Selwyn Duke
July 12, 2004
Is America a racist country?
By Selwyn Duke

Timmy T. was going about his business one day, when he noticed that four lumps had formed under his skin. If that wasn't enough to worry him, a part of his body literally fell off "Surely I must be dying!", he thought. Unbeknownst to him, however, the same strange things were happening to all of his friends. You see, Timmy was a tadpole. Perspective. Whenever we focus too much on ourselves, we tend to not see others. When we become too immersed in our own problems we fail to see the often greater and more numerous ones in the world around us; our little world is then all we see, and then our problems seem to us like the most daunting in the world.

What brings this to mind is the distressingly prevalent modern notion that America is a racist country. It has become the default explanation for every problem real or perceived involving a melanin-advantaged individual. Why, I even heard a college professor claim that Michael Jackson bleached his skin because he had to suffer the oppression of being inculcated with a white standard of beauty, while making no mention of the fact that millions of white people seek to darken their skin every year through sunbathing.

So, what is the truth? Is America a racist nation? Well, obviously, such a contention implies that this particular national failing is so great that it characterizes our country, so acute that it sets us apart from other nations or sets itself apart from the rest of our societal sins. It's as if you were to say that Johnny Bogey is a terrible golfer. Such an assessment indicates that he either doesn't measure up to the better golfers among us, or that his ability on the links pales in comparison to the other skills he possesses.

However, if the rest of the world is the yardstick that we should use to determine our moral status in this area, then the claim that America is a bigoted nation doesn't hold water. On the contrary, just a cursory examination of recent history and the state of the world bears witness to America's unsurpassed level of charity towards all. For instance, in Ruanda, a claim of prejudice would not have to be based on an inter-race wage-gap whose cause is debatable, but on the genocidal murder of one-million people in a war between the Hutus and Tutsis, which could have only one cause: hatred. And the same could be said of what occurred in the Balkans and a plenitude of other nations on our planet. Or, America's critics could try to buttress their position by pointing to the infamous Rodney King incident and claiming that the Los Angeles police were motivated by racial hatred when they used harsh measures to subdue a criminal who had been fleeing from them at 105 miles an hour. But while King became the poster-boy for American racism at the time, in most other nations he wouldn't have made it past the first audition. No, not when you have atrocities like the one involving the feuding Armenians and Azerbaijanis, wherein an old woman was put in a sack and then burned alive. The fact of the matter is that it's hard to find a nation in which such a diverse people lives as harmoniously as do those of us who inhabit this land betwixt the two shining seas.

But in a way it is true that we are a racist nation, in just the same way that we are a lustful, gluttonous, greedy, envious, slothful, wrathful and prideful nation. Any nation is all of those things, as they reside in the hearts of men. And this brings us to the aforementioned second possible justification for the claim that America is a racist nation: this flaw is the weak link in our moral constitution. But let's analyze this idea. Racism, it's fair to say, is simply a manifestation of one of the above seven deadly sins: wrath. It is not the end all and be all the source of all of our travails as the racial demagogues among us would have us believe. But is it the cause of most, or even an inordinate percentage of our problems? Well, let's give America a comprehensive morality diagnostic and see what really ails the patient.

Let's start with lust: sex now permeates every aspect of our culture. Everything is out of the closet, and if you challenge this and endeavor to resurrect modesty and chastity you are accused of being "repressed." We see sexual images everywhere, and even movies geared toward young children often contain sexual innuendo. Yet, despite the fact that it would be a fitting characterization, I never hear anyone complain that we are a lustful country. We could also make a great case for America being a gluttonous nation, since we have a greater problem with obesity than any land on Earth. Again, though, this is never mentioned. And while we have enacted "hate-crime laws" which are designed to combat a category of crimes that are usually race-related, I never hear anyone talk about "greed-crimes." And why not? Most crimes are motivated by greed, after all, not racial hatred. But while some wanted to label the eighties the "Decade of Greed," seldom do I hear the lament that America is a greedy nation. What about envy? Well, while we may be less racist than ever before, with the playing of the class-warfare card by demagogues and the scape-goating of the rich, it could be said that we are more envious than ever before. Sloth? With all the people on the government dole and the ignorance and apathy displayed by many of my countrymen, I can say that sloth both physical and intellectual abounds. If you think wrath, think road and air-rage and the overall breakdown in civility we are experiencing. And as for pride, since offense cannot be given but only taken and since everyone seems to get offended at the drop of a hat nowadays, it's safe to say that humility is not exactly our strong suit. But barely a word is spoken about our being a characteristically angry or prideful country either.

What this tells us is that racism is one of the least of our problems, and that what constitute our greatest failings are faults to which we are largely blind. So blind, in fact, that we often celebrate them. You see, we're not lustful, we're "liberated." We're not envious, we simply are concerned about spreading the wealth around. We're not intellectually slothful, we're just laid-back, roll-with-the-punches, Devil-may-care types who are too cool to think that politics really matters. We're not proud in any negative sense, we simply have "high self-esteem." In reality, the problem is that we're not truthful, we're sanctimonious euphemizers.

Of course, there's a very good reason why America has racism on the brain. It used to be said that "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel," but with the ascent of the "I am victim, hear me bore" philosophy it can now be said that race-baiting is the last refuge of a scoundrel. And for good reason, for the fact of the matter is that talking about imaginary racial-injustices and dividing the races builds a lot more political capital and clout than does revealing the real tears in our collective moral fiber. Say, in so many words, "The white man has oppressed you, but stick with me and I'll get you your piece of the pie" and millions may follow you to the ends of the Earth. But say, "Hollywood and the rest of the purveyors of popular culture are bombarding you with sexual messages and images and are seducing you into sexual depravity, but stick with me and I'll lead you toward chastity," and you just might not be as well received. Why, race has practically become an industry in our country careers and ostensibly venerable institutions have been built on it.

Lastly, it's a lot easier to talk about character problems that almost no one has than those that plague the majority, because you ruffle few feathers. And racism fits the bill because it's so rare, relatively speaking. Talk about racism and most will listen and nod and mouth the requisite politically correct platitudes because it's always some other guy's problem; talk about something like lust, though, and you're branded a prude who is trying to ruin everyone's fun. Besides, the race-baiters, while their accusations of racism are pure projection, manage to avoid seeming hypocritical because they can erect a facade of even-handedness. But the fact that they are possessed of many of the other frailties in abundance is often very transparent, so no such illusion could be effected. To cite one example, if you're, let's say, a reverend without a congregation who has forgotten the seventh Commandment and has had a child out of wedlock, a call to chastity might not be your first choice as a rallying cry.

All this, however, is not to say that these fifty states are completely bereft of race problems. Nay, there is one that's quite serious, but this problem is not one of races but of THE race: the one that is taking place between the demagogues who play divide and conquer as they each strive to be the pied piper of pied pipers, leading God's children astray.

© Selwyn Duke

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Selwyn Duke

Selwyn Duke is a writer, columnist and public speaker whose work has been published widely online and in print, on both the local and national levels... (more)


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