I recently learned that I'm a racist. And I'm the worst kind, because I'm not one of those skinhead, stars-and-bars-T-shirt-wearing racists you can see coming from a block away. I'm not even one of those guys who hides his racism from most people and only brings it out in the polling booth or behind the anonymity of the Internet. No, I'm a racist who, until very recently, didn't even know I was a racist.
All that yang I used to talk about being the only white kid growing up in the projects, attending mostly minority schools and being the only white guy on teams in high school and college was merely convenient (while also all true), a backstory to hide my inner David Duke. I always thought my racial stance was a mixture of insouciance and understanding. What did I know?
I suppose I should have gotten the first inkling during the O.J. Simpson trial. Then came R. Kelly, who, after a five-year legal delay, will finally go on trial next month. He videotaped himself having sex with, and then urinating on, a barely teenage girl. His defense? He's not sure that's him in the videotape.
Chris Rock does this hilarious bit where he answers Kelly. "Dude, that's YOU! That's your Soul Train Award on the nightstand!"
I'm sorry, but if someone comes along and tells you, "You're young, immensely talented, rich and not bad-looking; you can pretty much have your pick of any woman you want older than the age of 18," your response should not be, "I want the 13-year-old."
One guy I know gave me the old nudge-nudge, wink-wink. "What would you do if 13-year-olds kept throwing themselves at you?" he asked.
Well, in my case, they'd just bounce off. But if I were R. Kelly, younger and lighter on my feet, I'd dodge them incessantly, perhaps inquiring as to the whereabouts of their moms, aunts and much-older sisters.
My racist awakening has reached full-flower stage this year, what with the triple-threat opportunity presented by Barry Bonds, Pacman Jones and Michael Vick.
For example, I think Barry Bonds is a scum-sucking cheater who would have perhaps 100 fewer home runs had he not used steroids. Hundreds of millions of people watched Bonds become 50 percent bigger and stronger as he neared the age of 40, something that would be impossible were he not chemically enhanced. But to point that out is somehow racist.
It's also racist to hate on Jones, who gets arrested about once every four hours and has been involved in more shootings than Dirty Harry. I think he shouldn't be walking around with the rest of us, let alone be playing football, but that's probably because he has dreads, and I'm a racist.
The clincher came when the head of the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP said that it's racist to form a conclusion about Michael Vick and the dog-fighting charges before he gets his day in court. Yeah, that's certainly human nature: Wait until everything is over before forming an opinion. What sickened me almost as much as the charges against him was that several NFL players, past and present, including some big names, came to his defense. One said that it was simply part of the Southern black culture.
(As I write this, I'm waiting to hear if Vick copped a plea. If he didn't, he's even dumber than he looks and dumber than his overpriced attorney, Billy Martin--who has a tenuous grasp on the English language--sounds.)
A friend of mine, Sean Roebuck, said that when he was growing up in Rillito--a close-knit, African-American community up by Marana--it was like everyone had a mom on every street corner. So it was in the projects, where if you did or said something wrong, you were going to get smacked upside the head. It didn't matter whose mom it was; it was done with love and, in the long run, appreciated for its intent.
Where are those people now? When is somebody going to stand up and say that it's just as ridiculous and racist to defend somebody solely on the basis of race as it is to vilify somebody based only on skin color? When is somebody's mom going to smack Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton upside the head for stirring things up in the Duke lacrosse case and then not apologizing for having been so very wrong? When are we going to reach a point in our development where Barry Bonds' cheating, R. Kelly's perversion and Michael Vick's barbarity are viewed and judged as acts of individuals, rather than just another reason to draw racial lines?
I'm tired of hearing, "Well, that's just the way it is." How about we make it the way it should be? Let's make it about right and wrong, not white and black. Because me, I'm tired of being a racist.