may not be a racist in all aspects of your life, but you might want to take a good look at your beliefs."