“What the hell kind of country is this if I could only hate a man if he was white?”
It’s a funny line that cracks me up still even today, months after I first heard it on King of the Hill. But more than just making me split my sides, it’s a rather profound statement, especially when you realize it’s coming from a cartoon character. It’s thoughtful because it relays, in comedic fashion, what freedom in America means, from the standpoint of both the good and the not so good.
For as much as we’re permitted to love whomever we choose, we’re also free to do the opposite and hate whomever we choose. And while we’re not a nation that promotes such animosity, we are a country that tolerates it; our level of freedoms being dependent on the necessity of such a reversal of fortune.
I think sometimes, we forget that.
We not only forget it but we try to adjudicate and regulate what ultimately are personal thoughts and feelings that’ve manifest themselves into behavior that we don’t approve of. My concern is that I’m uncertain if we, as a people, will be able to sustain such actions in the long run. Eventually, they’ll morph into what is simply a sustained witch hunt. At some point, we’re going to have to bite the proverbial bullet and let mankind be, well, mankindish.
“I’m not perfect. …We all have our prejudices and bigotries…”
Mark Cuban is right in that each of us has our own racially charged cross to bear that encourages us to seek like company. Of course, we integrate ourselves; many times we’re forced to do so. But as a rule, we’ll each of us stay in the circles that provide us the most insulation and comfort.
And that’s what it’s about, more so than hate; comfort and ease. We take the easy road that doesn’t challenge us. We stay around like-minded people; the same race, the same orientation, the same educational level, the same income level. It’s our preference, our prejudices and make no mistake, we all have them.
And the minute anyone speaks his mind to say that, which I’m sure more than a few of us wishes they had the courage to say or have said privately themselves before, we jump on them with both feet and a ton of bricks. That’s no way to have a productive discussion about race in America and challenge those who are truly dangerously bigoted in an effort to create a teaching moment that shatters their way of thinking.
What’s necessary is that we allow the worst of thoughts-and I do mean the worst of them-to be uttered and dismantled and pondered and categorized. We have to lay bare every negative stereotype in order to challenge them. Along the way, we’ll have to accept the inevitable meanness that will surely insinuate itself into the debate. It’s the only way to turn it back on those who have stake in this necessary discussion being unsuccessful.
We want to win this debate; we, meaning the collective United States. And we win when we’re able to talk it all out, without reservations or pre-existing conditions. There are no sides in which to choose as the only opponent we face is ourselves.
That should make it all the easier for us to win but it won’t. Still we can prevail if we stop carrying a chip on our proverbial shoulders waiting breathlessly for somebody to say the wrong thing. Let’s cultivate an atmosphere of forgiveness rather than a climate of punishment.
Society wears a gorilla suit too. It’s going to take some getting used to but America can live without wearing hers all the time. It’s, no we’re, a work in progress.