We need to be less tolerant of racist jokes and comments
If there is one thing that makes me happy, it is that racism is dead.
I guess that is why I’m never happy.
Not only is racism doing quite well, somehow we are rediscovering it as some free speech issue. I guess every pendulum swings both ways. I thought that civil rights and racial equality was one of those areas that we would show actual growth and not just a societal swing.
But apparently some people are just not happy with America’s progress in the area of civil rights and they are recapturing that nationalist and racist pride that brought us segregation and lynchings.
It isn’t like this phenomenon is localized with village idiots who spew bigoted speech. Now a congressional candidate in San Antonio thinks that ranchers should get to shoot all the “wetbacks” they want. Wetback is a term for an illegal Mexican immigrant who may have crossed the Rio Grande River to enter America.
Thus the term, wetback. Clever.
The candidate excused himself from any conversation that would indicate he was somehow racist by explaining that in his circle of friends in South Texas, using that term is as normal as breathing air.
He also called President Barack Obama a socialist son of a… you know the rest. While I doubt most south Texans are still bigoted enough to call all Mexicans by derogatory names, I do believe calling Obama a socialist is as normal as breathing the air down there.
This candidate is from south Texas. He remembers the Alamo. He just doesn’t remember that the battle was fought 175 years ago.
Listening to these guys explain away racist words and thoughts is fun.
I’ve been in the newspaper business almost 20 years now. That isn’t that long. But it is long enough that I remember having a pressman explain to me that he didn’t get to play football in high school because he was from Houston and they had a lot of those “B-L-A-K guys” down there. Yes, that is how he spelled it.
He was worried that calling someone black was racist. He wasn’t worried that saying all young black men are good at football was a racist stereotype.
You can’t make this stuff up.
The worst kind of racism is the bigotry that masquerades as humor.
“It was just a joke” is the favorite line of every racist who doesn’t want to seem like a racist. Maybe having a black son makes me sensitive, but I think if I were black myself I would be more sensitive.
The idea that you are “just” laughing at me isn’t that comforting.
It is worse when policy makers find humor in racist thoughts and jokes.
Take Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisc) and his staff’s private email exchanges. It is pretty repugnant that they skirted election and public record laws with hidden email accounts.
But the content of many of the emails makes whether they are legal or not almost inconsequential.
Walker’s Deputy Chief of Staff received an email with this joke included.
"At first the lady said, 'Dogs are not eligible to draw welfare'. So I explained to her that my dogs are mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can't speak English and have no frigging clue who their Daddys are. They expect me to feed them, provide them with housing and medical care, and feel guilty. My Dogs get their first checks Friday."
Walker’s assistant responded: "That is hilarious. And so true."
Yes. So true. It is fun to call people we allegedly serve subhuman mongrels. If you are lucky, you might even get booked on FOX News and get invited on the road.
The most troubling examples of racism involve students. That is the worst too me because I prefer to believe every generation moves further from ignorance-based discrimination, so seeing it continue in young people is disconcerting.
When you see a high school wrestling team in New Jersey mocking a rival high school with black wrestlers by posing for a photo with hoodies pulled up like KKK hoods and a black wrestling dummy held up with a noose, the hope for tomorrow is dampened.
We need to become more intolerant. Not more intolerant of people who are different than us, we need to be less tolerant of racist jokes and comments.
We have come a long way from the civil rights movement of the 1960s. But we have to work hard now not to give up ground in the fight.
Kent Bush is the publisher of the Butler County Times Gazette and can be reached at: email@example.com