Someone forwarded me an image of a bumper sticker that jolted my brain more than a pound of coffee with extra sugar and a spoonful of Crystal Meth. The bumper sticker said, “Don’t Re-Nig in 2012,” making reference to President Barack Obama and the 2012 presidential campaign.
Just kidding on the Meth joke, I’ve never use illegal drugs. But I’d be lying like a dog if I didn’t say that I was taken aback and offended by this bumper sticker, which isn’t exactly the sort of thing you expect to see in the lovely post-racial society that America has become. In case you aren’t aware, having a black president eliminates 400 years of slavery, lynching, castrations, whippings, late night murders, rapes. family destruction, false convictions, terrorism and theft. I know this is true because Bill O’Reilly said so – you black people just need to get over it.
While the bumper sticker certainly seems to be good reason to get up in arms, I woke up this morning thinking that perhaps we’re all being a bit too sensitive about this. This shocking fact may surprise you, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: There are still some really racist people in America.
Yes, black people, there are folks who will still call you a n*gger. There are people who won’t live next door to you, and there are others who won’t let you date their relatives. There are people who put on white robes, hang nooses on other people’s doors and might even burn a cross in your front yard.
The thing is that these people are never going to go away. I wonder how productive it is for us to go bananas over every extreme example of racism that we find on the Internet? Wouldn’t that be like trying to kill every rat, fly and pigeon in New York City?
The bumper sticker was likely created by one delusional individual or small company that still thinks that we should be at the back of the bus. But guess what? Most white people would not buy this bumper sticker and would be repulsed by it. Also, going nuts over every tiny example of racism only gives a tremendous amount of power to the one extremist who wants to get national attention for some maniacal idea. In this regard, I agree with President Obama’s reaction to racism he’s seen from Republicans: It’s all part of the game, a tool that your enemies use to control your thinking and you have to rise above it to focus on more important issues.
Now, this doesn’t alleviate the Republican Party of its guilt in much more subtle forms of racism. It is also true that Republicans are more than happy to gain momentum from the subconscious anger that many Americans have about taking orders from a black man. But the days where we all prepare to riot because one fool made an outrageous bumper sticker have to go.
I’d love to see us get just as angry over forms of racism that have a more pervasive effect, like the prison industrial complex, which has incarcerated so many black men that it’s undermined the very structure of the black family in America. We can talk about the fact that there is a smaller percentage of black homeowners today than there was in 1990. We might also mention that our kids are forced to attend horrible schools or that black family wealth is still less than 1/10th that of white families. You can’t do that much damage with 10,000 bumper stickers, I assure you.
If you are Jewish, I’m sure there is a bumper sticker out there that says that the holocaust never happened. If you are a woman, there is something out there calling you a b*tch. In a nation with 311 million people in it, there is always something, somewhere out there to offend everyone, and we can’t all go crazy every time we are exposed to the ridiculous ranting of some ignorant white person.
Now, if two out of every three white people were buying this bumper sticker, I might get it. If the Republicans were using this phrase as their national campaign slogan, then I’d say “burn this mutha down.” If I were on my way to work and saw four of my colleagues bumping “Don’t Re-Nig” t-shirts, I might get into a fist fight that day. But I’m tired of going bonkers every time somebody out there finds something to indicate that there are some white people who hate our guts.
Guess what? Your grandchildren will still see those same bumper stickers if they go out and look for them. But if you keep focusing on the small-minded picture of racism, you will usually miss the big picture entirely.