Recently, at WorldGolf.com, I posted on the comments made by David Bellavia in introducing John McCain at a rally.
"You can have your Tiger Woods, we’ve got Senator McCain ... This is the real audacity of hope,” said Bellavia.
In the comments section, my colleague Brandon Tucker - a young man I like and respect - wrote that he felt that what Bellavia was saying was that people can look up to star athletes if they wish, but that Bellavia looks up to war heroes.
As far as picking battles, what I mean is that if you try and blow your whistle at the little things, you aren't taken seriously when you try and bring light to a more pertinent issue. I'm talking about the age old "crying wolf". I think we're crying wolf on this one...but knowing conservatives, that train is never late...
My point was, and remains that Mr. Bellavia was just not up there winging it. John McCain is running for the President of the United States. The GOP is fully behind him because they have to be. Every thing said before during and after a McCain rally of any type is meant for one specific purpose at this time - to make sure McCain appeases his conservative base.
I believe that the Tiger Woods remark was pure dog-whistle politics to conservatives. And they heard it loud and clear. I believe this because, when it comes to racism, I am done giving anyone the benefit of the doubt. And that includes myself.
In 2008, it seems to me that to be called a racist is akin to being called a pedophile. The main difference is this: Not many of us are pedophiles, but we are all racist. But the vast majority of Americans not only cringe, but react often with outright hostility if a charge of racism is directed toward them.
Let me add, this is nothing at all against Tucker. He is light years more evolved than I was at his age. But his generation (and the generation before and the generation before, etc.) have been taught that racism is bad. Really bad. Heinous bad.
And yes, racism is bad. But the fact is that the term "racist" is so bad, that to use it against someone is considered somewhat akin to calling someone a mass murderer. You need documents, and fact-checking and character witnesses. After all, people that tie black men to the back of a pickup truck and drag him until they are a bloody pulp are racist. Racist comments or subtle racist actions just don't meet that standard.
But they do.
A person who commits a racist act or makes racist comments need not be stamped forever with a Black R on their chest. But their comments or actions, regardless of subtlety, must be pointed out. Words have meanings, and words lead to actions. To decry racism only when an obvious hate crime takes place is not anywhere near enough and borders on window dressing. Racism is something we have all been conditioned with, to one point or another. For the vast majority of us, it is not an ingrained, all encompassing character flaw. But it's there.
For myself, looking the other way isn't good enough. I will and have looked at my own racism. I have been and am a racist. But I am willing to look deeply at myself and try and find out why and hold myself accountable. Because the word racism does not terrify me. It emboldens me to change, and to work on my own flaws.
I am an imperfect ally. And I will undoubtedly have racist, sexist and homophobic thoughts and even make comments that show a disregard or disrespect for other cultures in the future. And when I am called out on them, I will face them head on. Because every word, action and thought matters, and adds up.
Racism is not a dirty word. It has infected us all. And because of that, I'm through giving the benefit of the doubt to anyone. Including myself.
This post is my personal contribution (or perhaps the first of my contributions) to the Carnival of Allies, as put together by The Angry Black Woman. Head over to her site to find out more.