Ah! No matter how things change . . .

12 May

 

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Ah! No matter how things change . . .

By L. Stewart Marsden

Dophins’defensive back Don Jones joins an ever-growing list of spotlighted celebrities and notables to be scorched in the headlines as a result of non-politically correct comments. Some made publicly, or through social media, or that were revealed as private comments.

I won’t rehash the headlines. Jones’ tweet about the recently, self-announced gay NFL football recruit Michael Sam, or Charles Barkley’s recent slur on the women of San Antonio, or Donald Sterling’s covertly taped and then released racist remarks, or Paula Dean’s admission of using the n-word, or Mel Gibson’s or Alec Baldwin’s biased remarks.

I could go further, and dredge up more muck as a result of the internet and its incredible capacity to never forget.

America. Land of the free, and home of the brave.

Yet, from its very inception, corrupted to the core with anti-somebody sentiments. The Irish, the Polish, the Germans, the Italians, the French, the Russians, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Mexicans, the Hispanics, the blacks, the LGBTs, the Catholics, the Muslims, the Jews, the Yankees, the whoever-you-want-to-plug-in-after-the-next-comma group.

We have integrated and bussed and everything else we have thought of doing to eradicate and eliminate racial, gender, religious, political, economic and sexual preference biases.

Where do we go for teaching and examples? To find out how to COEXIST? The ideals are fine. The pathway is not-so-fine.

I took a course in college on racism. I found out, according to the instructor, that if I was white, I was a racist.

That may be true. I grew up in the south in the 50s and 60s. In my hometown I remember seeing bathrooms and water fountains For Whites Only, or for Coloreds. The movie houses were similarly segregated, and blacks found their way up to an uppermost and very small balcony. I never knew where they went to buy a ticket.

The schools were also segregated. I never shared a classroom with a person of another color until junior high school. Never played on a sports team with anyone other than whites, again until junior high.

That person was as fascinated with me as I was with him — especially in the locker room. It was the basketball team. The irony was that he wasn’t very good at basketball. See? That’s a racist thought in and of itself.

My favorite comedian was Bill Cosby. Notice I didn’t say my favorite black comedian, but my favorite comedian, period.

I learned all of his routines. I watched Cosby Kids on Saturdays religiously, and laughed at Fat Albert along with all children who watched.

I watched as Cosby broke the stereotypical image of blacks (to whites) by portraying Dr. Huxtable, with a lawyer wife and intelligent kids.

Nobody said, are you paying attention to this? Do you know the significance of this? Nobody told me I must adapt my expectations, or my perceptions.

They just changed. Or, maybe they didn’t change as much as they grew and matured.

It is natural to grow into something you were not at the beginning.

So, my instructor said I was a racist.

To her racism must be something like a tattoo that cannot be undone without painful and abrasive treatments.

Yet, the roots of racism are deep, apparently. And they exists in all peoples. Like a weed in the driveway that you douse with Weed-B-Gone. Inevitably, it rears its ugly head again.

Did I ever tell and laugh at racist jokes? Yes. Do I tell and find them funny now? No.

Again, where do we look for guidance and examples? Washington? Uh, don’t think so.

The pulpits across America? Judging from the lack of mixed congregations, again, probably not.

Schools? As idealistic as they want to be, again, no. Not now, at least. There are those feeble attempts to educate, as in the classic classroom prejudice experiment based on the color of students’ eyes. Not enough.

The novel Black Like Me was an innovative attempt by a white man to walk a mile in the shoes of the black community.

But it wasn’t a bible of reform initiative. Its effects were kind of like the effect of a BB gun against a Patton tank.

I won’t lie. I don’t have shoulders strong or broad enough to shoulder the mistakes and sins white people have promulgated on various groups of people, including blacks. We have, by the way, been an equal-opportunity discriminator of groups for centuries.

I am more conscious of that tendency to discriminate, though. And where I’m not, my children let me know.

So when whoever it is spouts off angrily, or in a fury, and says something that is picked up on Twitter or Facebook or whatever media is trending the information, my reaction is one of disappointment, but not so much surprise. As a society, we have not yet earned the reaction of surprise.

I think what is scarier than a Baldwin or a Barkley misstep (even though Mr. Charles Barkley has said he will never apologize — Hillary? Where is your reaction to that?), are the thousands or more who make similar statements not in anger or in fury.

And those people are in every group, every race, every religion. Everywhere.

Bottom line: I know I’m no saint regarding bigotry or racism. It’s there. I work at it. But, sometimes . . .

This media display of individual insensitivity will continue. Count on it. But resist the urge to pile on. Remember the adage: when you finger point at someone, you’ve got three pointing back at you.

And remember what that guy said: Let the person who hasn’t sinned throw the first stone.

 

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Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 12 May, 2014

 

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