avoid all things which might create appearances!

As Larry Elder makes clear in a recent piece about "flipping the bird" sometimes, what can seem like racism or bigotry really isn't racism or bigotry at all:

When driving to work a couple weeks ago, the convertible in front of me, with three young black men and a young black female driver, stopped for the red light at an intersection. But when the light changed to green, the convertible just sat there with the passengers yakking away. Not one of those who honks right away, I sat for a bit - from seven to 10 seconds - waiting for the driver to get going. Then I gently tapped my horn.

The three passengers immediately flipped me the bird, with the two in the backseat glowering at me as we moved forward. The staring continued until we stopped at the next red light, with the driver this time - presumably intentionally - sitting at the green light for several seconds before moving. The same thing happened at the next red light.

While I told this story to my brother, our pace slowed as we approached the bookstore. Soon, my brother and I stood still in an empty parking space as I finished my tale. "Was I a victim," I asked Kirk, "of being a black-man-driving-behind-a-convertible-full-of-black-people-who-flipped-me-off?"

To make matters worse, when Elder reenacted the story and included the finger gesture, a nearby white stranger thought he was giving him the finger.

Elder was black (which means race was not an issue with the convertible occupants) but I'm sure a lot of white guys in the same situation would have assumed that race must somehow have been involved.

The Elder story reminded me of one of Coco's most annoying habits -- something which I fear makes me look like a white racist cracker. When I take her in the car, she barks at pedestrians. All pedestrians -- white, black, Asian, Latino. She hates fast movements, so she doesn't like the way they whiz by when she's in the car. What she just cannot grasp is that it's not the people who are whizzing by her car, it's her car that's whizzing by the people. Instead of thinking it over logically and applying simple laws of physics, she barks furiously with a sound best described as a "drive-by barking." Coco is not alone in this misperception; I have had many dogs do the same thing to me over the years. I do not take it personally, nor have I ever noticed the race of the dog-owners.

But what always makes me cringe is when the "victim" of Coco's drive-by barkings happens to be black, because I'm afraid I'm going to get that look. It's a look that says, "there goes another cracker with a vicious dog trained to hate black people." I hate to read race into a look, because the look might just be grounded in fear of dogs (and Coco is a media-maligned "pit bull" after all) but I don't think it's completely my imagination because I just don't get quite the same look of dismay from white people. I almost feel like pulling over and explaining that I'm really not a cracker, that Coco does this to everyone, that not only does she not hate black people, but her veterinarian -- whom she allows to handle, poke, prod, and even inject her without a peep -- is black. I honestly don't think my dog is aware that humans have such a thing as races. But the pedestrians don't know that.

I remember when I discovered that a well known leftist blogger was black. I had not known this, and I had ridiculed him without knowing. (As if a thing like that should matter -- but it sure as hell did!) Suddenly, I wondered whether my attack might be seen as "racist." Just the awareness of race has a way of changing things, and it should not. Yet, even the unawareness of the man's race was seen (by him) as evidence that the unaware were making the (racist) assumption that he was white!

Without thinking, we are all conditioned to think this argument means that race matters. Yet it is not race that matters; it's that the awareness of race triggers a fear-based reaction -- the awareness of the possibility of an appearance of racism.

The appearance of racism is what matters. Far more than race. Or racism.

What worries me is that if people are forced to avoid the appearance of racism, they are going to avoid any and all situations which might put them in a position of ever having to deal with the possibility of the appearance of the appearance. If the only way to avoid the appearance of racism is to avoid people of other races, ultimately, this could lead to real racism.

Maybe Coco's trying to teach me something in her crude way.

Whatever lesson it is, it seems lost on her "victims."

posted by Eric on 01.17.07 at 03:27 PM


Ah, yes -- White Guilt! Been subject to it myself, many times. It's a little frustrating, because there isn't a thing you can helpfully do. It's just the way the world is.

Btw, Coco may have a better grasp of physical law than you think, inasmuch as there is no known logical or physical test to determine just who is moving and who is not. Einstein, and all that.

Wonder how Coco feels about your assumption of her inability to grasp relative motion?

Got guilt?

Robert Beck   ·  January 17, 2007 6:24 PM

I have been coming to the conclusion that Americans' problem is that we are all psychotic about race. (Not racist - although some of us are - but crazy.) Blacks, whites, makes no difference, we are all certifiable on this subject whether we are individually racist or not.

(Part of our psychosis is that I made that dichotomy without thinking about it, and if you're American you probably read it without thinking about it, and yet "black" and "white" doesn't exactly exhaust the possibilities, does it? But race issues in America almost always boil down to "black and white", and other races are classified as either honorary whites or honorary blacks, depending on the oppression valence.)

Other countries can be racist, other countries can have a history of slavery of one race, and yet they do not seem to be crazy in the way we are. I truly don't understand it, but I do observe it.

jaed   ·  January 17, 2007 6:51 PM

off topic because it is not clear where to go on the site to post off topic remarks.

Suppose the world only has 1000 units of "Newshounds the game" .. and no more can be produced.

If you tell me I can sell 100 per year with the normal tax rate.. and then any over 100 would be at a higher tax rate.. I will simply sell only 100 per year. Thus the number of "Newshounds games" sold will be limited/fixed and the price will go up.

Pelosi's idea of a windfall tax on oil profits is identical.
Oil companies will rightfully not want to be taxed more then normal.

So they will simply withold product.

Oh wait.. Is Pelosi gonna tax Venezuala oil and OPEC (the dominant force) oil ?

If not that is extra incentive for US Oil to hold back.

It all adds up to one thing.. less supply.

And yes folks from Economics 101 we know what less supply leads too.. more demand !

And higher prices for the same gallon of oil before Nancy decided to play Economics.

On top of that the oil prices are NOT higher since the election. I know alot of wrong minded folks believe some how any US president can effect oil prices. So even with the elections over the oil price is low.

Will Nancy change that ?

Morti   ·  January 18, 2007 3:08 AM

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