Racism, Alive and Well in 2011

We find it easier to believe that our differences are more important than what we have in common. Bill Clinton, State of the Union Address, 28 January 1998

I’ve mentioned before that I try to avoid posting here on the subjects of politics and religion, but have fallen to the temptation within these pages on a few occasions. I probably will fail again in the future.  They are after all controversial and important aspects of many people’s lives. Facebook, with all its social networking, is the place where I usually get my occasional fix… of the political kind.

This past Tuesday in response to a Facebook status update, in which I alerted my Facebook friends about my latest post, Root’s Kunte Kinte, Fact or Fiction?, the proverbial race card was played. It was not my intent, the posting be racial in any fashion. I would have written it even if Alex Haley were a white man, but that’s the way things go within the open medium of ideas and opinion like Facebook. It could happen here too. A long-time friend in a short but succinct message used the “N” word and added his racist opinion. After some deliberation on the subject I decided to not delete it. But I did write the following reply with emphasis added.  (The names have been removed.)

_______ my old friend. Spoken like a true backwoods Floridian. Free speech keeps you in electronic ink, free thought keeps the rest of us from buying in to your ugly racism. If I didn’t know any better I’d say you were an uneducated redneck. But you’re definitely not. Nevertheless, thank you. We’re all refreshed and challenged by your point of view.

Later I received the following posting on Facebook in response.

Rick…I’m unfriending you now. You have the ability to delete comments like the one made by the waste of oxygen known as _______, but you chose not to. Your choice is to “thank him”? My choice to not see any more of your friend’s trash. Good luck.

What follows is my reply:

_______, Yes, I have the option of deleting _______’s message and, believe me,  gave *serious* consideration to doing so, thinking about it for nearly an hour. I decided instead that he had the right to his opinion and that I would leave it stand as a testament to the fact that racism still exists today. While I left his comment stand I did not do so without replying. In that reply I threw insult. I called his statement “ugly racism” and questioned his education and his “backwoods Floridian”, “redneck” views. My “thank you”, while it may not have come across as such to you, was meant to be taken with the utmost sarcastic tone. Like you and your views, which I’m sure we don’t always see eye-to-eye on, you have the right to voice them and I wouldn’t use the convenience of a delete function to take that right away. With _______, as with all my friends, I choose to agree to disagree, even if it’s revolves around the subjects of ugly racism to who the better presidential candidate is, to the — uglier–still — killing of the most innocent among us. This is partly why I can number among some of my closest friends those who possess wide and diverse backgrounds and opinions, far different from my own.

Facebook can be much more than a social gathering place. For some it is a forum to express our views and opinion from the funny to the absurd. How else does one tackle these important issues of the day? Do we bury them with the tap tap of a delete key, as if they don’t exist, or leave them in the open for discussion and debate? I’m sorry that my reply gave you the wrong impression and hope you would reconsider our friendship here on Facebook.

So, there you go. Just another day in the life of a Facebook instigator (me)! I didn’t post this to match my position against another’s but more so as an introduction to an issue that deserves consideration. The ugly utterance of nasty, racist remarks, I’m happy to say, is rare among my circle of friends and acquaintances. It doesn’t mean its rare among all our fellow citizens, whatever race, religion, or ethnicity.

We can help make the world safe for diversity. For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet.  We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future.  And we are all mortal. ~~ John F. Kennedy, Commencement Address at American University, June 10, 1963.

I’m pleased to add that my friend — who had unfriended me on Facebook — over this issue, did change his mind and we are friends once again. I hope you’ll leave your thoughts below. Here’s some food for thought.

  • Was my allowing the racist comment on my Facebook wall to remain, and not deleting it, wrong for me to do?
  • Is it okay to agree to disagree with those who we consider having extreme points of view?
  • Can we be friends with those we are diametrically opposed to on some of the weightier social and political issues of our times?  (Racism, abortion, political parties, gay rights, etc.)
  • Or should we just be friends with only those we see eye-to-eye on?
  • Can’t we all just get along?

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4 comments on “Racism, Alive and Well in 2011

  1. 1. Whatever you felt was right to do, you should have done.

    2. I haven’t touched on as explosive an issue as this but certainly always welcome opposing viewpoints as I would neutral remarks or words agreeing with my take.

    3. Some of my best friends are 180 degrees from me politically, with regard to religion, etc.

    4. We should all be able to treat each other with respect and dignity, even if we totally disagree with someone’s view.

  2. bonkasaurus says:

    Because I do a curvy girl blog, I get a lot of comments about how I am promoting obesity. I don’t delete them though because it is people’s opinion and my blog is a public place. Not to mention I like when it creates arguments. 🙂 It drives me crazy and it angers me but I correct mistakes that people point out and I encourage people to give me their true opinion. I would have left the racist comment.

    Have you noticed on almost every video on youtube, there is always 1 comment about something being racist, 1 comment about animal cruelty and 1 comment about child abuse? And it could all be on the same ketchup commercial that doesn’t even have animals, children or people in…

    People are crazy. (yup i said it, feel free to delete this comment if you get hate letters for it haha)

    -Bianca at http://theinbetweengirls.wordpress.com/

  3. Hi Rick, Again you are showing your intense courageousness…What is wrong with America is that people are afraid to speak truth. Words, written or spoken, are taken out of context or intent. This is reminiscent of Nazi Germany…

    I am against racism of course. But I am also against censuring. Perhaps only the beginning letter of an offensive word would keep the atmosphere calmer.

    Racism is learned. I am a case in point. I grew up in a Polish Community in Pittsburgh, PA. I rarely saw anyone who wasn’t Polish. So I was amazed when I saw the racism on the side of the family that I rarely saw. I thought the action performed was extreme and (sort of) funny against the person. A black man had visited this person and my relative gave him a glass of water. After he left, she actually boiled the glass! I happened to be there to see this act in person. Being a child I did not comment (at that time I was the invisible child and never spoke.)

    Another case: I never knew Hispanic people in Pittsburgh. When I came out to Los Angeles from Pittsburgh in 1975, I worked in the Dean’s Office at USC (Engineering.) I was helping my work-study student with the last name of Fernandez in filling out financial aid paperwork. When she said to check the box “minority” – yes- minority, I said “but you are not a minority!” She instructed me.

    Perhaps I was the most unaware person in existence, yet I think the illustrations prove the point that racism is learned.

    There is also the subject of “Polish Jokes”. I had to ask someone on my husband’s side to stop telling them around our child.

    I also agree with you that with some friends you have to “agree to disagree” and maintain a friendship not touching on certain subjects. Someone said you should ditch that friend…

    People are never all good or all bad – that is the nature of the Beast.

  4. Oh my! Guess you did sort of step into a wee pile of doo-doo there, didn’t you?

    Well, personally, I think you were correct in leaving the comment up -yes, to let others see how alive and flourishing racism still is, yet today! Shameful as that may be, it is the sad truth that it does exist and unfortunately, though many strides have been made in a forward direction. It does make many wonder, I’m sure, if it will ever be eradicated. But you know too, we do have this thing called “freedom of speech” that I suppose many would cite here as that being the racist’s right to post those thoughts, that opinion -albeit it certainly not very tactful to say things that are nasty, racist, biased, etc.

    Much as I may not appreciate someone’s comments that don’t jive exactly with my own thoughts and opinions, I dislike the aspect of censorship even more. Better to know the devil and where he stands than to not acknowledge his existence is my theory. I have no idea if that is a good theory or not, but it works okay for me in my little world. Just wanted to let you know, we may not always agree on everything either, but that doesn’t give me the right to slam you if we do disagree from time to time. In this instance though, I’m glad that you took the bull by the horns and explained your reasoning behind leaving the comment stand.

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