Friday, June 2, 2017

June 02, 2017

I am a white man. I will never know what it is like to be a black man. No amount of makeup, contrived scenarios or specified directed taunting will ever allow me to know what it is like to be born and raised as a black man.

That being said, I don't need to be black or any other skin color, national origin or religion to know racism.

Recently Lebron James was the victim of racism at his Brentwood estate. Jason Whitlock felt the need to minimize the impact the racial epithet had on James. Of course, his reasoning is that the words did not 'really' impact James since he paid some people to wipe away words which he never actually saw. He implied that James' (and his own) wealth shielded him from experiencing racism.

Jason Whitlock was more wrong than he can ever know.

The problem, as Whitlock seems remiss to acknowledge, is that he is conflating two terms, racism and bias. To be biased is to have a particular tendency, trend, inclination, feeling, or opinion, especially one that is preconceived or unreasoned. To show 'bias' against someone based on their inclusion in some specific group. 

Racism, however, has no preconceived outcome as its consequence. Racism, pure and simple, is hatred of another for their inclusion in the group. I can hate someone without treating them with bias. Though I suppose, that hatred would inherently create a difference in the manner they were treated.

Racism does not require the denial of opportunity; it only requires hatred. The reason that this is such an important distinction is that we cannot take away bias without first eliminating its root; hatred; racism. When Whitlock said that Lebron James was not a victim of racism, he did irreparable harm to how the world views racism. He is marginalizing the term in a manner that will take away fifty years of hard work. 

I get that he has a boss (Fox) - and that his boss's concepts affect much of what he says - but there are times when we have to stand up for what is right. Whitlock is secure enough in his career to make the right decision. Or maybe he really does not think that a rich man can be discriminated against; or the victim of racism? 

I have given Jason Whitlock plenty of credit in the past; I believe him to be an intelligent man. Does he misunderstand the term racism? Is he conflating it with the concept of opportunity bias? Or is he really misinformed? There is no way to really know. Like most pundits with strong opinions, Whitlock will not back down from what he has said; he will never admit to being wrong. He will simply continue, as he did to Martellus Bennett, to imply that 'everyone else seems to not get the point.' 

Uh. yes we do Jason. Lebron James is mega wealthy, Oprah Winfrey is mega-wealthy, you are wealthy. The implication is that your wealth insulates you from the effects of racism. We get that. It's just that you are wrong; so wrong. You may  be able to afford to clean up the words, but cleaning them up will not erase the feelings from which they emanated. Whoever spray painted the racial slur at James' estate will not have their hatred cured because the words were erased.

You see, Jason, that's the thing, James' wealth makes the racist seethe even more; his hatred grows because he does not believe a black person deserves such wealth. The racist believes that all black people are inferior; that they have stolen something that 'rightfully' belongs to them. By saying that a wealthy black person cannot be the victim of racism, you have encouraged more racism. You have given a voice to their anger.

At what point does a racists anger rise to the level of making James a victim? Does he have to suffer denial of opportunity? Does he have to suffer some form of physical violence? What level? I contend that any hatred makes its target the victim. Your denial of this basic tenet of racism does more damage than the racist who damaged James' property.

Jason Whitlock has legitimized the belief that racism does not affect rich black people. He has marginalized racism in the most surreal manner possible. 

And that is a scary thought.