Weir Only Human
I guess, depending where they live or what education level they have, there may still be some bozos that discriminate against people based on their race. Nothing is absolute when it comes to the complexities of human beings. But, the days when people would raise their children to hate those who look different from them are just about gone with the wind. Even in a society that is not as polite as we may like it to be, negative stereotypical remarks would be quickly condemned by those who have been around long enough to realize the naked bigotry of such comments. The social decorum of the 21st Century would frown in disgust at racist or homophobic comments uttered in polite company.
During days of yore, someone in a small group at a party might use a racial slur and get a laugh. They wouldn’t even feel it’s necessary to take a look around the room first, because any gathering they attended was certain to be all white. However, these days, even if a social group was all white, a bigoted comment from one of them would not only be frowned upon, it would probably be enough to banish that person for the foreseeable future. That’s because bigotry in any form identifies the user as uneducated and low class. The fact is that some people are so insecure about their own significance to the human race that they must find someone to look down on in order to feel important.
People generally fear what they don’t understand. Hence, if they’ve never associated with people of different races, ethnicities or lifestyle choices they’re unfamiliar with, they’re very likely to feel stressed when they become aware that those groups have emerged into the mainstream of society. There was a time when we never saw a black face in a movie or television show unless the person was portrayed in a subservient position. The old black and white films often portray blacks as servants or dim-witted clowns. If you were a proud black person with a family today; would you like your children to see those movies? When I was a kid growing up on the lower eastside of Manhattan I lived in the prototypical “melting pot” of races, ethnicities and religions.
The tenement in which I lived was a fusion of languages and cultures, as were the schools I attended and the neighbors I communicated with daily. Very often, I was the only one in a group that spoke only one language. Italians, Hispanics (mostly Puerto-Ricans), Jews, Poles, etc., spoke their heritage languages primarily in their homes, while always working to improve their English. As a result of my experiences in that Petri Dish I learned that people, except for some physical differences, are all pretty much the same. That is to say they want the same things out of life that most of us want; an education, a good job and the pursuit of happiness.
Although I had a good academic education that included a bachelor’s degree, cum laude, I believe my education in that multicultural environment far outranked anything I learned in classrooms. Books about cultures can’t compete with actually being immersed in different languages, customs, music and cuisine. All of the aforementioned contribute to the rich tapestry of Americana. So, what’s your answer to the question in the title of this column? Let me put it another way; do you associate with, or even know of, anyone who hates people because of their skin pigmentation or sexual preference? Honestly, I can’t even imagine knowing someone like that. By the way, I feel similarly about contemptible intolerance when it comes from a minority group member toward whites.
It’s become fashionable to bash whites collectively, as though their skin makes them guilty of past transgressions of other whites. Isn’t that the literal definition of bigotry? Moreover, if a white criticizes a black, for any reason, it’s called “racism.” Yet, blacks can criticize whites, in the most offensive terms, with impunity. That’s not exactly a formula for a colorblind society. If I criticize a black politician that I disagree with I’m likely to be attacked as a racist, notwithstanding the fact that I’ve often criticized white politicians for the same disagreement. The result of all that hyperbole regarding color has trivialized accusations of racism. Furthermore, it shuts down beneficial dialogue, which contributes to more civil unrest. I can assure the reader that I’ll be accused of some sort of “ism” for writing this column. But, those allegations will come from those who have nothing to add to the dialogue, except more incivility.
Bob Weir is a veteran of 20 years with the New York Police Dept. (NYPD), ten of which were performed in plainclothes undercover assignments. Bob began a writing career about 16 years ago and had his first book published in 1999. He also became a syndicated columnist under the title “Weir Only Human.”