Saturday, July 24, 2010

Racism is Dead in the United States? Coulter Must Have Received the Only Memo

In a recent interview on Hannity, Ann Coulter declared racism doesn't exist in America anymore (see the interview here: http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/201007210089). I am not sure how or where she got this information, but I can assure you all, she is misinformed. This is as almost as laughable as the White House declaring the media to blame for the recent fiascos concerning race in our country, and almost as funny as the CNN reporters calling for Internet police to monitor blogging.

I can assure you dear readers, racism is alive and well in our country. It has been and will remain to be a topic of dissension within our society. Racism is the white elephant in the room everywhere. In addition to religion, politics and sex, race and racism is just a taboo topic of casual conversation. Even Obama himself chooses, generally, to ignore issues of race. Well, unless there is a teachable moment to be found. And over the past two weeks, teachable moments are abundant.

First, we hear the NAACP is proclaiming elements of the Tea Party Movement to be racist in nature. Then we see the video of Shirley Sherrod, from the Georgia USDA, speaking to the NAACP meeting about racism, skillfully edited to be out of context. Sherrod is forced to resign, after which the full video is seen, then asked to be rehired. Read those lines again if you didn't follow those convoluted actions. Now we have the White House claiming the media is responsible for igniting this firestorm against one woman, and therefore, against blacks in authority positions. Seriously, those articles are out there, and I have been reading.

A sense of entitlement belabors all classes within our society. This is a feeling in society that transcends race, class, creed, religion…you get the picture. My point is that we all have a sense of entitlement when it comes to feeling in line with a particular value or group. The way we choose to express the sentiment of entitlement is where it all gets blurry. Let me explain. Some people (cough…liberals...cough, cough) spend a lot of time trying to maintain the fa├žade of equality and justice for all. This can be in the form of simply framing every statement with "I am not a racist, but…," or a qualifying statement like "I have [insert appropriate ethnicity] friends." If framing isn't your cup of tea, you can always be one of those who fight for all causes involving the weak, unjustly persecuted members of society. You know who I am talking about, those that picket and don't know why, or rather, do so hypocritically. An example might be the peaceful protestors on the campus of my alma mater who, while protesting the upcoming Dixie Day to be held by a fraternity, held signs saying, "Go Home Rednecks." Oh the hypocrisy.

There will never be a world where racism does not exist. ALL PERSONS ON THIS PLANET HARBOR SOME PREJUDICE. I would be willing to bet 99.9% of adults in this country have had a racist thought. I am not saying this is okay; it is just the way the world turns. As Walter Lippmann pointed out in his 1922 work Public Opinion, stereotypes are durable and erroneous. These stereotypes in society form the basis of these types of public opinions and private thoughts. That said, it is unfortunate there are so many stereotypes in this society we believe in, if for no other reason, because it is what we learn and hear, from a variety of sources, is the right way to think or behave towards others. Unfortunate, but it is what it is. No more or no less. I felt tempted to type a qualifying statement here about how again, I am not saying this is okay, but I refuse the need to justify stating the obvious. Racism is here. Period. Not leaving. Period.

The most serious crime in all of these activities, in my view, is that above and beyond the problems facing our country where race is concerned, it should NEVER be acceptable to use race and racism to gain the upper hand politically, or to prove your political point of view. Here is an example. As a member of the academy, and a teacher of mass media, 2008 was a great year to introduce students to the theories of mass communication. The election coverage provided excellent fodder for classroom discussion. Over the course of the fall semester, I was accused twice of being a racist, simply because I did not agree with Obama on matters of policy. It didn't matter that I explained I voted on matters of policy and chose to be a critically informed voter. I have voted for Republicans, Democrats and Independents in a variety of elections. I do not fundamentally agree with pulling the lever for a straight party line vote under any circumstance. Case in point: Pulling the lever for the Democrats as a whole in South Carolina might put Alvin Greene into national office. And no, I don't dislike him because he is black, but because he was accused of a felony, and might be making decisions in the United States Senate which could potentially affect me.

The NAACP has been pushing a political agenda for quite some time. All major mainstream news channels push a specific political agenda, even when they claim objectivity. But playing the race card, no matter who you are or what organization you are, to gain political momentum is just wrong. To guilt someone into voting a certain way is wrong. The Justice Department disagrees that voter intimidation is wrong, at least this was the message I got when they chose not to prosecute the Black Panthers. I can assure you if right now Tea Party members stood outside voter registration for these primaries, wielding weapons, we would never hear the end of it.

Ms. Coulter, I assure you racism is alive and well. Right now in our society racism is more than just abuse of the minority. Racism is being wrongly used to abuse everyone with a vested interest in the political happenings of today.