Vail Daily column: Race talks still going nowhere
I hate to say I told you so, but remember back in December when I suggested that an open and honest exchange of views about race in America was all but impossible?
Recently, Univision host Rodner Figueroa was fired after comparing first lady Michelle Obama to the cast of the “Planet of the Apes.” A few years ago, CNN anchor Rick Sanchez was fired after making comments suggesting Jews control the media. And thanks to his alcohol-fueled, anti-Semitic rants, former A-list actor Mel Gibson went from Hollywood royalty to Australian pariah. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences.
And yet, I am still waiting for the consequences (someplace other than Twitter) for Azealia Banks’ recent comments in an interview with Playboy magazine where she shared how she feels about America: “I hate everything about this country. Like, I hate fat white Americans.” Even if you do not subscribe to Playboy you may have seen feeble commentaries recently about the incendiary cover interview with Internet troll and rapper Banks. In addition to the blatant racism in the above quote, she also displayed staggering ignorance with gems like, “Y’all … still owe me reparations. … You got handed down your grandfather’s estate and you got to keep your grandmother’s diamonds and pearls …”
Or perhaps you watched in January when once again rapper Kanye West mounted the stage at the Grammy Awards show to express his displeasure that the award winner was not Beyonce. While he did not seize the microphone from Beck, winner of Album of the Year, as he did to Taylor Swift in 2009, he did complain that Beck was not deserving of the award.
It is not just rappers cultivating bad-boy images making hateful remarks. In the pages of The Atlantic, writer Ta-Nehisi Coates refers to America as “a congenitally racist country, erected upon the plunder of life, liberty, labor and land.”
Despite all this, the current racial brouhaha in the media is not directed at West or Banks but involves Starbucks. Was Starbucks guilty of discriminatory hiring practices? No. Were they caught denying service to black patrons? No. Starbucks’ crime was encouraging a conversation about race. Americans were urged by leaders such as Attorney General Eric Holder to discuss race, but when Starbucks tried no one was buying it.
In addition to a thick vein of anti-white anger, the black community seems bound by an omerta that would make the Corleones proud. Anyone who dares break the code, such as Charles Barkley or Kendrick Lamar, is quickly condemned. How many stay silent for fear of the same backlash? Actress, model and writer Jewel Allison admitted as much in an op-ed in The Washington Post where she addressed Bill Cosby’s sexual assault of her in the late 1980s. When women first began coming forward with accusations against Cosby, many of them white, Allison discussed the allegations with other black women without indicating that Cosby had also assaulted her. The consensus was that the white women were lying. Allison points out, “As I debated whether to come forward, I struggled with where my allegiances should lie — with the women who were sexually victimized or with black America, which had been systemically victimized. … Admitting that Cosby is a rapist would feel like giving in to white America’s age-old stereotypes about black men.” Allison decided she would rather hide the crime of a black man than give whites the satisfaction of bringing him to justice.
In response to a column by Butch Mazzuca, Wayne Hare asks in his March 13 letter to the editor, “What could anybody who has made a conscious decision to live in one of the most exclusive, most white, most non-cultural places on earth, whose children know no black children, possibly have to add to the tortured national conversation on race that would be enlightening or productive?” Hare’s comment contains a stunning number of insulting assumptions in one sentence. Most people who choose to live here do so for the white snow, not the white people. “Non-cultural?” Has he ever been here? More to the point, Hare does not clarify who is a valid participant in a conversation about race, but apparently living in Eagle County is a disqualifier.
Yes there are racist, bigoted white Americans. You cannot outlaw ignorance. But mainstream white America repudiates those beliefs and behaviors and punishes them accordingly. While the racist antics of the SAE fraternity at the University of Oklahoma were repugnant, their rapid expulsion from the school is evidence of white condemnation for overt racism. Decent people do not accept indecent behavior. Shouldn’t that go for blacks as well? When the offensive antics and comments of entertainers such as Banks and West are condemned, when blacks accept at least some responsibility for the problems that beset their community and when whites are not blamed and silenced then maybe we can have a conversation. Until then, I told you so.
Claire Noble is the author of “State-Sponsored Sex and Other Tales of International Misadventure.” She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @thehkhousewife.
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