LA Times Op-Ed: Don’t sweat the buffoons
Buffoons on college campuses are not heavyweight racists. The real villains — far more subtle — are those who believe in their own superiority.
bv: Gregory Rodriguez, 3.8.2010
News flash from UC San Diego: Party-animal frat boys sometimes engage in stupid, offensive and even racist stunts!
For weeks now, outrage over a fraternity party that encouraged guests to mimic and mock ghetto culture has embroiled the campus in La Jolla in old-school political theater. Then, in a separate incident, a noose was left in a university library (a student anonymously took responsibility and apologized). And finally, a pillowcase made to look like a KKK hood appeared atop a statue of Dr. Seuss.
Racism exists; it’s still a significant inhibitor of social and economic progress. And given the country’s majority-minority future,we simply can’t afford not to be preparing more minorities for positions of authority and leadership.
This isn’t the unsubtle, in-your-face racism of your imagination. The real bad guys aren’t the easy to caricature toothless hillbillies of television dramas or some overweight, tobacco-chewing Southern sheriff straight out of a half-century-old Life magazine. They don’t leave nooses as calling cards.
Somewhere along the line, the fight against genuinely entrenched racism — the kind that keeps millions from achieving their dreams — turned into a slapstick struggle against ill-behaved clowns like Michael Richards, John Mayer and foolish frat boys.
A few years ago, while I was in Mississippi, I met a prominent self-described white supremacist who didn’t need a Klan hood to do more than his part to oppress African Americans. During the height of segregation, he didn’t torch crosses in the dark of night; instead, he wore a suit and tie and put the economic squeeze on fellow whites who didn’t toe his racist line. In my presence, he never once cursed blacks or used the “N-word.” You can be a highly effective racist without all the obvious trappings.
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