This racism thing confuses me. It seems like every time I think I've got it figured out, they change the rules. I'm trying really hard to be a color-blind white guy, but I keep getting rear-ended by the fact that some people of color are anything but color-blind.
Don Imus (who is white) calls some college girls '"ho's" and loses his job ... the NBA's Isiah Thomas (who is black) calls a female team executive a "ho" and it barely gets noticed. Then Thomas says he winces when white guys use the word "bitch" but it's OK when black guys do it.
Now Rev. Jesse Jackson says presidential candidate Barack Obama (who is black) is "acting like he's white." What the hell is that supposed to mean? What stereotypical white behavior is the founder of the so-called Rainbow Coalition referring to? And if a white power-broker accused a white candidate of "acting like he's black," wouldn't Jesse Jackson (and his buddy Al Sharpton) be in the front row of the lynch mob calling for his disembowelment?
I'm so confused.
The double standard on racism is weighing us down. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed of a day when his children would be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin, yet his most intimate followers -- including Jesse Jackson -- seem more obsessed with the color of a man's skin than the content of his character. If Jesse Jackson (and many, many other black leaders) cannot live up to King's standard, can they truly expect other races to do it?
The current Jena 6 controversy in Louisiana is an example of harvesting what we have sown. There, six black teens are charged with beating a white classmate. Supporters says the beating was a response to three nooses hung in a tree three months before (the white students responsible were suspended from school, but no criminal charges were filed.) At bottom, it's a complex case where two sides -- black and white -- are justifying criminal behavior in their own interest. Jesse Jackson (there he is again!) is in Jena to support the black assailants, even though his own mentor advocated civil disobedience and non-violence as a response to racism.
Many of us -- me included -- truly dream of a color-blind world. Among my friends and co-workers of color, I would much rather be judged by my character than the color of my skin. It cannot be a judgment of convenience, where color is more important than charcater some times but not others. Color matters or it doesn't. And it can't be only a white expectation.
If our goal is a color-blind society, we can reasonably expect blacks, Hispanics and all other people of color to join in the movement. We cannot go down this path alone.