I am not a racist, but I am a bigot.
My parents, God love ‘em, brought me up to respect all colors, all walks of life. They preached, and firmly believed, that human beings have value regardless of color of skin or country of origin. As I’ve stated in the past, my father was very proud of his close friendship with neighbor Reggie Washington, an executive with the IBM corporation.
Even now I can hear Dad saying to someone, “Oh, and did I mention that Reggie’s black?”
Yeah, Dad, you did. A lot.
And I get it! We all want to affirm those qualities within ourselves with which we take pride. For my 1920’s, Midwest born and farm bred pop loving his fellow man was important and he knew that color of skin shouldn’t be.
But Dad, like me and in all likelihood you, found being around people more, rather than less, like himself more comfortable than being around “other.” Most of us can appreciate other, value other and celebrate other but our metaphorical comfort food is those folks and circumstances with which we grew up. Me? I grew up white.
Which doesn’t make me a bigot. What makes me a bigot is my reaction to the actions of folks of differing color. One of my classic examples concerning my own bigotry is my response when someone drives his car in an unsafe manner and thereby threatens my safety. The sad but honest truth is that if the person who nearly sideswipes me or who runs a stop sign or a red light is white I’m likely to scream, “Watch out, ass hole!”
And if the offending driver is not white? Then a word at least equally as offensive as my coarse rectal reference but more colorful will quite possibly slip my lips. And that, my friends, in addition to being a personal character flaw, is bigotry.
But it isn’t racism. I try, and to a very large extent succeed at, following the late MLK Junior’s exhortation of judging people by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. I am highly successful at not judging by skin color but rather by actions. Which leads us to the soup de jour, Colin Kaepernick and why I am sitting here wasting my time writing about a man with whom I so deeply disagree.
The uproar that this man has created is so out of proportion to anything he purportedly wished to advance as to be comical. Lines are being drawn because a washed up NFL quarterback wanted to see his name in the media and figured the best way to do so was with the old, old, tactic of, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity” game. Now many folks are trying to redraw the lines using colored chalk to which I say, “Whoa, Nellie!”
If you’re not sure which side of the fence I’m on let me state it clearly.
-I love my highly imperfect country. I believe that we should show her respect and that respect includes petitions for improvement.
-I feel that we as a nation are continuing to move in the “Right Direction.” i.e. one of greater tolerance, acceptance and opportunity for all and that it is imperative that we continue in said direction.
-I whole heartedly back the First Amendment. Especially for speech that is “ugly.” If we do not protect ugly speech then we have no First Amendment.
-Freedom to speak is not freedom from consequence. If one’s stated opinion offends hundreds of millions of people then one should be prepared to pay a price for saying what one means. Recrimination is also free speech. If someone has something to say that is offense to many then that person should expect others to respond vociferously. And for the love of God does anyone really think that an employer should just sit back while an employee, in uniform, on the clock, before television cameras intentionally offends 300, 000, 000 souls? (Please note that I left Kaepernick with 20,000,000 people who may agree with his disrespectful actions.)
Clear as mud? We have the right to state our opinions and so long as what we say is not slanderous nor our writings libelous AND so long as we are not rallying folks around criminal activity then we are free to say any ugly thing we wish. But if you’re my employee and you are at work, in uniform, representing my company for whom you work and you intentionally insult the vast majority of my customers then you should be prepared for consequences. Most likely of the one strike and you’re out, never do this again variety and if you double-down then you’ve signed your own pink slip.
Back in the early 1970’s when I was in eighth grade at Argyle Junior High in Silver Spring, Maryland social studies teacher Bob Handler would regularly cut off flirtatious interaction between boys and girls during class by declaring, “Make time on your own time!” I think Bob’s sage advice applies here as well. If Colin, I pronounce itˈkōlən, chose to protest on his own time I’d have likely rolled my eyes and thought him misguided but now I think he’s a disrespectful douche bag who really should think twice before mocking the greatest, albeit far from perfect, country on the face of the earth.
Oh. And just for the record? When I saw the picture of Kaepernick sitting during the singing of our anthem? I literally didn’t see a black man. What I saw was a self absorbed, egotistical, crude, foul excuse for a human being sitting on the bench contemptuously. I truly had no idea that he was an African-American. Then again, I’m not certain that he has a really clear idea of who he is either.
I feel obligated to add that Mr. Colin Kaepernick’s decision to “take a knee” rather than sit during The Star Spangled Banner is a stroke of pure genius. His new tactic shows dissent and promotes discussion without being disrespectful.
Here’s To you, Mister K!
Keith A. Kenel 09/03/2016