Its funny how a conversation about a comic book hero can result in an analysis of the evolution of racism. I was enlightening a latin friend of mine on why Green Lantern was white and not black in the movie that came out earlier this year. The point made to me was that it seemed kind of racist to make Hal Jordan, who was black in the recent Justice League cartoons, white in the movie. Now as most comic book nerds like myself know, Hal Jordan aka “The Green Lantern” was white, then black and now white again.* Though I am not certain of the dates, I do remember in the late nineties and early 2000’s the political correctness euphoria that swept the comic universes. Hal Jordan underwent the same ethnicity change operation that Nick Fury had. (Its the reverse procedure that Michael Jackson did.) Colossus of the X-men had finally stopped fooling himself and the rest of the X-Men and finally came out of the X-Closet; only to return to his hetero ways shortly thereafter. (Maybe this is why Herman Cain thinks homosexuality is a choice??)
This conversation got me thinking (surprise, surprise) about the current state of racism and political correctness in this country. In order to justify HOW I will say what I say about racism, I am going to address PCness first. This will (I hope) establish for you, my intrepid reader, a foundation for understanding the method I use for addressing such issues.
There is a pendulum that swings toward extremism in all things in this society. The current political climate in this country is a prime example. (That will be covered in a later blog, believe me.) When the term “politically correct” first reared its good intentioned, but somewhat nauseating head, it was a point in our history when acquiring a certain level of sensitivity to others who are not of the same predominating majority (aka, European heritage, Christian, heterosexual) was a very good idea, if not necessary. The social conscience of America had finally woken up to the fact that we as a people are supposed to be a “melting pot”… at least in theory. But as is too often the case, the extreme left took this a wee bit too far. Now there were legal ramifications for undefined harassment “crimes”, speech that was deemed insensitive to anyone could land one in court, and the term “hate crime” was conceived to encapsulate any violence between two or more people of differing ethnicities.
Now just to clarify, copping a feel on a subordinate coworker or threatening said coworker’s employment status if they fail to accomodate one sexually is flat out wrong. That is just plain douchebag activity. Calling a black person the N-word is also douchebaggy — unless you are also of African descent (which to this day does not make any sense to me: if it is so incredibly offensive, why continue to promote its usage??). And singling out a person of different color and proceeding to beat them senseless simply for being that color is worthy of a waterboarding session. However — and I witnessed this multiple times — telling a Pollock joke or a Jewish/Catholic/Protestant joke was not considered to be as demeaning. I attribute this to the fact that these slurs were acceptable because they were directed at predominantly European targets. In other words, white people could pick on white people; unless if it was a gay joke. Then you would again be crossing this ambiguous line and entering the realm of “not PC”. It was a very confusing and somewhat nerve-wracking time.
As time went on the term itself lost its new phrase smell and sheen, and being politically correct was accepted as the status quo — for the most part. There were, and still are regrettably, those whites who choose to remain ignorant douchebags and I doubt any level of law enforcement will bring them out of their provincial holes in the ground. But that’s ok. — wait — WHAT!!??? Did I just say that its ok for white people to be non PC?? Yeah. I did. Because I learned something from the hyper sensitive years: if we as a society feel it is necessary to be accepting of ALL people regardless of ethnicity, intelligence level, religion or sexual preference, then we as a society have to accept ALL people. Do you understand my point? As much as I personally may not like another American for whatever repulsive traits that individual may have, I cannot “enforce” my beliefs or thoughts upon him or her. I have to accept that we all are American people, even the assholes. (Do not take this out of the context of political correctness!)
Having established this as my modus operandi, allow me to clarify that I am absolutely sick of polical correctness. If you will notice, I have not used the terms African-American, Native American, Mexican-American, or Euro-American. If this upsets you, I will gladly remind you that I am not forcing you to read this. I am white. I am 100% of Celtic descent. I do not call myself a Euro-American. I do not call myself a Celtic-American. I call myself a white guy or just a plain old American. I will even go so far as to call myself a whitey or a cracker or a ginger who grew out of it. I call people of African descent black people or American. I call (and I will admit that I can be inaccurate at times) people of Hispanic heritage Mexicans or American. (My apologies to the Puerto Ricans and Cubans; if it’s any consolation, I cant tell the difference between Germans and Austrians either.) I call the aboriginal peoples of this hemisphere Indians or American (picking up on the pattern here?). People from the Middle East are Arabs or Hindis, people from Japan/China/Korea/Laos/Vietnam are Asians and people from the Philipines or Fiji or Indonesia are Pacific Islanders….or… you guessed it: Americans all.
I will not say that I am so evolved to not see color. Anyone who makes that claim is either literally, physically blind or has his or her head waaaaayyyy too far up their pretentious arse. I see color. I see differences in all people. But I do not cast individuals into a negative or positive light based on these simple perceptions. I do not hate someone for their ancestry. I simply do not care. Now do not misinterpret this as being holier-than-thou or putting myself on some pedestal. I am simply pointing out that I do not care if someone is black, white, gay, handicapped, tattooed over 95% of their body, fat, skinny, purple, still sleeps with a blanky… whatever. I just don’t care about that rot. There are people in this country with whom I share no ethnic history that are a bazillion times more appealling to me then some others that may share with me an identical heritage. Color does not make the individual. The character of the person makes the individual.
Over the years I have worked with, worked for, played with, prayed with, dated and became friends with people from all over the globe. I have family members whose heritage is not predominated by European ancestry. I earned my degree in American Indian Studies; yes that is the program’s official title. The first love of my life was a Latina. My first wife was nearly-translucent white. My second wife was American Indian. Are you getting the picture?
The words people use to designate or classify other people are a part of our culture. Unfortunately, too many people for too many years used derogatory designations. And I am not just speaking of white Americans terms for non-white Americans. Go look up news articles from (I believe) the New York Times during the 40 years or so surrounding the turn of the 20th century. There were some very interesting terms for the Irish and Italian immigrants. Then try not to forget the colorful expressions for German Americans during the first half of the 20th century. Americans have been using terms to designate each other from the beginning. Sometimes with malicious intent, sometimes not. But haven’t we as a nation of many nationalities come to the point in our social evolution where we can finally say that we no longer have a need for the word police? Where one American can say “that black woman” or “this white guy” or “that group of Asian kids” or “those old Jewish ladies” and not worry about somebody’s PC warning system setting off an alarm?
There is something that needs to happen yet in this country; the next step in our social evolution towards being a truly equal nation where racism as we understand it will no longer exist. And it requires the pendulum that swings from the extreme right to the extreme left finally achieving equilibrium. Which I will address in part 2 of this article.
If I have offended you or seemed racially insensitive, I am sorry. Not because I feel bad for offending you. No… I am sorry because we live in a world where stupid shit like color still matters to some.
*It has been brought to my attention after posting this that Hal Jordan did not undergo the race change operation like Nick Fury. The black Green Lantern was named John Stewart, who ironically dropped the “h” in his first name, became white and left the Green Lantern Corps to host a satirical talk show on Comedy Central. I apologize to any DC Comics gurus who I may have insulted by this mistake; what can I say, I am a Marvel guy.