Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Racism is not the primary cause of every black man's troubles. Now hold on to your seats, occasionally a black man finds himself in an awful predicament and it has absolutely nothing to do with the color of his skin. I am an idealist, so I choose to believe that ordinary black people apportion blame between themselves and the outside world in the same way as the rest of us, which is to say that they never accept as much blame as they should but they do routinely admit to character flaws that have real repercussions. I am not as sure about famous black people. Maybe it's just the ignorant and overly loud minority that colors my opinion, but it seems to me that every time any black celebrity hits his wife, drives drunk, screws himself in contract negotiations, tests positive for steroids, reveals himself to be a homophobe, or beats a dog to death race is claimed to be a factor in the individual's unfortunate circumstances. I am not saying that these unfortunate circumstances plague only black celebrities. Last time I checked Brittany Spears, Ty Cobb, Chris Benoit, the Coreys (Haim and Feldman), and Marv Albert were all white. The black celebrities are almost always, however, relieved of a little responsibility, at least in popular discourse, solely because they happen to be black. Racism is real, but it can not be assumed. It must be shown to be present, and it's impact must be judged on a case by case basis with a great deal of attention being paid to context. The full context of an individual's life and the incident in question must be taken into consideration. People should think before they throw around the accusation of racism. Unfortunately, it's just become way too easy for people to say that racist white people are to blame for fill in the blank. If Peyton Manning were in Michael Vick's shoes, it would be different. The white people are out to get all successful black men. Vick isn't a criminal, he's just a product of his culture. I keep wondering when the people who make these statements will realize that they are insulting black people, and eliminating in one breath the tremendous diversity present within the black community. Or when they will realize that racism isn't their own personal cross. Every black person has experienced racism, as has every Korean, every Latino, every Arab, every Muslim (Muslim doesn't the reverse)), and all Native Americans. And every 'white' person too. It might be called prejudice, or ethnic hatred, or just plain old hatred, but it's the same thing. All of us have experienced 'racism,' and none of us lives perpetually under it's shadow. Maybe the biggest victim of this dumbing down of racism is our understanding and appreciation of the horror of real racism.
I could keep going, but what's the point. I'll just end by summing up simply. Vick is a criminal. He participated in the execution of living things for thrills and cash. He would be headed to prison regardless of his color, and it is sickening to excuse any little bit of what he has done by pointing to the color of his skin. If you think that way, you are as much a criminal as Vick, and if you ask me you deserve some prison time too. Your victim isn't just a handful of dogs, after all, it's every black person who wants to be judged on his own merits and every person everywhere who is forced to live in the climate of fear and mistrust that you cultivate.

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