Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Importance of Being Racist

Apologies to Oscar Wilde, and anyone who thinks I’m about to defend racism.  Yeah, that ugly word for that ugly act is in the news again.  Or still.  You’d think that the 21st Century would be some sort of enlightened age, where humankind finally accepts that while we’re all different, we’re all the same in that no one gender, race, nationality, etc. is higher on some sort of scale than any other.

Bigotry, racism, prejudice, bias, call it what you will.

We should be discriminating, but only on those points where there IS a difference.  He’s taller…she’s a better bowler…they have better coffee…they scored more points…this car gets better mileage…etc.  I cannot fathom any descriptor or comparison where one could legitimately say, “All blacks do X” or “All gays do Y” or “All men do Z.”  Because they don’t.

All of those who make up some sort of classification don’t all do bad things, or good things.  Individuals do bad things or good things.  Individuals do stupid things.  Donald Sterling did a stupid thing this week, and it got him in a heap of trouble.

The thing is, from what I've gathered from the multitude of media reports, is that it’s not the first time he’s done stupid things.  It’s not even the first time he’s done THIS stupid thing.  It IS the first time anyone decided that someone should do something about it, and that’s a shame.  That someone DID do something is fine, but let’s ask ourselves…why did it take so long?  Hell, even Fox News reported on Sterling’s racist past and the fact that it was no secret in the NBA. The comments in question (the ones that cost Sterling $2.5 million and his ouster from the league) were made in September - last year.

Do we really tolerate this kind of behavior?  Well, yeah, but there are limits.

Had Sterling made such comments in a pickup basketball game with a bunch of buddies, he might have gotten a few laughs.  Had the comments been made in night league with a mixed race composition, he might have gotten his ass kicked.  As it was, he made the comments “supposedly in private” (to two people) acting as an owner of a team in the NBA – a league of professionals where more than three-fourths of the players are African-American, and almost half the coaches, too.  Of course, non-white ownership is puny (as it is in all professional sports).

In my opinion, such a statement is stupid (and depending on your bent, “wrong”) in any context.  I know a little about racism, as my father shares many similarities with Sterling.  He was also named Donald, loved basketball (two-time high school captain for Ann Arbor High School), and was a bigot from the word go.  He’d call a spade a spade unless he was a dago, a hunky, a frog, a wetback, or a yid.  I remember watching Norman Lear’s “All in the Family” with him, and I asked him what he thought of the show.  “Pretty funny for a bunch of kikes,” he said.

I don’t know why my Dad was racist, but he was.  He worked with a black laborer for 14 years and never said a bad word about him.  When he went to the race track in Northville or Hazel Park he hung with the railbirds, many of them black (or as Dad called them “colored.”).  He was no stranger to the N-word, of course – that’s how the family knew someone had pissed him off somehow – the individual went from “colored” to “N------.”

But it wasn't just race – Dad was a WWII marine who fought in the Pacific, so we heard stories about the Japs and Nips and all of the slant-eyed gooks when the Vietnam war was raging.  Jews…Polacks…you name it.  All except Germans (which runs in our family tree, mostly).  He even defended Hitler in a classic argument with me:  “Well, what’s the hell’s wrong with Hitler, anyway?  Dad was always bad at math, and couldn't count to six million, I guess.

So yeah, racism is stupid.  It always has been.  It always will be.  So please, can we stop pretending that it doesn't matter and that it’s invisible and that it’s OK when rich people and famous people do it unless it’s a media circus and then maybe not?

Bigotry and denouncing all parties of a group is stupid and horribly incorrect.  Except for one group.  Racists.  They’re ALL assholes.  Even my Dad.

1 comment:

  1. In my old age, I find myself getting more and more silent about this stuff. The arguments/debates are with such an ingrained mindset based on that very stupid part of our culture that I don't seem to have it in me anymore. It seems that the most likely result is that it will continue to get a tad better over time as they die.