Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Racist Rehab

Remember back when acoholics were drunks and when someone did something that indicated they might need some help with an alcohol problem, there was always the big denial. They would say something like, "I don't really have a problem with alcohol. I like to have a few drinks. Have some fun. I got out of control, but I'm not really an alcoholic." These days we have the complete opposite when it comes to openness about alcohol problems. In this age of celebrity rehab clinics, Oprah and the public emotional confessional, the first thing a public figure is ready to admit when they are busted doing anything embarrassing or wrong or even criminal is that they have a problem with alcohol and/or drugs. And they can at least unload some of the responsibility for what they did on their dependence problem. Then they fly into rehab and out of the public eye for awhile. It's almost a cliche at this point, especially after the Mark Foley scandal and several others.

Too bad we're not at that point of openness about racism and other forms of intolerance such as anti-semitism. One of the first things someone who does or says something racist is allowed to get away with is a denial that they are a racist or anti-semite. Mel Gibson said it after his drunken anti-semetic tirade. And now actor Michael Richards is saying that he is not racist after his public tirade at a comedy club. And he doesn't have alcohol or drugs to lay part of the blame on.

Now I get what Richards is saying about free associating and his pushing the envelop with is comedy. And maybe he tried to go somewhere with his routine and it just didn't work and he couldn't work his way out of it. I can't see into his or anyone's heart to tell you whether they are a racist or not. But I can hear what they say and see how they act and I can get a pretty good idea from it. And maybe if you are free associating and pushing the envelop, or driving drunk down PCH and what spews out of your mouth in a moment of stress is a diatribe of hate speech, maybe you could consider the possibility that you might have a problem with race or anti-semitism. Just maybe this is something you ought to look at.

The odd thing is that I started this post this morning, but didn't finish before I was supposed to go sailing with a friend, so I saved it. When I got back I had an email message from someone railing on me and calling me a racist for something I wrote almost a year ago about, about the case of Corey Maye. And the weird thing about it was that she was calling me a racist and my blog racist for alleging racism in the Maye case. It's come to the point in this country where if you dare point out that racism exists, or point to a case of racism, someone will say that you are racist for seeing it. The country is in such denial about race, they simply refuse to allow racism exists anymore.

I'm not one of these people who sees racism in everything. Far from it. But I'm not blind either. And unless I missed it when America reached that Martin Luther King I have a dream speech utopia where children, white and black, protestant and catholic are walking hand in hand and singing to the words of the Negro spirtual, free at last...well, you get the point. Some racism still exists in this country. Maybe we're just supposed to shut up about it and ignore it. Be a part of the denial.

If you're listening closely to Richards, and I haven't heard anyone else mention it yet, he calls the persons he was yelling at, "Afro-American". He's about a generation behind in his PC nomenclature and maybe that's part of the problem. Maybe we can come to a point in recognizing racial problems where we can see it, like alcohol and drug problems, as an illness. And someone doesn't have to be a bad person, and maybe they are someone who doesn't want to live with and express hate, but need help in order to rid themselves of it. Maybe we need a kind of racist rehab and that Oprah confessional kind of openness so that people can admit to it and get help with it.

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