I think there’s a good chance that my entire post for tonight is NSFW, so you’ll have to go below the cut for it…
I suspect that it’s impossible to talk frankly about race in this country without being accused of being either a moron or an asshole.
I’m going to step into that particular vortex today. I hope you’ll be kind, and consider me only a moron, when we’re done. It’s okay to not like my attitudes and perceptions. I just hope you’ll balance your reaction to them against my history of kindness toward orange cats and small children.
The trigger for this post is a recent Pew Research Poll that indicates that over half of self-identified Democrats over the age of 45 and those without a college education have some, ah… reservations… about the okayness of interracial dating. Those half are, in my humble opinion, morons and assholes. This is a non-subtle indicator of blunt, unexamined racism. And these are Democrats and leaners. Ghod alone knows what numbers you’d get from hard-core Republicans.
There are lots of other chewy nuggets in the survey regarding gender and immigration issues, with an analysis of what it means in terms of the upcoming presidential election, but I’d like to focus on the race thing in an attempt to keep this from turning into a 20,000 word post. I do encourage you to read the whole thing and draw your own conclusions. Mine is that the moronic racist assholes likely also score pretty high on all the other conservative values.
My continuing attempt to be less of an asshole or moron forces me to take out some of my attitudes and examine them irregularly. I still have a way to go before I feel comfortable with myself on the issue of race.
I was lucky in one way. I lived in Venezuela until I was nine years old, so I missed a lot of the early childhood imprinting on the race issue that can distort you for life. But I remember coming back to Hemphill, where my family had been carrying out its in-breeding program for a century, and going to the Dairy Queen with a main entrance for Whites, and a side entrance, around the back, for Blacks. The mental contortion you had to go through to make that make sense, to deliberately treat another human being that way, felt traumatic and weird to me, and is likely a foundation of my current attitudes.
Which brings up another subject – what we call our various ethnic groups. I know that race is largely a fiction, genetically speaking. But it’s a fiction that regularly slaps us upside the head in this world.
When I was growing up, if you exclude the actual ugly epithets, it was considered mainstream to call someone a Negro or Colored. Neither ever felt right to me. They felt mildly epithetic. But I was and am emotionally comfortable with Black. Nowadays, the accepted term is African-American, or Person of Color. Both feel too formalistic to me. A quick google indicates that there’s still some ambivalence out there about terminology on both sides of the racial divide. I’m going to go with Black in this post, if that’s okay with you.
Incidentally, I’ve always self-labeled my ethnicity as White, rather than Caucasian (which also feels ridiculously clinical), though I have some American Indian blood in me, and am pleased by that fact. I’ve been alienated from much of White mainstream culture most of my life, so I really self-identify as Hippie. Which was, to be fair, a mostly White cultural subset.
Our culture is less overtly racist than it used to be, though the fracture lines are still deeper and wider than we like to admit. But I spent my teens in a society that was quite overt. Racial stereotyping is one way to dehumanize people who aren’t part of your perceived group. Most of the stereotyping I grew up with always seemed bizarre. Here’s my personal Top Ten old-skool stereotypes about Blacks as a group, and the reaction I have always had to them:
- They like fried chicken and watermelons and soul food. A lot. – What the hell? I like fried chicken and watermelons a lot, too. How is this a bad thing? Screw the okra, though.
- They’re naturally athletic, and can dance better than white people – If true, I’m envious. I was lousy at sports in high school, and still am embarrassed at my inability to dance. It definitely kept me from getting laid on several occasions.
- They’re naturally musically inclined, but not toward classical music, which is too intellectual for them – Envy from me again. I struggle to be a competent musician. I seriously wish I had more natural talent. And Blacks invented the Blues, laying the foundation for, among other genres, rock ‘n roll. Both of which I love to the core of my soul. I can’t imagine a life without them in it. Thankyouthankyouthankou, Black people. Blacks invented jazz, too. Which I’m not a big fan of, but which can be easily as intellectually challenging as classical music, which bores me to coma. It’s too damn intellectual for me.
- The men have larger penises, and all want to have sex with White women, who are attracted to their larger penises — *sigh* Yeah, more envy. …Not that I have anything to regret in the Penis Department, mind you. The assertion about penis size has been proven to not be true. It has to do with what physicists call ‘resting states’. And, hey, I want to have sex with White women, too. It seems like a reasonable goal for straight men. Time for another uncalled-for confession – I’ve only dated one black woman. One time. It was a disaster, and I am still mortified. Her name was Jackie and she was a co-worker. I lusted in my heart after her, and liked her tremendously, too. I think she agreed to go out with me out of pity. She’d grown up an Army brat and was stunningly gorgeous. She was also much more sophisticated and knowledgeable than me. Penises did not enter into the evening’s events. I simply could not keep up with her brain. I like to think it was at least partially because she was a few years older than me, and that I’d be a better date now. She went on to become a locally-famous radio personality at KLOL, the best Rock ‘n Roll station in Houston. I guess she was musically inclined.
- They’re not as smart as White people – My personal experience has disproven that one on a daily basis throughout my life. I know for a fact that I have relatives that are dumber than the dumbest Black person I’ve met. Hell, just go visit any Wal-Mart and watch people for half an hour if you want to blow up this stereotype. The whole Bell Curve hypothesis has been thoroughly debunked, by, among others, the other Steve Gould, in his book ‘The Mismeasure of Man‘. I do confess that the latest research on the subject of intelligence, embodied in the movie ‘Idiocracy’, is compelling.
- They liked being slaves – This one is just insane. Read a little about the multiple slave rebellions. Contemplate what you’d do if you were placed in a similar situation, where you could be tortured and murdered casually and without consequence. Where your keepers had an entire society supporting them, had whips and guns and dogs, and held your entire family hostage. And where it was against the law for you or your descendants to learn to read. My grandfather traced our lineage back to Harper’s Ferry in Virginia, site of John Brown’s Raid. It’s likely that I, shamefully, have slave-holders as ancestors. Which fucking type of person do you think is more likely to be a fatally self-destroyed soul – someone held in slavery, or the person who holds them?
- They’re closer to their brutal, violent animal natures – See #6 above. Also, let’s remember which ethnic group invented and deployed nuclear weapons, Zyklon-B, and the World Wrestling Federation.
- They look funny and smell weird – No, you look funny and smell weird. A little perspective here, please.
- They want to take over – No direct evidence of that, that I’m aware of, just fear-mongering. However, if I and my ancestors had been treated so shamefully, and still were being treated so, I’d sure as hell want to take over. At the very least, I’d spend a lot of time being pissed off and working toward some monumental changes.
- They invented rap music and actually like it — ….. Okay. I’m still working through some issues on this one, I admit. Sorry….
So, we circle back to that central issue. No matter how liberal, or sane, or however you might want to label your enlightened beliefs about race, what happens when it hits home in the most personal way?
Here are the Top Ten qualities required in a husband for my daughter:
- He must adore her without any limit whatsoever.
- He must be willing to joyously take a bullet for her and their children. Actually, take as many bullets as needed.
- He must be willing to help hide any dead bodies that she creates, knowing that she was fully justified in creating them.
- He must understand and be okay with the fact that I will kill him if he ever hurts her — if she doesn’t kill him first. In which case, she still has many friends and family remaining that will help her hide the body.
- He must allow Papaw (that’s me) to teach their children how and why to play the Blues and Rock ‘n Roll.
- He must be religiously acceptable. I’d prefer Non-Theist, but she’s Asatru, so I can go along with that. Other pagan strains of thought would be okay. Maybe Buddhism, too, though Buddhists are probably too peaceful to be a good fit for her brutal, violent animal nature.
- He must never speak a good word about George Bush. He cannot be a registered Republican, and he damn well better not ever, ever, ever admit to voting for a Republican. He can be a Libertarian or Democrat or Green, or, like me, a cynical Noneoftheabove.
- He must be willing to pay a vast herd of cattle in return for my permission to marry her. It’s okay if he gets the cattle to me one steak at a time.
- He must be at least willing to learn how to ride a motorcycle. He may ride a Harley, but he must not be a snot about it. He must be willing to swallow his pride and ride bitch behind her if circumstances call for it.
- He can secretly like rap music, but he cannot play any of it around me, nor may he rap in my presence. If he actually ever records a rap song, the marriage will be annulled and he will have no custody rights to the children.
I don’t see anything in my list that will by definition disqualify a Black man from marrying my daughter. Color of skin pales, if I may be allowed the pun, in comparison as an important factor.
Except for the slight chance of a potential problem with #10.
Which, like I said, I’m working on.