While I was eating breakfast at my dining commons last week, I heard something that offended me – I noticed people at the table in front of me were trying to sound funny by impersonating a “black” manner of speaking. No one at the table was anywhere close to black. As I listened to more and more of their conversation, I grew more and more outraged. They began to say things like “You shouldn’t take that shit from no bitch, backhand her ass” and “you don’t want to mess with me, ’cause I will fuck you up.” I am not a man that is easily offended, but this offended me deeply.
Pundits have predicted that our generation will be less racially divided than generations past, but when I hear some things my peers say, I am not so certain. Some white people will spew this kind of offensive crap while impersonating black people, yet will often use the line “you’re playing the race card” in political debates. Some will use the N-word, but shrug off any debate over the implications of the word as “reverse racism.” Some even base their political and social opinions on gross stereotypes of entire races, classes or sects of people.
Our generation is incapable of solving complex political problems without addressing the racial implications and causes of the issues. Race plays a role in issues ranging from the death penalty to welfare policy, both of which have deep-seeded racial issues within them. Serious conversations about these issues cannot take place without addressing the incredible oppression that was a part of our society and the consequences of it that live to this day. To dismiss serious and relevant points as “playing the race card” eliminates necessary discussion and diminishes good ideas in exchange for a cheap and hollow debate tactic.
Our generation also has a perverted use of racial humor. Although some will make offensive and unbearably bad jokes about race behind a member of that race’s back, few have the courage to make the lighthearted remarks about our differences to someone of another race. The non-offensive jokes about race are not even uttered, but the vilest, most offensive jokes that have no place in our society often are.
Growing up in a region of California with a very large Hispanic minority, I learned a lot about the issue. One of my best friends throughout high school was Hispanic, and often friends of ours would make jokes about his heritage. Some of them were offensive, some were not, but there is a very definitive line and that line should not be crossed. Although there was a question of whether or not he was a legal citizen amongst our group of friends, it was not until my senior year that someone finally asked him about it. It was appropriate because we were curious, and by that time it was clear the answer would not have changed his relationship with anyone (he was, but that is beside the point). The point is there is an innate sense about what is appropriate and inappropriate, and sticking to this sense is best.
Although our generation seems to ignore race when it comes to serious questions with racial implications, that does not stop many whites from saying offensive things. There is no excuse for some of the language I have heard coming from the white youth, and as a white person, I refuse to engage in it.
Our generation’s sensitivity to race is not allocated correctly. We focus too much on saying the right thing rather than doing the right thing. The right thing is to not treat people differently because of their race and not to walk around it. All in all, just be a decent human being and don’t immediately say the most offensive shit you can think of.
Spencer Lindsay ([email protected]) is a freshman majoring in political science.