There's a trend that seems to be spreading like a wildfire. No…..it's not a style of dancing or a fashion trend. It's a behavior that has grown over the past couple of decades. I'm speaking about race relations and the effect it has on our culture. Many would like to believe that this is a United States thing, but it is actually happening all over the world.
From as far back as I can remember there has been stigma towards darker skin (even amongst the people of colour). I have written about this before. I have talked about this before. How racism is alive and well even though many would like to pretend that prejudice does not exist. I watch many people - white, black, and all the shades between say and do racist acts every day and honestly sleep at night thinking that racism is someone else's problem.
I've said it before and I'll say it again……peace, harmony, goodwill and justice begin with each of us. Only we can make a real change in our lives. This applies to every aspect of our lives. If you are an alcoholic or drug addict, if you are a public figuer, or if you are just an innocent bystander. This is the key to making all our lives right.
It seems like every other day I am reading some article about some horrible person spewing hateful words or ideas about someone of another race or hue. L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling, Rancher Cliven Bundy, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, Paula Deen, Miami Dolphin's Richie Incognito, even an entire Super PAC in Kentucky against Mitch McConnell's wife. Countless others have grabbed headlines over the past couple of years for their ignorance and bigotry. And who could forget the career ending statements that Mel Gibson made about Jewish people? But this is not limited to our caucasian brothers and sisters. In a black on black racist comment, rapper 50 Cent said back in 2006 that Oprah's show was for old white women. Louis Farrakhan for many years has made many anti-semitic statements in the press. And I'm sure the folks at Toshiba Japan didn't think twice when they released the racist gem of a commercial shown below.
But how do these things get said or released without anyone thinking twice about what they are about to do? Well…..racism and racist attitudes are taught and tolerated. And this applies not only to racism but homophobia and trans-phobia as well.
Recently, RuPaul's Drag Race made an apology to the transsexual community by announcing that it would stop using "she-male". You would have thought that the world had come to an end. Gay men and drag queens were up in arms because their rights to use terms that some transsexuals found offensive were in question. So, it's okay to use the terms "tranny" or "she male" if we are gay or drag queens. You know…..just like how black people use "the n-word" as a term of endearment for each other. We are taking ownership of those terms and making them our own. Yes, because we as gay people are living in the wrong bodies.
When the Donald Sterling story first broke, it occurred to me as I read a sea of blogs and posts about how "political correctness" had gone overboard that this was a deeper issue than what everyone had been talking about. Even famous transsexuals like punk legend Jane County went off saying that it was ridiculous for us to be policing words of drag performers. I read an interesting article with my good friend Lady Bunny talking about the evolution of political correctness and drag. And although I have watcedh my share of drag shows and late night club entertainment, I have never really subscribed to the type of humor that attacks others or makes fun of someone because of their race or sexual preference.
Now don't get me wrong. I have laughed at plenty of politically incorrect jokes. I've even told some myself with close friends. But like Uncle Ben said in "Spiderman", "With great power comes great responsibility." If you have a huge platform such as a TV show I feel that you have to be more responsible with your content.
My take on this was that if you allow one idiot to say whatever he wants then you have to let all the idiots say what they want. There is no "some people can use this word and others can't".
So when I watched last weekend's Saturday Night Live and writer Leslie Jones made a cameo on the SNL News and did an editorial which contained many jokes about "slave-breeding" and the term "mandingo", I was a little uncomfortable. But when I read what she tweeted in defense of her skit I became angry. With the news of the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls who have been announced to be sold as child brides it seemed very irresponsible on the show's part to even let this skit air at all.
With all the hate speech that is flying around, it seems unfathomable that anyone would have the nerve to go on such a public format sas television or even the internet and say such hateful things. Not that we can stop people from being racist or having racist thoughts, but there was a time when no one would even dream of saying such horrible things publiclyl. But with the ability to hide behind our keyboards we can say and write whatever we want.
This still does not explain folks like Cliven Bundy talking so candidly about how he feels that the negro was much happier when he was a slave. The negro had a skill when he was picking cotton. Well, that's where this trend comes in.
It's my theory that in the U.S. since the O.J. verdict race relations have changed. The 90s brought the rise of Hip Hop Culture into the mainstream along with the new and improved gay lifestyle. Public Enemy and Ice-T sparked senate hearings with their music while k.d. lang posed on the cover of Vanity Fair with Supermodel Cindy Crawford. The country was changing very quickly and this verdict drew a strong line in the sand. Most believed that O.J. killed his wife and her friend. The question was "do you believe he should go to jail or should he get off because of all the injustices that black people had endured for years". That was the real situation. This polarized race relations forever. The Rodney King beating set the whole scenario up and many folks of color sided with the idea that this was pay back to "whitey". Neither side ever looked at each other the same again. I even broke up with a Puerto Rican boyfriend that was downright overjoyed because O.J. got off on a technicality.
So, by the time Obama got elected this sense of entitled racism had festered into Fox News' Tea Party and the uncontrollable "Party Of No", The Republicans. Such blatant racism that it has almost become the norm to see and watch them set out to do anything to discredit our first Black President of America. There used to be a time when there was a certain respect for the man in the oval office. Never have I seen such hatred for the leader of the U.S. in my life (and I've watched Nixon and both Bushs in office).
But the black and white fact of this page of history is that racism is at an all time high. I mean how racist can you be to be Jewish, having an affair with a mixed raced girl, owning a NBA team and loathing the very people who are making you a rich man? It makes me think of my days of being single in Manhattan during the late 90s early 2000s and going to the Westside Club in Chelsea. I would hook up with these circuit party muscle gym boys who would never be seen out in public with a black boy like me, but loved to bottom for the mandingo in the darkness of a bathhouse.
I even went home with someone back when I lived in Florida who picked me up in a bar and we had an amazing night together. But when I woke up it was another story. The reality that he was really drunk and that he was raised a racist set in. He informed me that I needed to get out. "But aren't you gonna take me home" I said since I don't drive. "I don't care how you get home…..you just need to get out of my house, nigger!" Well, the next thing I remember is his roommate breaking up the naked fist fight that followed.
I bring this all up to give examples of how racism is grown and taught to us from childhood. I grew up with a grandmother who hated white people, but I am married to a white man. I lived in a predominantly black neighborhood, but I yearned to live in a diverse city. It was not enough to just have friends of different races and beliefs at school. I wanted a place where everyone could live and learn from each other.
So, if we could just stop and take a good look at ourselves and how we are helping stop racism or perpetuating stereotypes maybe we could make some progress in ending racism.
Last year when I called out a drag performer for doing blackface during Pride week, another performer was trying to defend her and actually said "Don't you think by causing this fuss that you are sending the message that what she did is wrong?" She along with many people on the scene felt that I was wrong for even saying anything at all, like I was causing trouble for questioning their way of life. They didn't even see how this could be offensive, that doing blackface was not racist in anyway at all. (sounds familiar?)
Like when black people get upset when some young white suburban kid says "nigger" or even when someone thinks it's OK to use "chink" or "spic" as a way to describe an Asian or Latino person. Throwing these terms around teaches others that it is OK to minimize a race or culture down to a slur.
If no one says anything, then the cycle continues. Comedians like Andrew "Dice" Clay and Lisa Lampanelli (left) made careers out of joking about races and sexual preferences. Shows like "Family Guy" and "South Park" have helped desensitize people about stereotypes. Smart writing in entertainment like "All In The Family" and "The Colbert Report" which actually showed the effects of racism and that kind of thinking are somehow too sophisticated for some audiences. So, how do we fix a problem when many don't even realize that there is a problem?
I may be wrong, but most of the problems in our world stem from racism, sexism and homophobia. Instead of us learning from each other and enjoying diversity, we are taught from an early age that there are differences between everyone, that someone is always better than someone else. It can take years to unlearn racism, but if we could imagine ourselves in someone else's shoes we might realize that we are more the same than we might have thought.