A Fine Day For The Race

“My uncle thinks he’s a chicken.”

“Have you taken him to a doctor?”

“No, we need the eggs.”

Hot on the heels of Caitlyn nee Bruce Jenner’s cover story on Vanity Fair comes the puzzling tale of Rachel Dolezal, a genetically white human being who identified so strongly with the African-American community that she successfully passed herself off as black.

Dolezal 3

That she was accepted at face value[1] speaks volumes about the topic of race in this country.

That she was so quickly accepted as black reminds one of the scene in The Untouchables where Sean Connery accepts Kevin Costner’s claim to be a prohibition agent: “Who would claim to be that who was not?”

Being a prohibition agent in the 1920s Chicago -- just like being African-American in early 21st century America -- is perceived as such a negative thing that we accept it based on the belief there’s no apparent benefit in claiming such status if you aren’t.

We should be grateful that Ms Dolezal has provided us with such a ridiculous and blessedly harmless way of examining the issue of race in America: Thank God there are no dead or brutalized children in this story.

America has never sat easy with its history of racism; indeed, pretending that racism doesn’t exist is our most favored ploy.

From the days of slavery and the slaughter of Native Americans, it has always been an option to flat out deny the obvious.

We are not racists: They are a bunch of child-like monkeys who must be gently and patiently herded into becoming good Christian people.

We are not racists: They are a murderous breed of savages who cannot live in the civilized (read: white) world and are vanishing accordingly.

But that’s bullshit:  We white Americans are racists insofar as our culture and our country and our history is racist.

Look at American musical theater, Broadway, the Great White Way.[2]

Look at how many of our classic musicals -- that quintessential American art form derived from blackface minstrel shows which in turn were derived from older, more honest “coon shows” -- deal in whole or in part with race?

Even Porgy And Bess and Carmen Jones are touched by racism: They can only exist as peeks into a segregated society, not one fully integrated where race plays no part.

So let’s stop pretending that race no longer matters, that it has no impact on us.

No matter if we are heading towards a post-racial future, we ain’t there yet.

We’ve still got lots of work to do.

The matter is important to me because I have skin and blood in the game.

part 2 / part 3 / part 4 / part 5 / part 6 / part 7 / part 8 / part 9

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[1/1]  Man, the jokes are just going to write themselves. Bear with me, folks.

[1/2]  Okay, that's a reference to the lights.

[1/3]  I could even make an argument for A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum alluding to race since it is a play about a slave seeking freedom, and slavery and race and inextricably tangled in American history.

Just An All American Family

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