Thursday, November 6, 2008

Go to the Head of the Second Class

Even though I voted for him, and in spite of all the pollsters predictions, I was still almost surprised when Wolf Blitzer said "CNN now projects the next President is Barack Obama." Even then I wasn't sure. In this age of holograms, you can't believe everything you see on TV.

Three years ago if you told me that the next president would be black, I would've said you were nuts, and I'd be wrong. Now, if you told me that we'd have one by 2041--33 years from now--, I would've said, "Oh, of course, we'll have one by then!" Along with flying cars.

OK, here's the ironic part. If you told me in 1975, when I was in the seventh grade, the next president would be black, I would've said you were nuts, and I'd be right. However, if you told me that we'd have one 33 years in the future (do the math), I would've said, "Oh, of course, we'll have one by then!" Along with flying cars (and I'd be half right.)


So what to make of all that? Predictions are relative, for one thing. The other is that, sociologically speaking, attitudes weren't that different three years ago then they were in the mid-seventies. I guess that's why those old Norman Lear shows on Nick at Night and TV Land still seem relevant. Or at least they seemed relevant in 2005.

A prediction currently in vogue is that the election of Barack Obama heralds the End of Racism. Even some right-wingers are saying this. In fact, to them it's the sorry mandate's one bright spot. No need for affirmative action. No need for Black History Month. No need for a Civil Rights Commission. Who the hell needs all that stuff now that we've agreed to judge people by the content of their character? Well...maybe the Left can strike a deal with the Right. We'll drop all those 1960s hippie-dippie kumbaya racial consciousness-raising stuff, and, in return, they drop all the Silent Majority Willie Horton palling-around-with-terrorists race-baiting. Well, how about it? They're not answering. I guess they're too busy making reservations on Alaska Airlines.

Right-wingers aside, is it the End of Racism? Perhaps. But it's not necessarily the End of whatever it is that makes people want to be racist, or bigoted, in the first place. That may always be with us.

It's commonplace to describe bigots as "ignorant." That one guy at the end of the bar grumbling that Obama's election means we're now living in the United States of Africa? He won't be winning a MacArthur Prize anytime soon. But prejudice is a pyramid scheme. At the bottom you've got your Klansmen. Not the Grand Wizard, or Grand Dragon, or Grand Wizard Dragon, or whatever their leaders are called. Just the rank-and-file Klansmen. The ones whom whenever the Grand Whatever gives the order to burn a cross, they answer, "Sho thing!" Just above them is the Archie Bunker-types. They don't burn crosses, they just have wet dreams about doing so. Then you get your Grand Whatevers. At the very top of the pyramid you get those folks who don't necessarily harbor hate in their hearts, but rather greed, avarice, lust, etc. They're not stupid. They've just figured out how to manipulate those who are.

Those southern plantations owners from before the Civil War. Did they ignorantly force the "darkies" to pick cotton for them? Or did they reason (the thing that separates man from beast) that this was the best way, the most astute way, to keep labor costs down? Switching to another form of discrimination, was it out of sheer stupidity that the European settlers, and their forbears, force this continent's original inhabitants ever westward until they ended up in the desert wastelands now called reservations? "Duhhhhhh, I guess we'll keep all the good land for ourselves." Finally, there's the Nazis, who came damn close to eliminating one of the world's major religions. You can't say they didn't lack organizational skills.

No, history's oppressors are smart enough. They're just not particularly nice.

Anyway, now that racism, sexism, anti-semitism, and imperialism seem headed for history's ash heap, who will the smart but not particularly nice people go after next? People with glasses? Tomorrow I'm getting contacts. People who wear ill-fitting clothes? I'm going to see about getting a tailor. People whose last name end in a vowel? Look, my great-grandfather's last name was Juskowikz. They made him shorten it at Ellis Island.

Hmm. I think I know now who they'll go after.

The paranoid.

No comments:

Post a Comment