The ‘Murican Dream (A Long Trayvon Martin Rant)

“Apparently, we are now at the point when a seventeen year old boy, unarmed, must make all the correct judgments during a confrontation with a grown man in order not to be shot to death.”

-David Simon, co-creator of HBO’s The Wire

I’ve been called a nigger, to my face, somewhere in the neighborhood of a dozen times in my life.  Clerks have followed me around stores countless times.  I’ve been automatically put in remedial English classes on 3 occasions and told by an English teacher that I have problems writing (it salted my opinion of my ability for years).  I’ve been stopped by police dozens of times, asked what I was doing, occasionally searched, yet never given a citation or a warning.  Once a cop pulled up when I was sitting in a car outside my house talking to a friend.  He checked my driver’s license three times (never hers, of course, she was white) on the grounds that there had been a robbery at a nearby convenience store.  He admitted when he first saw me that I didn’t fit the description except that I was black.  (Couldn’t she have been the getaway driver?)  The worst was the time the police pulled me over when I was driving home from work and drew guns on me.  The 1st cop asked for my registration, when I reached for it (it was in the glove-box) he blurted Whoa!Whoa!Whoa! at me while his partner aimed his gun at my head through the passenger window.  His intent was clear: Don’t move your hand another inch or you’re gonna get shot in the face. They kept me there for two hours, repeatedly checking my driver’s license and registration.  They said, once again, that my vehicle ‘matched a description,” but considering I was driving a grey Nissan pick up with blue side panels, you can count me  skeptical.

But I digress.  My point is, most black men have stories like these.  It’s just the reality of life in America.  I typically don’t give it much thought.

But I can’t treat this stuff so lightly anymore.  I mean, I live in a world where, as a black man, if being harassed and followed around is all you get, you’re actually doing okay.  Think about it; in any of the above instances, if I had been belligerent or, God-forbid physical, I might have been killed with impunity.

I mean, what the hell is that?  This is America, right?

We’re at the point now where a 12-year-old black kid needs a completely different set of instructions from a 12-year-old white kid.  If anything happens they won’t trust you if you’re black.  If you’re black and anything less than an absolute angel, you’re guilty.  And always run, because if you defend yourself successfully, the odds are you’re going to jail; if you defend yourself and lose, you could be dead.  And it will be your fault.

Yeah, yeah, I’m just being reactionary.  It’s got nothing at all to do with race.  It’s just happenstance.  Again.

The truth is, that while many of the details in the Trayvon Martin case have nothing to do with race, at its core, it’s all about race.  Race is what made George Zimmerman suspicious of Trayvon in the 1st place.  Race is why people are so quick to believe that Trayvon is a thug or must have initiated the physical confrontation that lead Zimmerman to shoot him.  Of course this is all based on Zimmerman’s account, which he had a month and a half to work on before being seriously questioned about it.

But I cannot possibly believe that if Zimmerman was black and Trayvon was white that Zimmerman’s story is the one law enforcement would go with any more than I believe that Sean Hannity and Fox News would help raise money for a black Zimmerman’s defense. Or that the police would give black  Zimmerman 44 days to get his story straight before arresting him. Or that a jury of six white women from a small southern town would sympathize with an armed black man patrolling the neighborhood and shooting an unarmed white teenager. Or that a 17-year-old white teenager would get racial profiled in his father’s gated community.

Don’t get me wrong, the judge’s instructions were horrendous; Zimmerman actually rejected Stand Your Ground in favor of a standard self defense claim. Yet the judge instructed the jury that Zimmerman had the right to stand his ground and Juror B37 has since admitted that Stand Your Ground factored into the acquittal.  Simultaneously, the judged failed to instruct them  that in a standard self-defense claim Zimmerman needs to prove that he didn’t initiate the confrontation.

Thus, I believe the evidence, or lack thereof, leaves room for reasonable doubt, particularly with how self-defense laws currently stand.  Moreover, I think the Dept. of Justice going after Zimmerman is de facto double jeopardy, a violation of Zimmerman’s Constitutional rights.  And I don’t think two wrongs make a right.

The fact is, this whole thing stinks.  And it hurts.  If Trayvon’s death was a punch to the gut, the verdict is a kick in the balls.

I honestly can’t help feeling…unwelcome these days. It’s somewhat familiar feeling,  unfortunately.

I know.  Everyone has to deal with racism.  But let’s be honest here.  America has one of the great atrocities of human history on its books. 400 years of the most brutal, oppressive, and dehumanizing slavery ever known followed by another 100 years of legislative, systematic, and violent oppression.

Trayvon Martin’s death is just an echo of this legacy.

Consider that at no point in American history have blacks enjoyed equal standing with whites in terms of income, wealth, education quality or access, job opportunities, corporate leadership, or representation in government.  This on top of being historically red-lined by banks denying us access to home and business loans, subjected to gentrification, stopped, frisked, arrested and charged by law enforcement with much greater frequency, and punished more severely for similar crimes.  So let’s stop pretending that there’s an equivalency, it’s ignorant if not downright duplicitous.

The problem is that we’ve allowed cowards, liars, and bigots–bullies essentially–to set the terms of the discussion.  And bullies hate a fair fight.  They have instead created an environment in which there can be no discourse on the subject of race, save for the occasional rant by Chris Rock.

When we’re not hitting each other over the head with the race card, we’re denying it outright (don’t be fooled, this is just a means of deflecting the entire argument back), focusing on minutia completely out of context as evidence of egality (a.k.a. the “see, when viewed in a vacuum, this detail isn’t racist”), or simply burying our heads in the sand and proclaiming that we’ve arrived at a post-racial America.

It’s bullshit.  And shame on all of us for accepting it as anything else.

The fact is, Trayvon Martin’s death and Zimmerman’s acquittal are about race.  A lot of things are about race, and will continue to be, because we refuse to face the issue.

I think about Germany, another nation with a Great Atrocity on its books.  They study the Holocaust as ugly and humiliating as it is.  They look at it and seek not only answers but solutions.  And soon after World War II they came to the conclusion that their government no longer has the right to take a person’s life.  Their current constitution, ratified in 1949, abolishes capital punishment.

That’s the kind of approach we need here in the United States.  Instead of meekly slapping injustice and discrimination away whenever it pops up, we should be actively hunting it down, rooting it out, and crushing it utterly.

More importantly, we can’t keep letting the people who are indifferent, weak-minded, self-interested, or hateful keep controlling the argument. There aren’t two equal sides to the issue.  There’s right and there’s wrong. We have to be determined to be on the right side of this issue forever more.  Not to make up for slavery, which at this point is impossible, but to ensure that inequality and discrimination are completely eliminated and bigotry of every stripe is banished to the shadows where it may wallow only in tremulous fear of the light.

Of course, this is only my dream.

We don’t actually live in a post-racialist America.  Toes are going to get stepped on, nerves will be frayed.  There are blatant racists and more significantly, oblivious ones.  Having your worldview shattered is an unnerving, occasionally violent thing.  It’s unpleasant.  But we can’t let that deter us.

We can no longer afford to be tolerant of intolerance.

Free.  Thought.

And boycott Florida.

Advertisements

The Real Problem In The Trayvon Martin Shooting

Trayvon Benjamin Martin (Feb. 5, 1995 – Feb. 26, 2012)

I haven’t talked too much about the Trayvon Martin shooting  because I feel like the system needs to play out.  Like everyone else, I have very strong opinions on the subject, but facts are still coming out.  Unfortunately, as the story evolves, I see the real point of this tragic tale getting lost in the debate over the legality of a child’s murder.

Predictably, it has been politicized…mainly by Republicans.  The right has initiated and perpetuated a smear campaign against Trayvon Martin, blaming him for everything from wearing a hoodie, to confronting a man who was following him (i.e. standing his ground), to having been given a 10-day suspension from school.  Meanwhile, they tsk-tsk those calling for Zimmerman’s arrest because that’s “unfairly judging him in the media.”  This is a two-fold ridiculous assertion, because of the aforementioned hypocrisy, and because trying high profile cases in the court of public opinion is something of an American pastime, from the scopes monkey trial to Casey Anthony, often engaged in by these very same right-wing pundits.

The reason Republicans have been so staunch in their apparent support of George Zimmerman actually has nothing to do with Zimmerman at all.  They are defending Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, which is the main culprit in this case.

George Zimmerman, 2005 mugshot (left) and more recently.

It makes sense to lay this all at George Zimmerman’s feet.  But, from what I can tell, Zimmerman is a paranoid kook who grabbed a gun and appointed himself defender of the neighborhood (Neighborhood Watch has come out and said he is in no way affiliated with them is not in accordance with their practices or philosophy).  There are paranoid kooks all over the world and sometimes they kill people because of that paranoia.  This is not to minimize Zimmerman’s actions.  If he is guilty, he should pay to the fullest extent of the law.

Others will charge that racism is the main culprit here, but I disagree.  Obviously, it is a significant factor.  If Zimmerman had shot a 17-year old, blonde-haired, white girl, I doubt Zimmerman’s defenders would find his self-defense excuse so credible.  That is to say nothing of the fact that Zimmerman would likely never have even followed a blonde-haired white girl in the first place.

Even the botched investigation by the primary officer on the scene and the apparent obstruction by the chief of police aren’t the core problems.  The interrogating officer wanted to arrest Zimmerman for murder.  There were people in the department doing their jobs that night.

Racism is a significant element but not the central issue of the Trayvon Martin shooting.

The real problem is that Florida has a law that changes the nature of  justifiable homicide.  Self defense is traditionally (and logically) an active defense where the burden of proof falls on the defendant, not the prosecution.   The presumption of innocence applies when someone denies committing the crime for which they are accused.  We don’t presume that person is guilty; it has to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.  When someone admits to committing a crime–as Zimmerman has admitted to killing Trayvon Martin–there is no presumption of innocence.  Zimmerman must prove he was defending himself–as he would have to prove his defense if he said chemicals from a toxic corn dog had rendered him temporarily insane.

Stand Your Ground turns all that on its head.  Under this preposterous law, if two guys get into a drunken brawl  and one guy pulls out a gun and shoots the other, he is now justified in doing so because he “felt threatened.”  In other words, the last man standing is presumed justified so long as he claims self defense.  He can’t even be charged–hence the furor.  If Zimmerman had been arrested and was due to stand trial, the outrage over this shooting would be greatly diminished.

April 26, 2005, NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer (in red) makes sure Gov. Jeb Bush signs SB-436 (Stand Your Ground) into law as instructed.

Now, the reason Republicans will do anything–even smear the reputation of a 17-year old murder victim–to divert attention away from Stand Your Ground is because it’s their law.  In 2005, Florida’s Republican-led state legislature passed the bill and Republican governor Jeb Bush signed it into law (with an NRA lobbyist looking over his shoulder as he did).  And as usual, rather than admit that the law is poorly written or (gulp) poorly conceived, or even that the Trayvon Martin shooting goes outside of the law’s intent, the GOP doubles down on their support for the law no matter how heinous a position it puts them in.

This is because versions of Stand Your Ground laws currently exist in 21 states–all Republican-controlled at the time of passage–and ALEC, a particularly vile conservative PAC, is currently trying to make the law federal.  Statistics show that Stand Your Ground has led to a 200% increase in “legally” justifiable homicides in Florida.  The other Stand Your Ground states have seen a similar increase.

However, the facts are irrelevant.  The Republicans are not going to back down.  They can’t.  Otherwise, the NRA will eviscerate them, as the powerful lobbying group will not be derailed from their goal–in cooperation with the gun manufacturers–of ensuring that as many Americans as possible own and use as many guns as can be put out into the world.

For Sale SOLD.

This goes back to the corruption of our system, where the political parties cannot act in the interests of their constituents, much less their conscience.  They have an obligation to their campaign benefactors.  If they buck, or get out of line, they will be put down and replaced by someone who plays ball.  In that sense, it’s unfair to overly politicize the Republican position.  They got caught on the ugly end of this, the system gives them no room to move.  If not these Republicans, then those who will; only the names would change; the outcome would remain the same.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking for a single tear for any of these bought out lawmakers.

I just don’t want the point to get lost.

The real tragedy, of course,  is the death of Trayvon Martin.  In a sense, there can be no justice because their is no equivalent or recompense for the loss of his life.   But the underlying problem is that his killer may never even have to defend his actions in a court of law because of a corrupt political system that does not work for, represent, or even care about the people it is supposed t0 protect.

What I Hate About Republicans — Intro (Part 2)

So I’m coming back to this series of blogs discussing what I hate about Republicans discussing one point in each blog.  At some point, I plan to move on to what I hate about Democrats, politics in general, and the media (probably sometime in the fall of 2071 at this rate :().  What I initially expected to be 3 or 4 subjects quickly expanded as I started giving the topic some thought.    I limited it to 10:

  1. Bigotry
  2. Voter Suppression
  3. Edification of Greed
  4. Anti-Americanism
  5. Dominionism
  6. Anti-Intellectualism
  7. Objectivism
  8. Extreme Nationalism
  9. Discrimination
  10. Austerity

Obviously, I could write a book on each and every topic–and maybe that’s something I will ultimately do.   The problem with blogging in such a partitioned way is the loss of context which I think is crucial to understanding what Republicans are trying to do.

A good example of this is an element of social conservative philosophy I–and others on the left–call the Fall From Grace theory.  For many social conservatives, the Founding Fathers are, like Christ and the Disciples (or Adam and Eve), fetishized archetypes representing the purity and apex of an ideal–an ideal from which, according to conservatives, we have strayed.  Having fallen from grace we need to “get back to our core values” in order to right the ship.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  It should.  This is a key tenet of fundamentalism.

Obviously this is a nonsensical concept since America’s values have been evolving constantly since our nation’s inception (see slavery, women’s suffrage, civil rights, etc.).  Nor were our founding Fathers of one unified mind.  Their greatness lies in their ability to bring such strong willed and brilliant men of wildly disparate opinions not only to accord but  an accord that still stands among the great achievements in political thought.   But Republicans don’t overly concern themselves about being historically accurate (I’m looking at you, Newt).  In fact, they outright oppose it.  Tea Party Republicans in Tennessee are fighting to have slavery–and the fact that many Founding Fathers owned them–removed from history books (And don’t even think about mentioning Thomas Jefferson’s jungle fever).  They don’t want anything that makes America ‘look bad’ being taught to children.

This is Orwellian propaganda at its unmitigated worst.

Yet the reasoning behind this philosophy is synergistic.   It incorporates several Republican/conservative ideologies that I am critical of including anti-Americanism, extreme nationalism, and Christian fundamentalism.  This is a crystal clear snapshot of their vision for America.  But when you break the actions down into parts, you can lose the image of the whole.

The Republican party needs to be exposed for what it is: a party of fear and hate.

Force conservatives to either admit to that fear and hatred or distance themselves from it.  And if you want make the argument that the Democratic party has titanic problems as well, I’ll be the first to agree with you.  But the Democrats aren’t pushing for more war in Iran and Palestine.  Democrats aren’t legislating against LGBT Americans’ right to marry.   Democrats aren’t trying to take reproductive and contraceptive rights away from women.    Democrats aren’t pushing stupid laws like Florida’s stand-your-ground self-defense law, which let Trayvon Martin’s killer walk away from the scene of the crime without arrest, murder weapon in hand.  Democrats aren’t trying to re-segregate schools in North Carolina, or take the truth out of American history classes, or science out of education.  Democrats aren’t trying to prevent Muslims from building mosques and practice their religion freely.

These are things we should be talking about.  I don’t want to lose the general idea of Republican lunacy because I keep fixing my nose to each little point.

‘Cause there is a lot to hate about today’s Republican party.

Racism vs. Racialism

Since I’ve been throwing the terms around a bit lately, I thought I’d make the distinction.

Racism is:

A belief or doctrine that inherent hierarchical differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race  is superior.

Racialism is:

A belief in the existence and significance of racial differences, but not necessarily that any hierarchy between the races exists. Racialists typically reject claims of racial superiority.

Another way to put it is to say that a racist believes that interracial relationships are fundamentally wrong.  A racialist, however, may simply prefer to date people within his or her own race because they believe other races will be incompatible.

The reason I make this distinction is that I believe racism is currently on the fringes of social thought, while racialism remains prevalent in the mainstream.  What we call institutionalized racism would more accurately be described as institutionalized racialism.

At any rate, both are dangerous–to varying degrees–and must be combated with information, temperance, and understanding. 🙂

Afro-Saxon Life In A Semi Post-Racialist World

Actor portrayals of post-racialists

Forgive me, this is gonna ramble a bit.

What do you call a black person who likes Mos Def as much as Coldplay and Loreena McKinnett as much as Metallica?

Okay, tone deaf.  Good one, but wrong answer.

Well, then what do you call a black person who has as many white friends as black friends (more, in fact)?  Who is heterosexual, but pro-gay rights?  Who uses words like avuncular and knows what an interdental fricative is, thoroughly?  What about a black person who has been called both a nigger by white people and a sellout by black people?

The answer is an Afro-Saxon–which is an innocuous way of calling someone an Oreo cookie.  Still, among the litany of  terminological mash-ups, Afro-Saxon is an all time great.  It just rolls off the tongue.  It’s meaning is clear and free from judgement.

It also best describes me, as I fit every last one of the above descriptors.

In these post-racialist times (which began–officially–Novermber 4, 2008) such cultural crossover is becoming the norm.  The walls of the old ways are coming down to reveal unimaginable spectacles before expanding horizons.

An avowed post-racialist

It’s a bold new world my friends, filled with wiggers, tweecanos, 1.5Gs,and Cablanasians.  It’s a world of N.R.A. Buddhists and preachers in flip flops, where a Mexican family goes out for sushi rolls, and Indian women wear green saris for St. Patrick’s Day.

It is a world well on its way to Dr. King’s Utopia.

I’m just not sure I’m ready for it.

Dealing with my own otherness is easy.

I’m a spiritual atheist (whatever that is).  I don’t get Tyler Perry.

I think Spike Lee is waaaay overrated.  I’m not a huge proponent of affirmative action.

World's Best MC, Black Thought of The Roots

If I could be anywhere in the world right now it would be Strommness, Orkney (until I went stark raving from all the nothing to do).

I think the best MC on the planet is Black Thought from The Roots.   I also love Brit rock (c’mon, The Servant?  Bloc Party?  Placebo??).  I prefer Zofia Kilanowicz’ rendition of Henryk Gorecki’s Symphony No. 3 to the more popular version by Dawn Upshaw.

I want a political revolution.  I want equality for everyone.  I demand social justice.  I don’t think white people are any more or less racialist than any other ethnic group.

This is life as an Afro-Saxon.

It might not seem like much, but remember, I’ve been called a a sellout because of the way that I talk, the places I’ve lived, the music I listen to, and the friends I keep.  It’s easy to dismiss now, but as a grade-schooler transplanted from halfway across the country (twice–from new York to Nebraska then from Nebraska to California) it can be devastating to your sense of identity.

I’m not what people expect when they see a 6’4″ black guy on approach.  People who’ve heard about me before meeting me invariably respond with an oh! or wow! upon address.  I think I do ultimately make a good impression judging by what people say to my face–of course that’s to my face.  But I’ve also seen people shrink when I gesture with my hands while talking. I’ve seen old ladies clutch their purses when I stand next to them.  Audacity.  I wish I had the stones to snatch even one of those purses, so I could see the look on the old bat’s face like , “Goddamnit! I knew it!”

Inevitably though, people get comfortable with me; I’m not the aggressive type.  I’m jovial, slow to anger, rational and reasonable.  Unless you’re a bred to the bone hatemonger, the guard eventually goes down.

Sadly, that’s when the racialist comes out.

“Can I touch your hair?” This hasn’t been a problem lately, but believe me, I’ve been asked that dozens of times.

More often, I either get asked some racially insensitive question about black people or get unwillingly subjected to an uninformed opinion about the short comings of my race, present company always excepted of course.  All are replete with racist stereotypes and gross generalizations.

Not quite beyond the throes of racialism.

People love to get that okay to be racialist.  I tend to find it comedic, though.  Racism is a funny thing; it’s an odd mix of anger, fear, and ignorance.

And that’s the problem when dealing with other people.  If you’re free to fit in anywhere, it’s hard to know where to fit in.

H.P. Lovecraft said, essentially, that he basest human emotion is fear and the basest fear is fear of the unknown.  Racism is a bastardization of that fear.  So, in essence, what keeps the deer alive in the wild keeps human beings from coming together to make a better world.  It echoes the line from Dylan Thomas poem:

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower is my destroyer.

I’m not any better. I haven’t gotten past the prejudices in my heart either.  Of course, we’re all bigots if you dig deep enough; some of us simply have more control over showing it.  Just because a black person doesn’t jump up in the middle of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and proclaim it all “a bunch of pointless white bullshit,” doesn’t actually mean they weren’t thinking it.  Likewise, a white person who refrains from condemning each news story featuring Lil’ Wayne as “yet another display of rampant coonery,” isn’t necessarily above such a mindset.

It would be an uglier world if we spoke those thoughts.  But it would also be more honest.  Sure, they’re touchy subjects and they cut deep.  But I don’t consider any words or thoughts taboo.

Sometimes I wish we really could have a serious and frank airing of racial grievances.  Maybe if we just laid all our cards out on the table we could finally get to actual understanding.  But with the ignorance being actively fostered here in the United States, the only realistic outcome is a fistfight.  Best case scenario.

Alicia Keys is proof of the good that comes from post-racialism.

So, instead of navigating these long unsailed waters terrified because we can’t tell protruding rocks from shark fins, we tamp down our own natures and christen ourselves post-racialists–the very avant garde of open-mindedness–without ever actually confronting our demons.  It’s unearned enlightenment, which really means we’re just imagining things in the dark.  But boy, does it feel good!

It’s not hard to achieve.  In fact, there are 5 simple and surprisingly easy-to-follow rules to become a true post-racialist citizen of the world:

Michelle Branch provides further proof.
  • Rule #1: Don’t admit anyone is racist no matter how obviously racist that person might be.
  • Rule #2: Don’t admit anything racist no matter how obviously racist that thing might be.
  • Rule #3:  Proclaim yourself above racism no matter how obviously racist you might be.
  • Rule #4: Attack anyone who brings up racism as a shameless race-baiter.
  • Rule # 5: Act like everything else is okay.

Okay, so it’s not exactly inspiring.  It’s the old hates with new names and new veneers.  But maybe the Afro-Saxon and the wigger are driving the new cultural norms.  The resolution of racism won’t come from a race war or scholastic philosophy.  It’ll come from YouTube and the blogosphere.  We can “olive out” the black and white.  America could be the new Mediterranean.

At the very least, it’ll do until something better comes along.

Or until Coldplay comes out with a bad album.

The key to the world's future!

Celebrating Stupidity in America (Redux)

This reminds me of my previous blog on stupidity in America.

There are innumerable non-political examples of stupidity, but news and current events is one of those casual, everyday circumstances where regular people kind of have to know some stuff.  Morons routinely get exposed.  Case in point:

Apparently 2/3 of Alabama’s and Mississippi’s Republican voters are hopelessly ignorant.  But it’s more than simple ignorance: They’re morons.

It’s not like Barack Obama’s religious inclinations weren’t laid out spread-eagle all over the front pages of every major media outlet during the 2008 presidential campaign.  The truth has been out there for quite some time.

We can demonstrate evolution in a petri dish, by the way.

It absolutely baffles me that people can hear independently verifiable statistics and data or direct-source confirmation, and be unmoved in their understanding of an issue.  It’s because they don’t know how to think critically.

Besides, if you are too stupid to bother with facts–much less comprehend them–the understanding that might be gained from said facts is lost on you anyway.

And these are the people the politicians keep calling the “real America”.

If that’s true, we’re doomed.

Immortal Technique: Leaving the Past

Peruvian-born, Harlem-raised MC, Immortal Technique

I don’t know how familiar people are with Harlem rapper Immortal Technique.  He’s underground, but he’s well know in hip hop circles, having collaborated with a gamut of artists, from Eminem to Mos Def.

If you haven’t heard his music, just know that it’s not the empty calorie club-fluff that tops the charts these days.  It’s equal part Nas and Public Enemy, socially conscious and lyrically deft.  It’s hard and it’s edgy and it’s provocative.  It’s headphone hip hop that bumps in a trunk.

I don’t agree with everything he says but he makes me think.  And I love honesty in expression.  I would say similar things about Ted Nugent and Hank Williams Jr.

Anyway, I saw Immortal Technique on an interview about Occupy Wall Street on the Alyona Show recently and it started a minor jones for his music, this song in particular.  It’s probably my favorite.  I love the sentiment behind it.

I figured I’d spread the love.

What impresses me the most is that the song came out 6 years ago, yet it seems even more topical today.  Kinda prophetic.

Hope you enjoy it.

(Immortal Technique image from:  http://www.sofreshandsogreen.com/2010/05/06/lyrics-to-go-immortal-techniques-beef-and-broccoli/)

Intolerable Cruelty

Stop me if you’ve heard this one:

Question:  What do you call a middle-aged, wealthy, black, business man?

Answer:  Nigger!

Okay, so racism is bad–typically because of what people do with it (or in the name of it).   It serves no productive purpose and I unequivocally denounce and reject it.

Still, it’s a pretty funny joke.  Of course, I doubt many people enjoy a good racist rant more than I do.

So imagine my delight when I stumbled across this video of two Gainesville, Florida Gainesville High School students’ hateful, profanity-laden tirade about their fellow African American students.

I love this video.  Sure there are all kinds of cultural issues you could delve into.  These girls are obnoxiously flippant and completely ignorant of the world in which they live.  And they make lots of grammatical and mathematical errors (which is funny, too).

Unsurprisingly, the video went viral.  School administrators found out about it.  It even made the evening news:

So the school and featured students come across looking completely reasonable and totally cool, making the two students that made the initial video look even more ridiculous.  The two girls–both age 14–got expelled.  The family got death threats–

Wait–what?!

Yeah, apparently the good citizens of Gainesville went Conan the Barbarian on these two girls.  Everybody got death threats, the girls, their parents, their friends and families.  The girls have to hide out while their parents are at work.  They’re under police protection.  One of the girls (the main one) has allegedly slipped into a depression.

Whoa.  Not so funny any more.  Not funny at all, in fact.  The other student (the one with the glasses) posted an apology that is believably sincere (the quality sucks so I’m not going to post it but you can find a transcribed excerpt here).

I completely understand why people are offended by the video and never found it funny.  But at the same time they’re just words.  I don’t believe that any words, on their own, are anathema.  Especially when they’re being spoken by 14 year-olds.  They’re kids.  Kids do stupid things. They record the stupid things they do and then they upload them to YouTube.  They do this because their brains are still forming and they’re pretty bad at making decisions.  I know they kind of look like adults but they’re not.  And they shouldn’t be treated like adults…at least not in this instance.  There’s a world of difference between these two students and say, Liz Trotta or Mel Gibson spewing nonsense (both of whom are still funny to me, but I have problems).

Ideally in a situation like this the community would come together…much like it did.  You’d hope for an opportunity to address and improve tolerance and diversity.  I suppose pariahdom for the perpetrators is a fair price to pay.  Them fearing for their lives is not.

It’s got me pitying two girls I should have no sympathy for.  And that’s cruel.