Superman talks about Racism

Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage—the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors. Racism claims that the content of a man’s mind (not his cognitive apparatus, but its content) is inherited; that a man’s convictions, values, and character are determined before he is born, by physical factors beyond his control. This is the caveman’s version of the doctrine of innate ideas—or of inherited knowledge—which has been thoroughly refuted by philosophy and science. Racism is a doctrine of, by and for brutes.”
Ayn Rand

I have largely stayed away from the topic of race on my blog. I was inspired to take some notes when the whole Rosanne thing happened and I read some powerful, well thought-out posts on the subject. I felt the heat of the topic on my keyboard and I chose to let it simmer a bit. But now I am ready. I intend to discuss this volatile subject in a frank and honest manner without the intention of offending. I shouldn’t offend after all, because I do not consider myself a racist.

Despite the fact that I once called a man a Nigger. A moment that I have tried to distance myself from ever since.

I was in basic training in Fort Knox, KY for basic training in 1985. Of a 50 man platoon, I was just one of 8 “white” men. The rest was entirely African-American. As a naive Northerner, unaware of the remaining and prevalent racial tensions in the South, I had absolutely no issue with the numbers and expected no issues. I think it’s safe to say that I liked everyone. But the same can’t be said for all and the white guys were mercilessly made fun of and called names. Not by all but by enough. Some of it was pretty hateful. There were some physical altercations. I still managed to get along with most of my platoon. That included Spanky, my black bunkmate. We got along really well, joked about the black/white thing and even hung out while on leave.

We were on a merit system and were awarded points and given demerits for things such as bed-making skills, uniform, conduct and the state of your locker. I was slightly ahead of Spanky in points and for some unknown reason, I didn’t see it but another party did,  he trashed my locker immediately before an inspection. Presumably to gain points over me. Without time to fix it, the inspection occurred and I was given several demerits. I was fuming. Once the coast was clear we went at it. In the heat of anger, I blurted out “You F%@ing N@##%+”. The room got quiet, he stared at me in disbelief and I immediately dropped my shoulders, apologized and told him that “I was not that guy.” He never forgave me, and I have never forgiven myself. That wasn’t who I was, I had wanted to hurt him so badly that I went at him in the worst way. I still feel bad to this day…and I am still not that guy.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

I was raised in a town that could best be described as lower-middle class. Most of us were actually poor, myself included. We didn’t know it so we didn’t care. I was raised in a very nice family that was no better about containing “folksy” ethnic jokes than anyone else. My father and grandfather made the occasional joke about blacks but they weren’t cruel. One that stands out was about my Dad’s black co-worker “Smitty”. I knew Smitty and I liked him a lot. As the story goes, one day the lights went out at work and someone yelled out “Hey Smitty, smile so we can see!” Smitty laughed along with everyone else. It wasn’t any crueler than the other slurs of my time i.e., Polacks being dumb, Irish being drunks, Asians being good at math or Jews being cheap. It was just stereotyping, all of which of course had some basis but were never all-inclusive. None of this struck me as anything more than fodder and created no lasting prejudices in me. When I met my first black kid in school, for some reason there weren’t many African-Americans in my town, I was one of the first to say hi to him. He was a great kid who would later famously joke in Gym class when no-one would pass him the basketball “what am I, Black!” We all laughed our asses off. Everyone liked him after that. Why? Because he could make…and take… a joke.

When I moved out of my childhood town I entered a much more diverse world. While working and going to school I met, and often partied with, people from all backgrounds. I had friends who ranged from Rastafarian to Muslim and everything in between. If I ever saw a difference in them, it was cultural. That only inspired cultural curiosity and a desire to get to know them better. My friends were clearly the same way because I don’t remember anyone pulling me away from the others because we were “better” than anyone.

The more I think about it, the more I know how oblivious I was to racism. My good friend in my Sophomore year Jon Silverman once said something that I will never forget. We were hanging out and he asked me if it bothered me that he was Jewish. I looked at him funny and said, “that wasn’t on your application to be my friend.” We laughed and then he told me that he had lost friends over that. I could not then, and still cannot, wrap my head around that. We’re still friends today.

As an adult, I now know that Racism has been a hot-button issue in this country for a long time, my minimal exposure to it notwithstanding.  With the exception of my unfortunate incident in the military, I didn’t give it much room to breathe in my little corner of the world. I made amends by vowing to never stoop so low again. Yet racism permeates almost every aspect of our society and a real dialogue on this issue seems completely inescapable. Hate crimes based on skin color, religion, and country of origin are on the rise. Most people reject it as much as I, some have embraced it and have run with the ball, yet still, others rely on it to play identity politics and recruit votes. As a society, we have simply not progressed, possibly have even regressed to the days of the Watts riots and the Boston Busing crisis, in this area and I fear for our future.

 

 


If we don’t soon realize that there is only one race…the human race, we are doomed and are not worthy of calling ourselves an advanced, compassionate nation.

tomorrow…a deeper look

24 thoughts on “Superman talks about Racism”

  1. Absolutely amazing post and great topic! In my opinion, there is way too much racism in the world today. I mean it is 2018 and so many are acting like it is 1918! I have no room in my life or mind for racism. I treat all people the same no matter their color, sexual preference, religious following or anything else! We are all human beings are deserve to be treated as such! I am glad you wrote about this sad issue among us!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I just read your post from today and it was amazing. I hope part of my comment does not trouble anyone and I am so sorry if it does. Just curious, do you already follow my site? If you do not, it would honor me if you check it out! I do aim to encourage and inspire others through my words and life experiences.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. I do follow your post Alyssa. For some reason it got changed but I am following you again. I do enjoy your writing and. Sorry for the late response but your last comments went to my spam folder. Thank you for your feedback and support. I welcome all input and I never have a problem with someone not agreeing with me. Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh my goodness no worries at all! It seems like WordPress has been doing some very crazy things! One of my other fellow blogger friends was having some bizarre issues as well! It makes me so happy that you are not only following my site, but also enjoy my writing! I hope you have a nice evening and lovely Thursday!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great topic, and deftly handled, my good man. If I may…

    I think we’re heading in the right direction on this stuff, but we still have a long way to go. The incidents you refer to in Watts and Boston are only a few decades ago. In the scheme of things, that’s almost no time at all. When we go back 100 and 200 years, or more, there wasn’t even a word for this type of discrimination, it simply (to many, to most) was the truth of things. I think we’ve moved the needle in the last 50 years, but it might not look like it for those of us living through these times.

    But we can’t get complacent. There is much more to do in the interest of human equality, of which institutionalized racism plays a big part.

    Back at ya, anecdotally, I remember when I was in grade school I had a Filipino friend with dark skin and curly hair. I never thought of him as brown or different, but my dad would call him “that black kid” Tommy brings around. Nothing but a memory, that story is, but I thought I’d share.

    More recently, my delivery driver was riding around with our newer delivery driver (a black man), just after a delivery, and someone cut my (white) delivery driver off in traffic. He yelled to that other driver (a middle-aged white woman) “you N****r!” for no other reason than it blurted out. He felt TERRIBLE about it, but there it was. Not the first time I’ve heard it in this area; it is a random curse word now.

    They hugged about it the next day and all is well between them, but for that moment there was a divide, a divide related to race and the casual use of a racial slur in normal conversation.

    Again, just a story. Or maybe there are lessons to be learned from both. You certainly are teaching lessons with your posts, and I’m looking forward to the follow up, Bill. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I fear that we “as a collective nation” are already not worthy of calling ourselves advanced and compassionate. One would hope that technological advances would be used to heal old wounds, and help everyone learn from past mistakes, unfortunately…the great tool of the internet and social media did not come with instructions, or maybe some are too lazy to learn them. For example, when you sign into facebook, what percent of posts are from people saying I am thankful, versus, the percent that are hating or complaining. The result for the those of us who are tired of seeing the negative comments, is to turn away or avoid facebook. I am so proud to call you my friend because you didn’t turn away from the roseanne issue. You took a break let it cool…and you are back now TALKING about it…much love superman

    Liked by 4 people

  4. So incredible well written, Billy. I believe you handled the topic with a deftness that truly exemplifies your skill in writing and your sensitivity to real matters.

    Liked by 5 people

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