The latest case of Foot-in-Mouth

Tiger Woods graciously accepted Kelly Tilghman's apology for her thoughtless back-alley-lynching remark. Personally, I think he did the right thing. I truly don't think she spoke with any malice, or even with "blind" racism (like the guy who said blacks lacked buoyancy to be good swimmers, who did not realize how racist this belief was). I think she simply had no idea of the substance of her words, that thousands of blacks have lost their lives this way in nearly 400 years.

In my opinion, the problem here is a lack of understanding on the part of many whites about the plight of blacks in North America, South America, and the Caribbean. The sense of entitlement that so many whites have from birth has numbed them to the difficulties of other minorities, and they hold beliefs that simply aren't true. During the O.J. Simpson trial, people were posting on the Internet that black people are the only ones who can get a "free" college education through the United Negro College Fund (I hope I enlightened a few folks by posting that the fund helps keep tuition costs down, but it is by no means free.)

The recent (and ridiculous) comparisons of Barack Obama to John F. Kennedy have people longing for what they remember as the "good old days." Any black person can tell you that the early 1960s was a lousy time.

Then there's Presidential candidate Mitt Romney addressing concerns that his Church of Latter Day Saints (commonly known as Mormonism) religion might cost him the nomination. "That's not the American way," he declared.

Horseshit. Our country was built on a foundation of racism. Why is it that so few whites are willing to admit that? The first people who came here were escaping persecution, but promptly exercised their perceived "superiority" over the Indians and tried to enslave them. All those old TV westerns have at least one episode in which the Americans refer to the Indians as "savages." Africans, of course, were imported by the hundreds to work in households in the North and on plantations in the South and the Caribbean and parts of South America, most notably Brazil. Their descendants remain the most reviled and vilified of all the world's people. Many other ethnic and religious groups (mostly those olive-complexioned or darker, but even the Irish were openly discriminated against) experienced blatant bigotry, but after a generation or two they in turn were looking down on new immigrants. Yes, Mitt, it is the American way.

It sounds to me like some educating is needed enlighten today's Americans to the indignities suffered by generations of people, and that words like "lynch him" are not to be tossed around casually. I just wish I had a solution of how to go about doing it.
I don't think that the inevitable calls for firing this woman from Rev. Sharpton and others is going to do a damn thing about achieving resolution.


Gwyneth Bolton said...

Great post, Bettye. Honestly, I think the entire country, blacks, whites, latinos, asians, etc. can do with a history lesson on America's racist past and how it is still entrenched in systems of oppression today. Many people of color are as blind to it as white folks sadly.

In any case, I hadn't heard about this Tiger Woods situation. I'll have to go and check it out.


Patricia W. said...

I heard about it. Is firing her the way to go? I don't know. If every person in corporate America who uttered a racist remark were fired, the unemployment ranks would skyrocket!

However, it is true that the sense of entitlement with which white people are born and raised dulls their senses, and that unfortunately, we now have a generation of Black folks who can't articulate the ills of the past and therefore wonder what all the fuss is about.

I've drawn the sad conclusion that racism will always be with us. We can educate and enlighten but I don't know how you change the beliefs of an entire planet.

bettye griffin said...

Good points, Gwyneth and Patricia!

Shelia said...

If folks got fired for all of the racist remarks they make, nobody would be working.

I read about this and Tiger accepted her apology. She was dead wrong for saying what she said. People should be held responsible for what comes out of their mouth whether they are a public figure such as her or in the private sector.

When this type of incident happened on one of my jobs, the man went on a sabbitical and then was brought back. From that point on, we, the Blacks, knew how to deal with him and several other folks in management.

Personally, I would rather know if you're a racist or not...I can deal with you better than those who hide their true feelings.

bettye griffin said...

While I think this was just a case of a young, clueless white girl and don't think this should cost her her job, I do hope she's given some sensitivity training.

Like Gwyneth, I believe there's some racist in all of us. Like one of my characters observed in my novel If These Walls Could Talk, people who swear they don't have a racist bone in their body will toss out a racial slur in a heartbeat if a driver of an easily identifiable ethnicity runs into their car . . . .