Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Racism Is Alive and Well in America

People are buzzing about the recent gaffe of Don Imus, who is known for his radio programs which are also televised on MSNBC. In what he claimed was "a crazy attempt at humor" he made several racist slurs about the Rutgers women's basketball team, which is predominantly African-American. Despite his claim, previous "attempts at humor" on the Imus Show have included a mockery of celebrated poet and author Maya Angelou. The program is a platform for well-known sports figures and public personalities. Rev. Al Sharpton has called for the termination of Imus and has pledged to bring the matter before the FCC. Although Imus was initially apologetic, he has retreated to a posture of being "a good man who said a bad thing."

Michael Richards ("Kramer" on Seinfeld) unleashed a vitriolic torrent of racist verbiage when an audience member complained that his act wasn't funny. These remarks had nothing to do with the situation but were an opportunistic moment for those prejudiced feelings to be aired. The sad irony is that Al Campanis and Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder were chastised for the same behavior more than twenty years ago. Others, like Mel Gibson, when challenged about an anti-Semitic tirade, blame the outburst on being intoxicated. There is never an acceptable excuse for intolerance.

Whenever I challenge someone about what I perceive as racism, I am accused of playing "the race card," as though I carry a special Geiger counter calibrated to detect any miniscule yet hidden vestiges of racism in others that are really insignificant. Prejudice in any form is not accidental. It is something we must consciously excavate by having a persistent attitude of acceptance. We are not cookie cutter copies of one another. Differences are real and offer an opportunity to learn and grow once we are willing to acknowledge and accept them.

Racism is not just an antiquated view of the world held by our ancestors. It is a subtle overlay that imports negative assumptions (stereotypes) about a person based only on their membership in a particular ethnic group. All forms of discrimination (sexism, classism, homophobia, et al) fail to see the individual by focusing on the shortcomings of the group to which they may belong. I hope that each one of us can make the commitment to start right now to look at the world through glasses that promote acceptance of diversity.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Today is the first day of spring, a time I always celebrate. The shorter days of winter encourage me to hibernate and basically hide away from the inclement weather and limited hours of daylight until the advent of spring. Although snow and rain may still fall, I find myself experiencing a personal and creative resurrection. My mind hums with new images and fresh ideas ready to explode into existence.
This is the time when I remember what makes me smile, what makes me want to give someone a hug, all the reasons to share light and love with others. Lest I be accused of being overly sentimental, let me state with absolute assurance that these good feelings are not indicative of madness but of a real spring fever that has infected me.
I am ready to write or sculpt or play a musical instrument or dance. This newly-discovered wealth of energy demands expression and will accept no refusal to participate. This is no solitary artist, a hermit laboring in an isolated garrett. This is an invitation to a huge party of revelers, the Mardi Gras and Carnivale conjoined to maximum excitement. This is the time to grow new wings and fly away from the mind-numbing doldrums created during the winter.
Even if you are the kind of person who says, "I can't carry a tune in a bucket" or even if you see your artwork as primitive representations, this is the ally-ally-oxen free moment in the year when the mysteries of creative process are demystified and only the willingness to participate is listed as a prerequisite for admission to the party. Look in your imaginary closet for the loveliest ball gown or most handsome attire as you prepare for the grand event.
No booming clock at midnight will end this celebration. You have from now until forever to enjoy escapades in the playground of your imagination. Be willing to step outside the realm of critics and naysayers. Choose to connect with your inner artist and plant the tiny seeds that will blossom into fully formed works of art. Like plants creating oxygen during photosynthesis, your creative endeavors will fuel harmony in the universe that will eclipse the war and hatred and ill will that are rampant in our experience. Open your calendar or fire up your computer and schedule weekly appointments with your soul for the next 12 weeks. You'll be amazed at what happens when you reinvent your creative self.