Many have said that with the election of President Obama, racism is now dead. I beg to differ. First of all, there is the resurgence of racist jokes that I've heard recently. And all the jokes about the new president relate to race. Yes, I understand that there will be jokes at the expense of President Obama. I'm fine with that. Joke about his smoking. Joke about his views. Hell, joke about his pool or basketball. But jokes about his race are off limits. And those are the ONLY "jokes" I've heard. The mildest is "can they still call it the White House?" They get worse from there.
If you care to read the story, a Greenwich Village bakery is selling "Drunken Negro Face" cookies. I just don't even know where to start on these cookies, yummy though they do look. Is it the drippy gobs of chocolate that form caricatured features? Is it the maraschino cherry eyes giving the appearance of someone who's been on a three-day bender? Or maybe it's the exaggerated grin that perpetuates the "they're such a happy people" stereotype.
The proprietor has apologized and insists he's not racist. He can't be, see, because he has a Cuban in his family.
However, I don't see this as the problem. I see it as a symptom of the problem. The problem is that racism is bubbling just beneath the surface of the psyche in the US. As we never address it, it just keeps getting pushed deeper and deeper.
Ever have a splinter? If you can get the splinter out right away, it's not too bad. If you can't get it out, it festers and swells with the growing infection, getting uglier and more dangerous to our health.
The splinter in the US is racism. And for over 40 years, ever since we "defeated" racism with the Civil Rights laws, the splinter has been festering as we have simply refused to deal with it and tried to define it out of existence.
Recently we've seen some places where the ugly infection has burst through, tragically. For descriptions of recent events, see Kit's blog. She sees these events as an "Open Season on Black Men," the title of her post. Her explanation is that there is white frustration and anger at President Obama's election. Perhaps Kit is right. I don't express as well as she does, obviously. I just see it a racism rearing its ugly head again. The festering sore coming to a head.
So what can and should we do? WEll, let's get that damn splinter out. When you hear a racist comment, speak up. "Oh, I don't think that's so," can be an effective phrase. I've said "I just don't see the humor in that" when told a racist joke. You'd be amazed how often white people are assumed to condone a racist joke just because we're white.
I'm often called hypersensitive. "After all, one of them is now in the White House." The fact that there is an "us" and a "them" is telling enough. I'm waiting and working for the time when there's simply an American in the White House, with no qualifiers.
That's all I know how to do. I'm certainly open to suggestions from my sage readers.