Thursday, September 01, 2005

Ah, Here We Go Yet Again...Racism

Just when I think I'm out, they drag me back in.

Hey, I've been called out by Tony Pierce. I suppose I should be thrilled. The honor should probably get this blog some hits. Instead of having three readers, maybe I could have, like, four! Or even five if I really dream big. Nah, five might be getting carried away. I want to remain grounded.

Unfortunately, Pierce has labeled me, um, racially insensitive.

Ouch. That's harsh.

And why has Pierce made such an accusation?

Well, as far as I can tell, it's because I'm white. And I said some things that didn't fit into his preconceived notions of white/black relations. Apparently, I said some things he didn't agree with, didn't want to hear, or that were possibly too close to the truth for him to care to admit.

So, naturally, Pierce did what many others do because it's so cheap and easy: He began tossing out the r-word.

But of course he did. It's sooooo friggin' easy.

Ah, yes. Racists. Racism. Here we go yet again.

It all started because of the captions to these two photos.




Pierce took exception to the fact that the top caption describes the black "young man" as looting, while the bottom caption says the white couple found their goods.

This, to Pierce and others, is an outrage; it's journalism making a concerted effort to enforce negative stereotypes.

I would agree that this is dumb journalism, careless journalism, but the thing is, from what I can gather, AP and AFP are two separate news agencies, one located here in America, the other in France. Yes, different continents. The individuals making these captions likely had no connection to each other, or the other's work. Hell, I'm guessing they don't even know the other exists.

Yet in Pierce's mind there are newsrooms where big, bad, evil white men have conversations in secretive, hushed tones where the topic of ways to further keep down the black man is thoroughly and frantically discussed. Yup, as the worst natural disaster in American history was unfolding, newsrooms everywhere were not interested in getting all the stories and best photos and every angle, but rather, they were discussing a photo of a black kid and how it was a golden opportunity for whitey to keep the black man down.

Ah, isn't that nice? If I was someone who actually gave a shit, as a white man, I'd be offended. Fortunately, I don't care. That's my motto, in fact: Nothing matters.

But who's driven by racial anger here?

Now, first things first, when I initially saw the top photo I asked myself, "Is that even a black person?" So I clicked on it to see an enlarged version. It was still difficult to tell. So I neared the computer screen. I squinted. I shifted to the side to make sure the sunlight came through the window in just the right way. I minimized the porn.

And, lo and behold, behind the dark, deep shadows that almost make it impossible to tell, it was a black face.

So thank you to Pierce and the others for pointing that out. I mean, had it not been pointed out, I may have actually read that caption without even noticing that a black person was involved.

Man, disaster diverted. Whew. God forbid I see just a person, and not a black person.

I guess I don't look at the color of a person's skin as hard as Pierce.

Anyway, I suggested that maybe the reason that a black person was described as "looting" while the white people were described as "finding" was because - oh, I don't know - ALMOST EVERY FUCKIN' TV SHOT OF THE LOOTING WAS OF BLACKS!

Hmm, do you think that might be it?

Look, I'm not saying there were no white looters. Im not saying blacks were looting because they're black. (It has a lot more to do with being utterly poor, and being so for a long, long time, though that has nothing to do with the wastes-of-life who are engaging in acts such as shooting at helicopters and hijacking buses carrying supplies to elderly homes. I'll see those fuckers in hell.)

All I'm saying is that it is what it is.

OK?

Black people, by and large, are doing the looting. Don't kid yourself. You can tell yourself this isn't the case, but you'd be lying.

So don't be shocked and appalled when some lackey in a newsroom whose main job is to come up with short, lame captions describes a black person as looting.

Um, newsflash: that's what, by and large, was happening.

Hell, I'd suggest that the white couple in the second photo really did "find" their goods. I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that the couple didn't rob a Wal-Mart for DVD players and guns. I'm going to guess that their home was fucked, they left, needed to "find" food, and went out and "found" it.

I'm also going to guess that the lackey in the newsroom made the same assumption.

Futhermore, I'm going to guess that when the other lackey saw the photo of the black kid with a bag over his shoulder he took a quick look at the surely countless TV monitors around his newsroom and saw black people rampaging through Foot Locker to grab as many Air Jordans as possible.

Is it right to make such an assumption? No.

But again, it is what it is.

Don't be afraid of the truth.

And more importantly, don't twist it to snugly and comfortbaly fit into your worldview.

And that's the problem with people like Pierce who hide behind their fraudulent personas of the angry black man eager to lash out at the evil white man, and even more eager to brandish people as racists. He'd rather ignore the truth and see only what he wants to see. A city is possibly gone forever, many are dead, the immediate future is horribly bleek, and Pierce's answer is...? Well, he rants about how two newsroom lackeys on separate continents are part of a massive conspiracy on the part of the media to portray blacks only in a negative light.

Oh, yeah, I'm not kidding. It gets better:

UC looks at the world based on how what he sees through the media. when the media is fucked up then UCs perspective is fucked up.


Pierce suggests that my problem is that I only see what the media wants me to see. Essentially, he suggests that I've been brainwashed.

Now, I find this especially amazing considering I choose to get my news from varying sources that I find to be wide-ranging and unbiased. That, and most of the news I get is sports. Hell, most of the news I receive is from bloggers like Pierce himself. I don't even waste my time with Yahoo or the AP or FoxNews or any of the like.

Pierce also suggests makes this odd assertion...

but even more recently we have seen the looting of pension funds by white people at Enron, and the looting of our future by the record-breaking deficit spending practices of more white people at the white house. the difference is the media doesnt cover it that way so you dont see it that way.

What? What the fuck is he talking about? The blatant thievery of Enron was plastered all over the news. Everywhere! And all you have to do is open a newspaper or magazine or scan the internet to find countless - countless -news outlets that are highly critical of the White House.

Again, this is Pierce seeing what he wants to see...or not seeing what he doesn't want to see. Apparently, he doesn't want to accept that an asshole like Kenneth Lay is raked over the coals as much as the assholes stealing Chevys and X-boxes down in New Orleans. Nope, it doesn't fit into his preconceived notions.

I guess to the angry black man, whatever answer is easiest is the answer to run with. Yup, when in doubt blame the media and quickly label anyone who dares say anything critical of blacks as being racist. God forbid anyone express an opinion, particularly one that might hit a little too close to home.

(Isn't this the very definition of close-mindedness?)

Whatever.

That's so cheap. That's so easy.

And it's sad. Ignorant, too.

And that's the bigger problem here, the real problem: the lack of accountabilty by African-Americans.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking: "Great, a white dude is going to pontificate on the problems of blacks."

Well, listen, baby, the Unknown Column is here to help.

Far be it for me to tell anyone how to conduct themsleves, but the Unknown Column is all about helping others out if possible. And I'd like to make a suggestion that people like Pierce (i.e., the angry black man convinced whites racist fucks are everywhere) take a look in the mirror. Also, the Unknown Column has a real problem with incessant bitching, especially when it lacks merit. It hurts my brain. This is why I may never get married.

It's amazing that an intelligent guy like Pierce would rather blame the evil white media than actually take the time to look at what his people are doing - to themselves. (He used the phrase "my people", so I'm running with it.)

And this only a microcosm of society in general.

This is the same reason that blacks don't seem eager to talk about the utter lack of stable family units among the African-American population.

They're not eager to discuss the over-abundance of broken homes.

Or mothers with several kids by different fathers.

Or deadbeat dads.

Or rampant drug use.

Or how the phrase "my baby's mama" is tossed around as a joke.

Or the crappy school systems, which can't all be blamed on lack of funding. Try blaming the parents. Hell, I heard someone mention how the hardest hit areas of New Orleans are mainly black because of "white flight". Well, why shouldn't whites leave when the school systems are full of thugs with guns? Is this wrong? Can you blame them? My friend teaches in the inner city here in Chicago and was told upon accepting the job that she should wear shoes that are "comfortable for running". You know, in case something goes down. If I have kids in an area like this, I'm hightailing it out of there, too. Go ahead and label it as "white flight" if you want. But I'm gone, baby.

Or teenagers having babies.

No, Pierce doesn't discuss any of that. He blames a media conspriracy. And then when a white dude such as myself suggests that perhaps maybe, just maybe, there is some blame fo go around for blacks themsleves, he pulls out his trump card: YOU'RE A RACIST!

It's fuckin' laughable, really.

Pathetic.

Predicatble.

Counterproductive.

But Pierce is far from alone. Just look at the world of sports for recent examples of the exact same tendency to rabidly cry wolf:

1) Jermaine O'Neal and others suggested that the NBA was racist for adding an age limit. They said it was designed to keep young, black men from getting into the league and making money.

So what happend?

Shortly after, the new labor deal revealed that NBA rosters were expanded by three players, meaning instead of a handful of predominantly black kids getting into the league before the age of 20 there will be 90 predominantly black guys in the league. (30 teams x three extra players each.)

So what was the bitching about? Nothing.

2) When Steve Nash won the NBA MVP award, there were people up in arms who suggested that Nash was selected ahead of Shaq because he's white.

So what happened?

Someone took the time to poll the voters. It turned out that among the minority voters Nash had won, while among the white voters Shaq had won.

So what was the bitching about? Nothing.

3) During labor deal talks, NBA players rep Billy Knight suggested that the NBA owners were treating him unfailry because he was black. Nevermind that labor negotiations in any sport are notorious dog-eat-dog affairs where all parties involved are unwilling to give an inch. (Just ask the NHL.) But when the going got tough, Knight immediately played the race card and cried foul. Through the media, no less. (Yes, the same evil, brainwashing, biased media sure does love to run with a story of the black man possibly suffering from racism, eh, Pierce?)

So what happened with Knight?

The NBA labor deal was completed and announced in a shockingly short amount of time - the least troubled labor deal of any sport in recent menory, in fact - and everyone seemed content.

So what was the bitching about? Nothing.

Look, I realize racism - true racism - still exists. I'm not stupid nor naive.

However, there also seems to be a sad tendency among blacks to immediateley play the race card as soon as things don't go their way or as soon as they hear something they don't want to hear.

Because it's easy.

And I'm not saying all blacks do so. (Just in case you're reading, Jackie.)

What I'm saying is that I have observed the tendency. I've observed it. Just like I made some observations on Pierce's blog only to be labeled a racist, apparently because I'm a) white and b) said things Pierece doesn't want to hear. (Na, na, na, na, I can't hear you! Racist! Racist! Racist!).

Was I completely in the wrong to suggest that perhaps the reason a black person is labeled in a caption as "looting" is because, you know, blacks are predominantly the people looting?

And am I wrong to suggest that Pierce is being borderline delusional with his assertion that the media fix is in and we only see what we're supposed to see? I mean, does Pierce really believe that news reporters and camerman are making their way through the chaos of New Orleans and filming only the black looters while being careful to make sure no whites are in the shot? That's absolutely ridiculous.

And worse, does Pierce really believe in his heart of hearts that white people are so inherently evil that such a carefully planned agenda and operation is being undertaken by the big, bad white media?

This is called believing what you want to believe.

It's also called conveniently ignoring the real problem.

It's also the cheap and easy way out.

Maybe I'm naive or overly-optimistic or place too much faith in the human race. Or maybe I've just been lucky and/or smart enough to surround myself with decent folk, but the continually reemerging accuastion that white people are to blame for all the problems of blacks seems absurd to me.

Sure, there is bad histroy there. Sure, there are still genuine racists and bigots today. Assholes are assholes and always will be.

But it seems that white people are given too much credit for even giving a shit by a percentage of blacks who'd rather point fingers than look in the mirror.

Bt maybe I shouldn't suggest this. It might make me racist.

And, hey, in the meantime, Pierce and others can go right ahead and keep on placing people in boxes, placing people in boxes, placing people in boxes...

...forever and ever...

...after all, it's what we do...

...best.

Now, all that said, everyone run along and check out Pierce's magnificent blog and enjoy the photos of all the beautiful women he knows. Lucky bastard.

2 Comments:

Blogger xian said...

It sounds to me like you are looking for excuses for your unintentional tendency to defend institutional racism. The Yahoo captions were in all likelihood written by the editors at Yahoo, as news sources supply their own captions for syndicated photos.

How can looking at two different pictures of people doing the exact same thing, "Carrying groceries" and determining on the basis of race that one is "looting" and the others are "finding" be classified as anything but "racism"? The woman in the foreground of the picture could possibly be mixed. If she is, is she more likely to have "looted" the food she is carrying?

Making up incorrect justification for institutional racism is flat-out aiding racism. If that doesn't make someone "racially insensitive", I have no idea what does.

Don't get me wrong--you might be a wonderful person. I'm almost positive you had no evil intentions. But in the same way the original caption writers may have had no evil intentions but perpetuated evil, so have you.

I don't care if you or they are black, white, yellow, brown or something entirely different. These stereotypes that you are enforcing get real people hurt and killed every year. It's time for you to take responsibility for your own actions.

12:30 PM  
Blogger UnknownColumn said...

Xian,

Maybe I didn't stress this enough, but I agree that the journalism in this situation is crap. And thanks for clearing up how the photo captions work, but I think that's still besides the point because...

I don't doubt that there are certainly people, even people in positions of determining captions for Yahoo, who are bigotted morons. No doubt.

But my point is this:

Had Rush Limbaugh used Katrina to babble about some right-wing agenda, I'd be repulsed.

If a wacko religious group used Katrina as an excuse to speak of God's wrath against gays, I'd be repulsed.

So when someone uses the platform of Katrina to immediately begin talking about things like media biases and (in your words) institutional racism, I just find that...odd.

I agree that there are problems with prejudices, but there is a whole lot of problems going on with the people of New Orleans (both before and after the hurricane) that should be addressed before talking about how some asshole at Yahoo doesn't like you. Boo hoo.

Racism! Yahoooo-ooo-oo-o! (I hate those commercials.)

And I'm not a wonderful person. Trust me.

1:57 PM  

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