I've been wondering lately about the vector of racism. I need its velocity specified by magnitude and direction. It is in flux, isn't it?
If not exactly chic, the dark side of the old tribal mythologies certainly has become prevalent, of late. Manifestations are everywhere -- in print, online, and over-the-airwaves. Not to mention boardrooms, rangelands, watering holes and even the U.S. Supreme Court.
To varying degrees, we're all racist, of course. We stereotype and pre-judge. Myself, I've had bones-to-pick with the "white adult male" demographic much of my life. For the most part, it's an abuse of power issue. Of course, general ignorance often comes into play. I find them to be responsible for the sad state of affairs of most everything currently in a sad state of affairs including relations between the races.
And it's not only the rich ones like L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling that I find to be guilty of blind and excessive intolerance. It's all across the spectrum. Those lower on the socio-economic food chain are just more up front with their bigotry. For them it's almost a reverse snobbery. They have yet to acquire the subtle nuances of the art form favored by their more affluent counterparts.
Then there's that militia bunch surrounding Cliven Bundy down around Bunkerville, Nevada. Other than being Neo-Nazi White Power advocates, they are probably not all that racist. As I understand it, they're defenders of the Constitution. Just like those good ol' brick-tossing, dog-siccin', firehose-wielding Alabama boys I ran into during my early '60s Army years down in Birmingham. The term "States Rights" still sends a shiver up my spine.
As Mr. Bundy has already achieved sufficient column inches in this space to satisfy even a narcissistic media-hog such as himself, this week's column will deal, in the main, with Mr. Sterling and the ongoing brouhaha surrounding recently-released taped remarks brought to the attention of the world by the poor man's WikiLeaks, the website TMZ.
Heard on the tape is a male berating a female for associating with blacks and other minorities and publicizing that fact via various social media. The female is far from silent, taking the fight to the male, almost to the point of, already being well-aware of his well-known racial intolerances, leading him into an ambush.
That, plus the fact that the taping of a phone conversation from his own home, as has been mentioned, was an invasion of privacy, mitigates his comments not one whit as far as I'm concerned. Remember, this is a "white adult male," a demographic to which I'm highly racist. Good job, I say. Maybe now, collectively, they'll be a little less vocally active.
Although, as of this writing, it has yet to be substantiated that the male voice on the tapes does indeed belong to Donald Sterling, his history as a closet racist (with the door more than slightly ajar) merits his inclusion in any discussion revolving around racial prejudice and hypocrisy.
So, with this well-documented past, and as a team owner in the African-American-dominated National Basketball Association, he has joined the aforementioned Cliven Bundy in my pantheon of poster children for "ignorance under pressure," the flip side of "grace under pressure," Hemingway's oft-quoted definition of courage.
I grouped the U.S. Supreme Court, at least the right-leaning "Roberts Court," within a "racist" context more as an exaggeration to make a point than a serious accusation. I'm still naïve enough to believe it's possible for a justice to vote against provisions in both the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act without being covertly prejudiced against racial minorities. Just don't ask me to take a lie-detector test on the subject.
Watering Holes come into play as bastions of overtly expounded-upon intolerance due to their tendency to serve up truth serum by the pint, not to mention on-the-rocks and by-the-shot. I want to say that some of my best friends are racists but that would be true.
As I've mentioned previously, it takes one to know one and I'm one. To my credit, I have seriously attempted to modify my bias against "white adult males," but they consistently raise the bar. I can only jump so high.
Neither they nor I mask our opinions from the other, however. I accept them for whom they are and they return the favor. For the most part, music, dance floors, and the aforementioned elixirs are the adhesives that hold us together.
Whether or not we can ever rid the human condition of its proclivity to judge others in a group setting is highly debatable. No doubt it is part and parcel to the greater boundaries of original sin. Looking deeply into oneself, however, is a good start.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.