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.


Anonymous said...


I couldn't find contact information for you online so I thought I'd try this...

I'm one of the organizers of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association's annual national convention, which is coming up here in San Diego over Labor Day weekend. We expect about 650 attendees.

We're looking for writers who could do readings at our Authors Cafe event on Saturday, Sept. 1. Writers read from their books at the Authors Cafe and can sign/sell them at our convention bookstore.

You can get more details here (never mind the June 30 deadline): http://nlgja.org/convention/2007/authors.htm

I'd like to invite you to take part. (I don't know if you have a new book coming out, but I did read that you were working on one.)

And I'd be interested in hearing about other GLBT authors -- especially those conveniently located in Southern California -- who might be able to attend and read from their works.



Randy Dotinga

Modesty said...

Well written article.