Friday, December 01, 2006

Racism

I must admit here that I have no real relationship with racism.

I grew up in the progressive northwest. I have two adopted siblings of other races. My best friend for many years of my childhood was black.

Whenever I'm confronted by racism, outside of the abstract, I'm always genuinely baffled by it. People who acknowledge genuine racist ideas make me turn my head and ruffle my brow in the same way I might if people said they don't believe the sun exists. It really is an absurd idea that survives only on its own momentum. It doesn't bear any thought at all, unless the thinker is actually trying to make it make sense, like a hack science fiction writer struggling to bolster their most idiotic imaginings.

My father is a blacksmith, so I grew up around a lot of blue collar types, although often a kind of artsy sub-variety. He is also the sort that stops people cold when they make racist jokes or comments while I'm the sort who stops listening and then secretly makes the effort to avoid the company of people who do in front of me.

This is, in whatever weird way, telling my father, who is quite the lover of jokes. Secretly, he says there are two funny racist jokes. Yes, I'm outing his secrets here on the Internet. Whatever.

I'm going to share them now, as a matter of record.

The first is, "How do black parents keep their kids from jumping on the bed? They put Velcro on the ceiling."

Now, I disagree that this is racist, but then I also disagree that it's funny. I think the "racist" interpretation comes from our politically correct tendency to think any reference to black people being physically different than white people is racist. Or perhaps an implication, rooted in the fact that only racist people feel comfortable telling jokes about those differences.

I'm not defending the joke, however, as, like I said, I don't think it's actually funny.

The second joke is, "A black kid goes to his father and says, 'I have the biggest dick in the second grade. Is it because I'm black?' And his father responds, 'No, you idiot, it's because you're 16 years old!'"

This one, of course, arguably plays on two distinct racist stereotypes, so would be tough to argue as not racist, and, yet, I must begrudgingly admit I think it's funny myself.

Somewhere in this I should directly reference Michael Richards, huh?

I actually went and watched the infamous clip last night. I don't know what to say.

I think his claim that it's a symptom of a rage problem makes sense. It seems to me that he was enraged and said those things specifically because he wanted to hurt those people specifically, not necessarily because he is a racist in any other functioning sense.

That probably sounds like a defense, but I don't even mean it as such exactly. I just think there's a lot of "What was he thinking?" or a feeling that his apologies and explanations are lacking and I'm not sure they are.

I'm also not sure he needs to be immediately embraced by the world again. I just think his explanation does get at the heart of what his intention was and the people who are feeling some significant emotional response should take it as such as move forward from that place. I have no particular idea what that should be or what it should mean for them or for him.

I just think it's sad all around, not the least of which is to a nation with a very deep flaw deep within that it has no solution to, so it does everything it can to ignore it. When things like this, it always makes us look and remember in a very conscious sense that somehow this still exists outside of inbred clans in Idaho and Alabama.

I don't know. I'm off to blast Public Enemy as loud as it'll go.

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