OK, I know this is old news, especially by Internet standards, but it's been weighing on my conscience, buzzing around my thoughts like an annoying house fly. So it's time to open a mental window and let that fly out.
The racist video of the OU chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE), the one where the kids who have never worked a day in their lives or ever had any meaningful achievements, no meaningful highs or lows, make themselves feel homogeneously superior by engaging in one of the oldest customs in this country's illustrious history: passive racism.
Yes, I called it "passive racism" because I believe there is an important distinction between active and passive forms of racism and their relationship to each other. Why? Because I believe active forms of racism is what keeps passive forms of racism alive and well in our culture. When the not fully formed brains of the SAE kids thought it would be a good idea to sing a childish song about not allowing people of a certain hue into their club for socially crippled, personality deficient and confidence depleted people, that was passive racism.
Active racism is expressing your bigotry in a way that can be directly felt by the imposing ethnicity. For example, active racism is communicating to a black family that their presence in your neighborhood infringes upon your white utopia by spray painting racial epithet-laden messages on their door or by burning a cross on their yard. Passive racism, on the other hand, is referring to them as "those people" in a whispered huff to your neighbors. See the distinction?
So, since there were no black people on the bus on which to taunt with bastardized nursery rhymes and I saw no spray paint, lumber, lighter fluid or matches, I'm going to categorize this one as passive racism.
What's been bothering me about the video is not the fact that is happened, going back to my previous postulate, this stuff happens all the time, but the fact that people acted so shocked by it, because, going back to my previous postulate, this stuff happens all the time. What doesn't happen all the time is to have a private moment of impotent, racism-based white bravado captured and broadcast on the Internet. But people acted as though this level of amateur racism is as anomalous as octuplets. So shocked, that I'm surprised most people had enough oxygen to take a breath, much less condemn, given the moral altitude achieved by their pious pegasus (because the traditional moral high horses have gone the way of VHS and flip phones).
What country have you been living in for the last forever years? Because if you were shocked that a bunch of privileged white kids, raised by the most self-important, entitled generation ever to pass through history, engaging in an egregiously privileged white kid activity such as going to a fraternity mixer, decided to celebrate their white privilege by denigrating those that make their white privilege possible, I'm happy to hear you're out of your coma, Helen Keller, welcome back to the world of the living.
Despite what Major League Baseball and the ghost of Harry Caray would have you believe, baseball is not the American past time (unless you count that time when black people weren't allowed to play professional baseball) it's racism. Mostly passive, but sometimes active depending on when, what part of the country you live and tooth to illegitimate kid ratio. Don't believe me? Here's a quick test: When was the last time you played baseball? OK. When was the last time you uttered the classic, "I'm not a racist, but..."
I think I made my case.
And it's the active racism, the hoods, the horses, the rebel flags, cross burning and truck dragging that makes our culture of passive racism seem so innocuous, socially acceptable, almost congenial and comforting. So many little racist thoughts can be justified or softened by the fact that you've compartmentalized your sectarianism and not crossed the line into hardcore bigotry. But beware, for passive racism is the gateway drug to active racism.
We've all taken part in passive racism. Let me write that one more time. We've all taken part in passive racism. We've all flashed disapproving looks at people who are outwardly different from us followed by casting some disparaging supposition their way in order to make ourselves feel culturally and genetically superior. It was within this hierarchical mold that our country was unmistakably cast and once again why I'm not shocked at the petulant behavior of some socially awkward guys peacocking in front of girls they're trying to impress (look at me, I'm better than someone else) into reluctant, but consensual fornication, but why I'm aghast at how we still pretend this level of racism is not extricable fused with our way of life.
Which brings us to possibly the second place finisher for America's past time: avoidance. If we pretend it's not there for long enough nobody has to deal with it, right? It worked for AIDS, right? By that's a whole other blog post.
So, in closing, my indignation is not at the trust fund kids heading off in hopes of dry humping at the cotillion, doing what they've been indoctrinated to do since birth, hoping to make proud their emotionally vacant father and over-prescribed mothers, but at all the people who watched the short snippet of video and had the audacity to act as though racism under the presumption of privacy was unheard of. Passive racism is the difficult to detect cancer that will eventually eat away at the bones of this country's cultural framework. Because as long as we think it's safe to practice racism in passively in private while we chastise it in public, we are harbingers of a highly contagious moral disease that will continue to lay dormant in the dark corners of white America.
So if it seems like racism is making a come back in America, it's not. It's always been there, but it's only a matter of time before the ubiquity of smart phones makes threadbare the cloak of racial harmony we hide under, hoping our passive bigotry hasn't been indexed by Google yet.