racism: it’s still a thing

Clay Travis responded to the Jeremy Lin controversy. I’ll start with his conclusion, since it’s the only part of his article I agree with:

Isn’t it possible that a kid being raised today could never hear the term “chink” as a slur and only associate the phrase “chink in the armor” with the 16th century phrase’s origination?

Yes, it is. In fact, it’s the only explanation I can bring myself to believe explains the situation: that the journalist in question was honestly too stupid or naive to know that “chink” is a racial slur. No one that did – even an avowed, card-carrying racist – would be so blatant on purpose (they have plenty of coded language). But I hate to be the bearer of bad news here: one astoundingly sheltered sports journalist does not mean that “racism is incredibly rare”. The contention that no one under the age of 40 knows an “actual racist” is so hilariously laughable that I’m wondering (hoping?) that this is Clay the provocateur shining through, and not a serious contention.

Clay and I went to high school together at MLK. It was, actually, a remarkably well-integrated school, all things considered – this is what happens when you take a couple hundred smarter kids from relatively good (and relatively well-to-do) households and stick them together in a school. But let’s not whitewash (no pun intended) the experience – black kids and white kids self-segregated in our lunchroom just like any other high school. And I think that if Clay were to actually ask around to some of his former classmates, he might start building a much different picture of the supposedly racism-free environment he seems to think we grew up in.

I respect the desire to think that we live in some sort of post-racism society, but I’m here to tell you: racism is still out there, dudes. I can tell you that with confidence, even as a white male. I’ve had too many awkward conversations about “them” and “those types” with expectant stares, where I slowly realized they were talking about black people, and were probing me for the level of racist discourse I’m willing to engage in. (I refer to this as the good ol’ boy protocol – it’s a very sophisticated dance of euphemism and suggestive body language.) Also, I read the news sometimes. I mean, come on.

Do I think that Federico deserves to be pilloried because he accidentally made a racist pun? Absolutely not. It’s worth asking him what the fuck he was thinking, but if the answer is (as I suspect it is), that he genuinely just didn’t know, he should be fired for gross ignorance unbecoming of any self-respecting journalist, not for racism. But attempting to justify his ignorance with some sort of hilariously sad suggestion that we have “marginalized racism to such an extreme that true awowed racists are kooks” is just wrong. So, so very wrong. I do the best to peep around the blinders of my white male privilege – Clay, I recommend you do the same.