My biggest problem addressing the issue of racism in America has to do with the fact that I can scarcely recall a single incident when a non-white person was nationally excoriated for being a racist. Can you? It is as if only white people are capable of being racists or at a minimum, white people are the only racists worth exposing and condemning in America. But, I have had enough relationships and experiences in my life to know this is not true and so have most other people. Racism and class warfare was neither invented or perfected by white Americans and it is high time we quit pretending otherwise.
The fact is there are members of each and every race and class of people who are bigots in their own unique way. For instance, our society is right to condemn the KKK but in reality organizations like the Black Panthers and La Raza are assertive organizations created to promote the interests of one race over another and their rhetoric can be as equally repulsive.
One of the most troubling developments in race relations has to do with the fact that we are now beginning to punish not only acts of racism but words and thoughts too. Such is the fallout from the case involving the private discussion between the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers and his gal pal which reveals the lengths that people will go to punish thoughts in America. I certainly join the rest of America in my disapproval of what Mr. Sterling had to say, but I also admit that I do not know the context of the rest of the discussion nor can I reconcile the fact that this same man was slated to receive a lifetime achievement award from the NAACP for his work in Los Angeles. Pardon the pun, but this particular situation proves there are some things in life that do not boil down to a simple differentiation between black and white.
The debate over the use of words is now getting to the point of absurdity. Case in point was the politician in Texas who objected to the use of the term “black hole” as having racist connotations. Then there was the complaint about the use of the word “niggardly” from people who obviously never looked up the definition of the word! The latest example of political correctness run amuck? A bill in Minnesota that would change the name of an invasive pest from “Asian Carp” to “invasive carp”. So now, even geographic labels of species origin is racist?
Finally, there is the debate about the names of sports teams, the most pronounced having to do with the Washington Redskins. I agree that this particular team name does have racial connotations, however, I fundamentally believe that sports teams adopt names to create a positive association with something of value, namely, attributes associated with courage, toughness and a record of achievement. These names are therefore actually a sign of deference and respect not something to be construed as derogatory or insensitive.
First Published in the Santa Barbara News Press
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