Friday, August 28, 2009


I recently returned from a week in New York City at their Fringe Theater Festival. I was there specifically to watch my son's performances of The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About an Hour. It's a marvelous show that talks bluntly about America's tradition of racism and eschews euphemisms like "minority," "the N-word," "diversity," and the other circumventions we use to avoid honest discussions of our racial divisions. I hope this show will help get this country talking about this issue that we obviously hope will go away by being ignored, except for those few occasions that capture the media's attention.

Lately, despite the media's trumpeting the "post-racial society" because we elected a president of African descent, racism is, in fact, more open and vicious than it's been since the 1950s. I've often heard nostalgic longing for those "good old days." Apparently, we are now privileged to re-live those days, with higher prices this time around.

In addition to the widely covered New York Post cartoon, Oscar Grant and Professor Gates incidents, there is and has been a steady stream of equally heinous indications of the endemism of American racism. Here are a few examples:

The alarmingly disproportionate number of innocent blacks and Latinos who are incarcerated of which Texas is the leading perpetrator.

Brandon McClelland another black man dragged to death by white men in Paris, Texas.

The "Hidden Race War" in post-Katrina New Orleans.

U.S. Representative Lynn Jenkins pining for a "great white hope."

Rush Limbaugh still flogging President Obama's place of birth.

Glenn Beck

Less vicious, but equally insidious are these examples from the genteel world of book publishing where the novel Liar by Justine Larbalestier, which has an African American protagonist used a white on the cover .

And the Canadian title The Book of Negroes, a novel by Lawrence Hill was "toned down" to Someone Knows My Name for the American market. The original title was taken from an historic document of the same name that listed the Negroes who were loyal to the British during America's Revolutionary War. The original Book of Negroes lists the names of these Loyalists as they were evacuated after the war.

I vividly recall that whenever Louis Farrakhan or any other black did anything that whites considered offensive, white leaders would call on black leaders to "condemn" the black person's behavior. During President Obama's campaign for the presidency, he was pressed to condemn his pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, and ultimately did so.

Where are the white leaders condemning their bad actors? Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, and Jon Stewart do a magnificent job of calling them out, but I want to hear political leaders condemn these outrageous examples of blatent racism.

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