Monday, January 15, 2007
"True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring."
I was watching a Heat game last week and recoiled a bit at Jason Williams' nickname of White Chocolate. No one questions it by now but think for a second: how racist is that? A white person is good at an activity in which, traditionally, African-Americans have dominated, and that role in the game defines him more than anything else. What if an African-American were really good at finance or public speaking or conservative politics? (As many are.) Would it be okay to call a guy like that Chocolate Milk? I doubt that would be acceptable.
Then it occurred to me how petty and inconsequential Jason Williams' nickname is. When I think of what Martin Luther King accomplished and the real, institutionalized racism that people only a generation before me had to endure, the racial issues I examine don't matter at all. Oh, a washed-up comedian said the N-word? People used to say it on every street corner. Oh, elements of music are becoming minstrel showy? That term used to carry real weight and humiliation, not money.
Yes, racism is still alive and well. And yes, it's dangerous to idolize men the way America has Dr. King. Think for a second though about how the world has changed for the better in the past forty years. All the bullshit white people come up with on this holiday (insert any quotation by my stepdad today) seems worth it. There isn't much else I can say about King that wouldn't seem like a cliche, and that's probably a good measure of what he meant to this country and the world.
Martin Luther King- "I Have a Dream" (mp3)