Friday, May 9, 2008

On "Racism" and Radio Days with Maron

It's been great to hear Marc Maron undiluted on the radio these past few days.  A pearl before Air America swine.  Guy makes you think and laugh all at once.

Here's an excerpt from an email I sent to (don't know if that still works):

1 comment:

ellwort said...

Guess not! Shit -cut & paste doesn't work here. WTF?

Anyway here's what's missing in the my Maron post:

You noted an important distinction today when one caller talked about a Harvard self-diagnosis website regarding what the caller described as our inherent "racism." You heard the guy, and were skeptical about the use of "racist" to describe the deeply inculcated reflexive distrust of Other that infects just about all of us over here now, preferring to call it "nervous." Thanks for calling attention to that distinction.
In a 1970 interview in the Black Panther Party paper, the playwright Jean Genet insisted that we're all "racist," meaning that - black, white, or whatever - we're all stuck with an ancient cultural reflex that spurs us to (mostly) unconscious race-based responses to people we encounter in our day to day lives.

In 1970 I was a scrawny 18-year-old white kid selling the Panther Party paper on the corner in New Haven. It helped sales (& the Panthers) when I read the thing. Over the years as I moved from hippie-freak kid to hippie-residue college teacher, I've given a lot of thought to what Genet said, and even tried to plant the "we're all racist" probability in the students' heads. Sorry kids! I didn't make this up. I've use used the word "bigotry" to distinguish the odious acting out of embedded "racism."

"Racism" "Nervousness" "Bigotry" The word doesn't matter, but the distinction certainly does, and it has fucked up our interchanges for a couple of thousand years, thanks mostly to the ancient Greeks, who (probably accidentally) programmed Western civilization as we know it.
Welp! Pleasant dreams!