Thursday, May 15, 2008


I had a conversation with a friend. We were talking about politically correctness and racist jokes, things of that nature. He said something that I didn't think much of at the time, but later I began to mull over his comment and a flood of other related issues. This is what he said and what I thought.

(though I use quotation marks to denote what he said, don't hold me to these being his exact words)
"So, I told a racist joke and people get upset about it, whatever. But, my thinking is, is it more racist to tell a racist joke that's a stereotype, or to ignore the fact that there are different races and cultures, and that people are different all together?"

Ok, understand the gist? So this got me thinking, a lot. Because I think there are different levels, or, as I have come to understand them, stages of racism/prejudice. And I think that he hit on two of them with his comment. I started to work out what those stages are exactly, and this is what I cam up with.

Most basically (and ignorant-ly) there is bigoted racism. I hate such and such group because they're said group. Your stereotypical redneck would fall into this category. I feel that fewer and fewer people identify with this sentiment as generations pass.

Then there's the group that sees people as very different depending on which race they are a member of, and don't "dislike" them because of it, but are fairly prejudice because of these feelings. I think my parents' generation is a good exemplar of this. They don't necessarily think blacks, or latino(a)s, or asians, or whites are better or worse than anyone else, but they think that they are all very different because of their association with a group, and label them certain ways rather than considering them as individuals.

Then there's this group that I used to fall into that I will condescendingly refer to as "color blind." These are the people who insist that race doesn't matter, we're all the same, people are people, the US really is a "melting pot" and everything would be better if we could all just be alike and blend into one people. I see these as the people my friend was referring to as possibly being "more racist" than a person who tells a racist joke.

More evolved still (as I see it) is the group that identifies people as different because of their association with a particular culture rather than strictly race. Now, these do typically follow racial identification as well, but the culture is the important part to them. For example, performing whiteness is a skill that can be mastered by people of a variety of ethnic backgrounds. And even some white people cannot successfully achieve the desirable level of whiteness. Oprah is a pretty good example of this. These people understand that individuals have the right to be and act as whomever they choose, but there is a culture associated with races and ethnicities that should be "celebrated" and respected, not melted into a dominant one, and certainly not hated.

Finally, there is a category that I feel many people are unfamiliar with. This one I will call the nationalist. It is a person who shares many of the characteristics as the group immediately preceding this one: (s)he respects unique cultures and races, does not hold animosity towards any group, does not feel groups should mold into one, but takes such an amount of pride in his/her own culture that (s)he feels that deliberate steps should be taken to see to it that cultures maintain autonomy and separation from one another. Many people would identify the members of this group as fascists, which, of course, carries an extremely negative connotation. Perhaps for good reason.

But, unlike nearly all of my other posts, I am going to relatively reserve judgment and not assign value. I am interested to know what your thoughts are. What categories have I missed? Are these at all fair assessments of how people view race? What are your feelings regarding an individual category? I welcome your thoughts and feedback.

Me in front of the Chicago Theater in the city of the same name. I was oh so blessed to walk by and see Eddie Izzard's name on the marquee. I just so happened to be in Chi-town the same night his tour landed there, and so I happily paid the $65 for a third row ticket of what was to be a sold out show.


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