In today’s sensitive social climate, the last thing any self respecting individual wants to be called is racist. Racism no longer asserts power and hierarchy as was originally intended, but instead carries a negative connotation of ignorance and an assumption that one voted for the un-hip candidate. In order to avoid being lumped in with these bigoted second-rate citizens, self-righteous individuals have found that befriending a black person is the key to steering clear of such harmful accusations.
The glory days of prejudice ended almost as quickly as they came; lasting merely from creation until the mid 1960’s. In this era not only was racism considered acceptable to some extent, it was commonplace in most aspects of American culture.
“You bet I remember the glory days”, said former Los Angeles Police Officer Laurence Powell. “Those were the good times- you didn’t have to worry about nothin’- everyone just did right by themselves. It would have stayed that way too if it wasn’t for video cameras.”
Powell admits that the only remorse he feels for his involvement in the 1991 Rodney King incident is that there was finally documentation of such an incident. “But that’s technology for ya, it will be the downfall of mankind.”
Whether Powell is ready to admit it or not, popular opinion of prejudice has changed drastically because of such events. In order to compensate for the guilt whites feel in response to widely publicized displays of racism, many are taking the offensive.
Brian Standera, a white sophomore philosophy major at UC Berkley spoke candidly about his friendship with Sean James, a black accounting student. “When I met Sean, we hit it off right away. After we hung out for a while I thought, ‘look at how unbiased and accepting I am!’ I knew others would think the same thing, so a year later we are still great friends.”
Standera said he only thinks about the difference in skin color every time he talks to James. “Sure, it’s always in the back of my head. But why wouldn’t it be?”
When asked about the future of their friendship, James stated “Brian is a cool guy. We get along well, like the same things, and enjoy the same people. I think we will be friends for a long time”. Standera said he agreed with his friend and added “besides, can you imagine how bad it will look if I stop being his friend now? That’s social suicide.”
However, not everyone is ready to reject good old fashioned racism and some are even hoping to find camaraderie with those who share their prejudiced beliefs.
“Did I vote for Obama? No. Do I watch Oprah? No. Do I subscribe to BET? No. Would I be friends with anyone weak enough to do any of these things? No. Do I think I’m better than a lot of people? Yes.” This is what Joey Pantam replied when asked how race affected his relationships. Pantnam is a night manager at Tops in Dunkirk, New York and claims that being friends with like-minded people is what is going to keep America going. “America has gone soft. Everyone is afraid to have an opinion. I’m not a racist; I just don’t like anything to do with black people.” When asked if he was concerned about what others thought of his beliefs Pantam replied, “It doesn’t matter. At the end of the day only God can judge me, and I’m pretty sure he’s on my side.”
Although not everyone is ready to take the proactive approach to making up for years of inequality, the “cool” factor associated with presenting oneself as unbiased seems to be enough for many citizens. The procedure of truly eliminating racism is an ever evolving process. But for now, the “fake it until you make it” mentality seems to be good enough.
–Brett Jones, December 2009