Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Is it racism?

by Jean Purcell

Like any prejudice of extremes, racism hides easily within attractive, powerful, and privileged lives as much as anywhere. I learned this while growing up white in the South, and I saw this while teaching in upper New York state in a school with an all-white staff and multi-cultural student body.
      I think it's pretty well understood yet often covered over that"decent minded" and so-called "correct" folks can act as ugly and petty as anyone about anything, including their own private or self-unaware racist views.
     Subtle cues and clues include what I saw on the news recently: Caught on video at a social event, an influential Washington DC leader close to presidents for many decades was unaware that someone had him on video, recording. The man, in conversation with drink in hand, belittled a black business man running for the Republican nomination for the U.S. presidency. He got no push back from his hearers, either.
     When his comment, voice, and profile were put into the news, I saw and heard the insider, pleased-with-ourselves laughter of the group standing around him. And I shivered a bit at the suave overtones of prejudice that I came to recognize as a child in the South. It was repulsive to my parents and to many others, but everyone knew it was there, all around.
     The prominent man unaware that he was being recorded betrayed his own public mantras against racial prejudice when he "ran the black man down," as the saying goes.    
     Following recent headlines about harassment charges and the black candidate, some voters, regardless of political affiliation, have formed judgments; others withhold judgment. The way the story has unfolded, the mind cannot help wondering if that old devil racism is involved, although that may not be the case. Is private racism of the publicly "correct" as bad as public racism "in your face"?
     Truth usually wins out. Meanwhile, waiting for truth is uncomfortable. It is not always clear, until then, what lies behind any "running the man or woman down." We need to be watchful, including over ourselves, from  inside out, from private to public. 
Copyright (c)2011 Opinari Writers
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