Overt racism is sexy. Racial slurs, violence, rage, that shit is cinematic. They make movies about that shit. That’s how “Crash” beat four better movies for the Oscar. That’s how Hollywood thinks all race-based movies MUST be made. Curb-stomping, car-dragging, lynching racism is what they tell us to look out for. If we see a skinhead with a swastika (as, if you remember the summer, I did), we better run.
But really, as you can tell from the title and the juxtaposition, it’s pretty easy to live your life away from overt racism. I remember, until an old lady called me “a little nigger” when I was sixteen, I hadn’t really seen any. Oh sure, a cab would refuse to stop for me and my dad, but I chalked it up to a mistake. A woman assumed, because I was in a nice neighborhood, that I was selling “that stuff” when I was really just waiting for my friend on the corner, but, hey, could happen to anyone. And when my dad told me to watch out for people treating me differently because of my skin color, I would think it was sad he still assumed the worst of people.
Covert racism, institutional racism, these are the bigger issues in our country (and I’d say in Canada too, though in Asia they were pretty open about it if they felt that way). It’s not some yokel with missing teeth and a rifle we have to fear, especially in the cities. It’s that supervisor seeing us react angrily to a legitimate issue and lumping us in with a stereotype. It’s not Derek Vinyard lurking around every corner, it’s an ambulance taking a policeman taking a split-second longer to help us.
If any of you have seen that somewhat tolerable movie “Finding Forrester” – you know, “you’re the man now, dog!” – the plot twists itself around a moment where the black kid’s school suspects him of plagiarizing Sean Connery’s story. And they have a meeting where they sit around and discuss whether or not he cheated. And Salieri from Amadeus is like, “He’s a basketball player. From the Bronx.” Because negroes live there, see.
Aside from the fact that I totally know white people who are from the Bronx (Hi, Deirdre!), this is what they want us to believe is going on. Evil assholes twirling their mustaches and denying us equal treatment. But these days, this is simply not the case, not most of the time. Now, I usually try to align black folk with other groups, but in this case, it’s different. You DO see overt anti-Semitism, not just from Mad Max, but from various leaders in the Middle East and elsewhere. You DO see rampant homophobia all over the place. Anyone makes an obviously racist remark against black folks, and they are sunk. Which is a lot of progress from the days when that would get you elected Governor. We clearly need to do more in this country to move past a situation where homophobia is still popular, and, internationally, the same goes for anti-Semitism.
But really, my main point is that we simply have to keep our eyes open. The most common forms of bigotry in this country are not going to present themselves to us, and will not be changed if we expect that. We have to be vigilant in rooting it out, lest it remain a part of us throughout the future.
Peace and love,