Much of America is losing its collective Sugar-Honey-Iced-Tea over the new Harper Lee book, Go Set a Watchman—a quasi-sequel of sorts to the author’s classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, but the former features hero attorney Atticus Finch as an older man who harbors racist views toward African descendants in America.
The new book is considered a shocking contrast to the 20-years younger version of Finch in Mockingbird, who defended a unfairly-accused Black man in criminal court.
I’ve even heard some people, who are mostly White, say they will not read the book since it paints an ugly picture of a person they considered a role model in the fight for racial equality.
(Laughing) Welcome to reality, folks! Now, if you all can only stay in this world for a moment, we may get closer to fixing a few real problems with race.
Or, you may pass-out from truth overexposure…
The sad truth is that while we certainly have Mockingbird Finches who live outside of novels, we also have many more living and breathing Watchman Finches among us.
Behavior like Finch’s is so prevalent in the world I live in where I tend to brand it “Clapper Racism.”
Lights On: he suddenly displays knee-jerk social enlightenment and racial egalitarianism—except no one living outside his brain seems to understand when or how the behavior starts; the catalyst appears to be more complicated than a hand clap. For instance who predicted that the Get Kony campaign would go viral amongst the Hipster set? By the way, this poke at Hipsters on the topic is funny…
Lights Off: Doesn’t want to hear a word about equality. Doesn’t even want to live near Black folks in a Black neighborhood.
I’ll expand on “Lights off” by recalling the night I was hanging out at a Mexican restaurant in NYC’s Upper East Side to celebrate a young woman’s birthday—she happens to be white. After greeting the friend and her boyfriend (who is also white), another guy (yeah, white) shook my hand and calmly introduced himself as my friend’s ex-beau. You should’ve seen him lose his cool when I told him “Yeah, man. I used to date her too.”
I was joking, of course.
The image in his head of my ebony body entangled with the white body he used to love—Lights Out.
Equal rights have limits in Clapper racism.
While you may agree with those who call Finch’s conflicting views on race “complicated,” I would argue that a number of you never paid close attention to what Prophet Martin Luther King, Jr. said about many well-meaning Liberal pro-integration supporters during the months leading up to his assassination.
For instance, King told a Stanford University audience on April 14, 1967 (emphasis mine) [PDF]:
It’s not merely a struggle against extremist behavior toward Negroes. And I’m convinced that many of the very people who supported us in the struggle in the South are not willing to go all the way now. I came to see this in a very difficult and painful way in Chicago the last year where I’ve lived and worked. Some of the people who came quickly to march with us in Selma and Birmingham weren’t active around Chicago. And I came to see that so many people who supported morally and even financially what we were doing in Birmingham and Selma, were really outraged against the extremist behavior of Bull Connor and Jim Clark toward Negroes, rather than believing in genuine equality for Negroes. And I think this is what we’ve gotta see now, and this is what makes the struggle much more difficult. .
Prophet Martin—still on point after all these years. He knew something about Clapper racism.
In the non-book world, there’s a difference between fighting against what you think is racially unjust, and fighting for complete racial equality.
If inequality is so appalling to Americans where they want immediate change, then can someone explain to me why every measure of health, social mobility and quality of life among African descendants is worse than those of Whites since Reconstruction? Blaming this phenomenon on “Lack of initiative” among Black folks becomes a worn-out excuse at some point during the past 150 years.
Or, why is it that Black college graduates routinely land the same relatively low-paying jobs as their lesser educated White colleagues? (PDF)
Here’s to those of you who think racism is exclusive to just one political party—it’s easy for Liberals to blame these inequities solely on Conservatives and institutional racism, but here’s another thing Americans seem to ignore: institutions are run by people. And racism knows no political party.
Here’s an example that I’ll package as a question: how many of you are genuinely comfortable with socially interacting with with other races? No, workplace conversations and moving into neighborhoods targeted for gentrification where you barely speak to your indigenous neighbors do not count.
How many of you employers throw resumes in the trash bin because the applicant’s name appears to be “Black“?
How many of you hang out with friends from different races during weekends? Read this before you answer.
And before you start lying about your enlightened views on race, read this Associated Press-Yahoo poll taken in 2008 [PDF] and focus on the later questions. You would think this survey was taken during the 1940s.
While you’re at it, read this Gallup poll where relative to the views of African descendants, you could almost say that White Americans don’t think racism exists!
This is my cue to remind you of those uneven metrics I mentioned regarding health, social mobility and quality of life…
Being appalled by the newly-revealed bigoted thoughts of a fictional character while ignoring the fact that racial inequality continues to exist during America’s 239 years of existence makes me wonder if many of you would rather live in a hardcover fantasy than to address the real issues of race in America.
Or as Prophet Martin said in that same Stanford speech:
This is the tragedy of racism because its ultimate logic is genocide. If one says that I am not good enough to live next door to him, if one says that I am not good enough to eat at a lunch counter, or to have a good, decent job, or to go to school with him merely because of my race, he is saying consciously or unconsciously that I do not deserve to exist.
For the record, I bought my copy of Go Set a Watchman yesterday…
song currently stuck in my head: “double cross (a tom moulton mix)” – first choice