Yesterday, I stumbled across an article on the American Prospect website titled “Moving Past Acknowledging Privilege“, calling on those who enjoy privilege stop feeling guilty and do something about it. At the head of the article, they reference a video of Chris Rock where he talked about racial progress. They didn’t link to it, but with a little digging, I found it:
Every time I share something a comedian says about newsworthy items that leans the least bit to the left, my conservative friends immediately pooh-pooh it. Their stated reasoning is that comedians aren’t the best place get one’s news. My first thought is usually “Really? I thought you watched Fox.” But, often times, comedians reveal the deeper truths about how we feel, think, act, etc. They talk about the things that we can’t say out loud. In the case of what Rock’s talking about, race, that’s especially true. Want to start a fight, make people uncomfortable or end a conversation? Just mention race, it works every time. I should know, I’m from the south.
What does being from the south have to do with knowing anything about race? Simple, here in the south, race is everywhere, in everything. It’s in our language, our music, our food, our relationships. The issue of race premeates southern culture at a molecular level. Now, don’t get me wrong, just because I say we know about race, even understand it, doesn’t mean we get it right. While the southeastern United States may not be the birthplace of institutionalized racism, we certainly raised it to an art form. But, at the same time, we can handle individual relationships with grace and kindness. More than once, I’ve seen people who would be frontrunners for the position of Imperial Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan treat with the old black woman who raised them with love and tenderness usually reserved for family members. I saw same dichotomy in my own family as I grew up. I distinctly remember my grandfather being incensed when Hank Aaron was about to break Babe Ruth’s career home run record, saying that “no n—–” should ever be allowed to do that. Yet my grandmother told me that when he found out a black co-worker’s daughter had won a scholarship to college (she was the first in her family to graduate high school, let alone go to college), it didn’t look like she could go because they didn’t have the money to get her some decent clothes. He came home that day and had my grandmother and my aunt gather up things they didn’t wear anymore so this young, black woman could get a decent education. It’s the perfect example of the craziness that Rock mentioned in the video. While it makes perfect sense to love and care about people you know, it’s insane to hate someone you don’t. Insane, yes; but, unfortunately, all too common. The solution? Get to know some people who are different. Duh.