Racism on the Right and Left

The other day I did a post on the flash mob in Chicago.  It wasn’t intended to be a piece on race at all.  It was intended to point out that there is a responsibility with living in a free society.

Flash mobs aren’t just happening in Chicago-they are happening all over the country.  African-American young people aren’t the only ones doing them-others are doing it too.  The Chicago one was made up of African-Americans.  The scary thing about the flash mob in Chicago was the scale.  That doesn’t happen without some careful planning.

These mobs infringe on our rights as American citizens.  They are wrong, no matter what color they happen to come in.

Some of the comments on my blog post were good.  But many were tinged with racism.  Calling Chicago “Chimpago” is racist on an online forum.  Even if you are making a joke-no one can read your mind.

I tried to edit them, but couldn’t keep up so I simply closed the comments.  Pretty sad.

It is hard to have some discussions without delving into a race baiting diatribe. But each side has to take a breath and check themselves.  They also have to remember that no one in the world is a mind reader.  When something is in an email, a comment, or print, its virtually impossible to distinguish humor or irony.  So, just type what you mean.

It makes me mad when people don’t call out bad actors-even when they are on “their side”.  For example, Jesse Jackson marched with the Chicago Teacher’s Union over school closings the other day. Socialists marched too.  But Jesse refuses to call out the socialists.  Refusing to call them out because they are on the same side doesn’t weaken your point-it strengthens it.

William Buckley called out people on the right when he began advancing the conservative cause way back when. We need to do more of that on the right wing.  They never do it on the left.

I think it’s actually healthy to joke about race.  Laughing at ourselves brings a chance to ease into a more serious conversation.  Personal stories:

My first two years in college I played basketball.  I was friends with Kirby Puckett, who later made the Hall of Fame in baseball.  Kirby used to work at our basketball games holding the ropes to keep people from coming on the court.

One game, I picked the pocket of a player and went the length of the floor.  I took off and was going to power a dunk through and instead of slamming it, I put the ball off the back of the rim and it went flying out to half court.

I was pretty embarrassed.  Not only did I totally fail, but it reinforced the stereotype that white guys couldn’t jump.  I could slam it.  I just choked in the game.

Afterwards, Kirby yelled at me, “Hey, you had a chance to be the Great White Hope, now you are the Great White Dope.”.  We laughed and laughed. He knew.  Kirby wasn’t racist, or being racist.  We were joking about stereotypes and that’s a good thing.


I was working a show when I sold for 3M.  A guy came by our booth and asked me to stop by his establishment.  I made an appointment, and went. It was on the far south side of Chicago.  I parked, grabbed my sample case and walked in.  I asked where the owner was, and an employee pointed up some stairs.  I casually stepped around a doberman and walked up.  Lots of autobody shops keep dobermans around in case you didn’t know.

When we sat down in his office, he said, “Are you the guy I saw at the show?”.  I said, “Yes, and you wanted me to come by.”.  He muttered under his breath, “They all look alike.”.  I heard him and started laughing my butt off.  I said, “Hey, I have heard people say the same thing.”.

Then we got into the sales call and he became a good customer.

Unfortunately, there is still racism on the right and left wing of America.  We can argue about why it’s there-but sweeping it under the rug doesn’t do us any good.  One of the things Obama wanted to do was have a frank, open discussion about race-however when he started he couched it in his own agenda so it was impossible to have.

By the way, Nick Epley at the University of Chicago has done a lot of research on virtual communication if you want to learn more about it.

One example I’d like to take a shot at illustrating is multiculturalism.  The way its currently pushed in America today separates us.  These guys are different from these guys who are different from these guys.  Instead, why not appreciate different cultures and meld them into the melting pot as Americans?  

There is no doubt we should have respect for different cultures.  German, Polish, Jewish, Mexican, Chinese, Black, English etc.  But we aren’t any of those when we become US citizens.  Even if we weren’t born here.  The left wing doesn’t get that. But in many cases the right wing doesn’t either.

Each side can bring up examples and instances of racism.  If we really want a frank discussion, all those costs have to be sunk.  Instead we need to talk about what it means to be an American-and they defined that back in 1776 within the confines of the Bill of Rights and Constitution.

I listened to World War Two Medal of Honor recipient Walt Ehlers speak to people once.  One questioner said to him, “Did you worry about shooting Germans because you have German heritage?”

His answer was perfect. It had the perfect tenor, and pitch.   I wish I would have recorded it.

He said, “I never thought about it.  I was an American.  I was fighting for my country.  They were fighting for theirs.   It never occurred to me that I was German just because I had a German last name.  We were all fighting for America.”

If more people thought the way Walt did/does, we’d have less trouble today.   Let’s fight for America, for Americans.

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