The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Friday, September 30, 2005

Racism

"What're your thoughs on what causes someone to deny they're a racist, but make statements like what Bennett says?"
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I think that most people define terms so that they, personally, look good.  Most people accept that racism is bad.  Most people also have some racist attitudes (I think).  So what happens is that their private definition of racism is something that excludes the attitudes of themselves and their friends.  Racism would be, by such definitions, hating black people.  "I don't hate black people, I just understand that they...aren't quite ready for the duties of democracy and civilization."  "I'm not sexist...I just believe that men and women have roles and they should stick to them."  "I'm not homophobic.  I'm not afraid of gay people.  I just believe they're sick."  You know the drill.
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I think that this kind of thinking is so completely natural for human beings.  Every group thinks that they have the corner on what is good and right and moral.  Whether it's male-female, black-white, gay-straight, or whatever--the comments are always there, the superiority complex always raises its head.
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I have a specific definition I use for "Race" as opposed, say, to "ethnicity" or "culture."  For the sake of simplicity (and understanding that it is over-simplistic), I'd say that you have three main racial groups--Caucasian, Asian, Negroid.  These are the primary colors of humanity, and you can make anything else out of blending and baking these.  YES THIS IS OVERLY SIMPLISTIC. YEP, YEP, YEP.  However, it makes sense of a lot of social phenomena.  Sure, members of two different ethnic groups can kill each other--but that's not the same thing.  Catholics and Protestants in Belfast could kill each other--that's ethnic and cultural, not racial.  Hispanics aren't a race.  They vary from Asian to African, with mixtures of everything else included.  Referencing back to my observations of sexuality in the movies, it is clear that, from an emotional perspective, whites consider Arabs   and light-skinned Hispanics to be "white" in the sense that white women being romantic with Antonio Banderas or Omar Shariff or Danny Thomas or Desi Arnaz causes no real problem.  Step a little further over to Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Wesley Snipes or Denzel Washington, and suddenly you have a problem.  So light-=skinned Hispanics and Arabs are kind of "exotic white people" but still within the group, in terms of emotional perception.
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I think that Bill Bennett said what a lot of people think.  Fine. Then have the courage to come out and say it, so that we know not to vote for you, so that we understand what you will do with the money in the public trust.  You have the right to your opinions, and we have the right to know who and what you really are, Bennetts of the world.  Come out of the closet.  Have the courage to defend your real positions, rather than hiding behind weasel words.  Deep, down inside, you don't think we're as good as you.  Fine.  Then show us your quality by starting with honesty.  Then at least we know who the enemy is.  An honorable enemy can be the next best thing to a friend.

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