I had planned on just doing a quick piece tonight about one of my favorite websites, but I think I'll do that tomorrow instead. I posted the above statement in a Media Matters piece today, and I'd like to expand on it a little bit here. Rush Limbaugh was whining about all the "sensitivity training have we had about racism, starting with the Civil War," to which I thought, well let's see...
In the 1860's we had legalized slavery. That ended with the Civil War.
In the 1960's we had Segregration, Fire Hoses, Attack Dogs, Lynchings, Anti-Miscegeny Laws, and Assassinations. That ended with Civil Rights.
WOW. And that only took A HUNDERED YEARS!!!
At the rate were going, we'll have this whole "racism" thing licked by the 2060's!
And that's when I made the point that "Diversity is not the new racism," as Limbaugh, and his ilk, often claim, but rather "colorblindness is [the new racism.]" And I'm not talking about FAKE colorblindness, now. I don't mean when a scumbag like Limbaugh uses token examples like Michael Steele, Clarence Thomas and Thomas Sowell to prove that he's not racist. (Christ, if those three were the extent of my experience with Black people, I might be inclined to think less of the whole race as well! But I digress...) Basically, there's three kinds of racism.
The first - outward and overt, viscious, agressive 1940's Southern, Conferderate-style Racsim. THAT kind of racism is pretty much dead and gone these days, save for Right Wing corners of the Blogosphere. And even those people wouldn't spew their racist nonsense so boldy if they were face to face with another person, especially a stranger... Even if it were someone of the same race! No, for the most part, almost anyone left with any racial prejudice at all falls into the second type...
Secret Racism. This is the kind of racism that no one will ever admit to, but when you hear them speak and get to know them a bit, you just know they have a chip on their shoulder. Oh, they'll have Black friends, and work well with Black co-workers (or Asian, Hispanic, etc...) and their negative feelings are obviously diminished from the ones described above. These are the people that will say controversial things about race (or miscegeny, affirmative action, racial profiling, etc...) and then feel the need to remind you that "they're not racists." You know what? I talk to people all the time about these things and never feel the need to point that out to them. I once had a Black co-worker who was annoyed at another co-worker (white, Christian and conservative) who had a habbit of using fancy words. (I mean, like, words that no one really uses anymore. Word-of-the-day-calendar type words.) So I asked him, "Is [the other guy] ever a cheapskate?" He said, "Yeah, well, you know [so-n-so], right?" So I said, "The next time you catch him being cheap, tell him not to be such a niggard. See how he reacts to that!" Now, obviously I had to clarify the meaning, spelling and precise pronuciation of the word 'niggard'... But once I did, my co-worker found it hilarious. And at no point did I ever feel the need to tell this man, this 6'4" 220+ pound BLACK man, that I "wasn't a racist." I knew him, he knew me, and we both knew we were all cool with it. Bottom line? If you feel you need to remind people that you're not a racist after you say things? You just might belong somewhere in this category. And there's a spectrum. Some hide it better than others and some simply have more to hide. BUT AT LEAST WE'VE GOTTEN TO THE POINT WHERE WE REALIZE THAT WE SHOULD HIDE IT! The fact that blatant racism is no longer acceptable counts for progress in my book.
Finally, we have what I believe to be the newest and possibly most common form of racism: colorblindness. Not the colorblindness claimed by people in the above group, but serious, well-intentioned colorblindess possessed by very enlightened people who truly do not believe that any race is inferior to any other. (And the same point can apply to Gender, Religion, Sexual Orientation, Disability, Age, etc...) Being BLIND to those things when interacting with someone, THAT'S the 'new racism' (sexism, etc...) in my mind. THAT is the next great social hurdle we have to cross.
Let's say you've got two college applicants. Same SAT's, Same GPA's, similar extra-curriculars, etc... But one's white, with parents making over $100,000 combined, from an middle to upper-middle class suburb with very little crime. The other's black, with parents making under $50,000, combined, from the inner-city where they were faced with crime and drugs and violence every day. To say that these candidates are "equal" is colorblind. It's also horribly unfair and unjust. And THAT'S what I'm calling out here, as the new racism.
To not recognize someone's race, gender, religion (or lack thereof), sexual orientation, etc... to just flatly assume "we're all equal" (and truly act accordingly) despite these things, is to ignore the fact that this person grew up in a world that percieved them according to their [sub-group,] and treated them accordingly. And those perceptions and experiences shaped who they are, every bit as much as our (different) experience shaped us. A white person and a black person; a man and a woman; a muslim, jew, christian, hindu or atheist; a gay or a strait; cannot walk the same path though the same world and come away with the same experience from it. To dismiss that, to not respect that fact, to be truly colorblind, is every bit as damaging to them as simply judging someone for the color of their skin (gender, etc...) When someone decides that, in achieveing colorblindess they have gone far enough, and will progress no farther, they are now among the new racists.
And colorblindness comes faily easily to a lot of people these days. But being colorblind is only the first step. It a place we can START FROM. Wipe the slate clean, sure, but then start to understand how the world's perception and treatment of us shapes who we become. Appreciate that no two people percieve things quite the same way, and when you take a huge factor like RACE (or GENDER, SEXUALITY, RELIGION, etc...) into account, and how that affects how the world percieves and treats THEM, it's almost wrong to say that they're even IN the same world, even if they're standing right next to each other. And doing this is a lot harder, and throughout your life your neverquite done. Because you will always be meeting new people, and you will of course keep changing yourself. We must rid ourselves of the last remants of outright racism, to be sure, and to be sure, we've made tremendous strides in doing that. But we can't stop at colorblindness. We must strive for a greater understanding of one another, and our varied experiences than that.
That's what I believe anyway.
(Hey Joy, I guess I did learn something in your class, huh?)