Donald Sterling and Cliven Bundy are nothing more than the most recent Caucasian males who have been caught on tape making blatantly racist statements. In doing so, they join a long, long list of prominent Caucasian males who have, in one form or another, revealed their adherence to the gargantuanly moronic belief that certain people are inferior to others based upon the amount of melanin in their skin. You have to be so stupid to say that that the very statement is proof of its contrary: anyone who thinks that skin color determines human character or intelligence is so brainlessly dumb that one might legitimately wonder whether lack of intelligence accompanies the lack of melanin rather than its presence.
This demonstration of idiocy is often matched and even surpassed by the comments that these racists-revealed make to explain themselves. “I am not a racist,” says Bundy, “I just think Negroes would be better off as slaves.” “I am not a racist,” says Sterling, “I just don’t want my girlfriend seen in public hanging around with the likes of Magic Johnson.” And who can ever forget the classic disclaimer issued by Mitt Romney, “My choice of words was unfortunate.” Right, Mitt. If only you could have announced your racism more eloquently.
But that does not end the list. The next worst guy on the list is you, hypocrite reader, my likeness, my brother. We who react with such righteous indignation to these private thoughts publicly revealed. Our sin is worse. We are the reason why racism survives. Why? Because we do not denounce it in those very private moments where it is so blatantly proclaimed. Racism cannot survive without an audience, without the confirmation of those to whom it is declared. You know what I mean. The racist joke at the country club. The sly comment at the appearance of a mixed couple. Or the endless veiled references, this or that neighborhood, this or that school, this or that economic class.
And don’t think you are off the hook because you are not Caucasian. Bigotry among African-Americans is every bit as much a fact of life as that among Caucasians. “If you’re black, get back. If you’re brown, stick around. If you’re light you’re right.” Ever heard that? And how about “cracker” and “honky”? Are those terms of affection? Racism is a global event. There is nothing so hypocritical as the native of India who announces at one and the same time that the caste system is gone and that he or she is Brahmin. Hispanics ranking themselves and others by country of origin. Serbs hating Croats. Waloons hating Flemish. Northern Italians hating southern Italians.
Racism, or more properly bigotry of any kind, is omnipresent, so much so that it appears to be a part of the very fabric of human society. Even the Great Emancipator himself stated that he could never see the black race as equal to the white. Why? Why is bigotry so commonplace? Let me offer one possible reason. We humans need to feel that we have meaning, value, worth. You can do that in one of two ways. You can either prove your worth by some act or accomplishment, or you can announce that the people around you are somehow inferior to you. There is a comedian who tells of his alcoholism. It was so bad that one day he found himself in a hospital lying on a gurney with restraints on his arms and his legs. While he was lying there, another alcoholic was wheeled in, also on a gurney, also with arm and leg restraints, but also with a neck restraint. The comedian shouted at the other man, “Loser! I have options! I can move my head!”
That is the heart and soul of bigotry, and we all, all of us, Caucasian, African, Indian (east and west), Hispanic, whatever, we are all guilty of it. So, when we rage against Bundy and Sterling and Romney and the like, we are, if we are honest, raging in veiled embarrassment that we have seen racism in our own circles (and in our own hearts) and we have not condemned it there. We are, if we are to be honest about it, raging, not at the bigotry, but at its public appearance. It is not Bundy’s bigotry that is the problem. It is ours, and there is where the battle against bigotry must begin.
Hi, I’m Mike, and I’m a bigot.