Certain things frighten me to such a magnitude that they disrupt the normal motility of my colon. Reality television, Mustangs, mullets, self-inflicted penile injuries and the county fair all make the list. There's vomit, Smucker's Goober PB&J, The Jonas Brothers, suburbia and Dora the Explorer. Victoria Beckham's boobs, pickled herring and the fact that a book in which the Pope fathers a love child spends years on the New York Times Bestseller list all blow the springs right off my We-Are-So-Completely-Fucked-O-Meter.
Add to this horror show Crocs, Mickey Rourke's new face and 8-percent pay cuts at UCSD and I'm throwing back shots of Benefiber like Patron Gold on May 5. I'll go ahead and add terrorism and global warming to the above list just to be PC, but in all honesty, I'm way less scared by all those things combined than I am by racist dipshits. Hands down, it's hate that makes me think I'm staring into the abyss of End Times.
Last week, two GOP semi-nobodies put on a comedy show for their fellow Americans. Rusty DePass, fundraiser and former chair of South Carolina's state election commission, used his Facebook page as a platform from which to compare our First Lady to a gorilla. Not one day later, an administrative assistant to Tennessee state Sen. Diane Black was outed for having sent a photo of all 44 U.S. Presidents to some friends via e-mail. In place of Obama's image was black space with two white googley eyes peering out. The photo was titled “Spook.”
Both of these individuals offered tepid apologies that betrayed their true beliefs: DePass laughed off his gag as “clearly in jest”—clearly—and then went on to blame the victim (“The comment was hers, not mine”). The senatorial staffer, Sherri Goforth—who sent her missive using a computer at the office of an elected official during business hours—was even more impressive when she claimed regret for having sent the image to the wrong group of people. Presumably, the right group of people never would have forwarded the funny to the wrong group of people, and then Goforth wouldn't be in this conundrum of feeling “very sick” about not being able to take it back. I wonder if her faux pas caused her tummy to hurt like mine does.
Everybody—but especially Republicans who shouted for eight years about the treasonous act of criticizing a president during wartime—should be denouncing DePass and Goforth. Yet, beyond the wink-and-nod wrist slapping, things are fairly crickety over there on the right. DePass has pretty much gotten a pass, and despite demands, Goforth has not been fired. As of this writing, there has been no response—shocker—to a letter I sent to Black's office and the office of Tennessee Gov. Phil Breseden.
More disturbing than what either of these people did or said individually, though, is the collective hurrah from woodwork-dwelling, racist whack-a-doos who live among those of us who yearn for a true post-racial America. Comments left on the Free Republic last week reflected a disagreement with DePass' armchair genealogy: Michelle Obama didn't resemble a gorilla, they said, but, rather, a howler monkey, a mandrill, a baboon. It was suggested by one person that an apology to gorillas everywhere be forthcoming.
Another bigot, hiding behind the screen name Thor, posted a response on a comment I left at Newscoma, pointing out that I must not “know the White race has been targeted for extermination, and if nothing changes, the last White person is predicted to be born in Iceland in the year 2,200.” He makes such an extinction sound downright Utopian. “Why didn't you adopt a baby from a White girl who was about to have an abortion you frickin idiot?” he continued. “You think you are a good person because you went along with the plan to destroy your culture?” Umm—if you represent my culture, then, yes!
But I don't need to rely on cyber-strangers to say such vile things. While in a heated e-mail exchange recently with another local writer—and I use that term lightly when referring to him—he suggested I try finding out “why black kids sit in cars, with their stereos blasting, as if they think everyone else wants to hear 50 Cent. Or, why they sit in movie theatres making noise, talking on cell phones or at the screen, as if they are Chris Rock.” Never mind that it was largely white middle-class teens who made rap mainstream. This guy can scribble the dots, but he can't connect them. “I'm sure you'll get to deal with all that fun,” he wrote, “when your little one grows up.”
People like Thor are the extremists. His is the irrational vitriol of an angry and somehow marginalized white man. He is the dangerous, terrifying—probably mullet-wearing—person I hope never to run in to. He's the one you can't reason with because his frontal lobe has atrophied from lack of use. To be sure, he is in the minority.
More ubiquitous are the fly-under-the-radar bigots like DePass, Goforth and the writer. They're the ones who run in the some-of-my-best-friends-are-black crowd, who know their attitudes are wrong and who bank on never getting called out when they're caught expressing them.
Pete Kotz, a writer for the Nashville Scene, argues that firing Goforth “only picks off a middle-aged lady,” a low-level pencil pusher in a cabal of unscrupulous policy-making bigots. “It does nothing to heal the greater wound, which is composed by the creeps, racists, half-wits and professional victims who make up the Tennessee legislature. They're the real affront here, the wound that will become terminal if left unchecked.”
He makes a point, but only to a point. I say: Change happens from the bottom up. So why not start with the lowest common denominator and some Metamucil on the side? Write to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.