The Subtlety of Racism

I want to address a matter:

He’s absolutely right.

I did tweet that. I tweeted it when first reports came through the radio – reports that inaccurately reported on gunshots in the crowd. It was poorly written and should have been removed earlier, let alone never tweeted. Later that day, as I started reading first hand accounts and seeing video from within Astroworld, I blogged my feelings and remorse for the dead. I forgot about the tweet and it stayed until I was confronted about it, which I handled poorly. Should I apologize? The question is who to apologize to. So I offer an umbrella apology to everyone. I shouldn’t have tweeted that and I handled the issue poorly.

There are some who will say this apology is too little, too late. Perhaps it is. But I also see it as a way to start a discussion. The Astroworld theme park in its last years became notorious for gang violence, including stabbings and shootings. I was evacuated from the park during one such incident. I tied that in with reports of gunshots at the music festival possibly being gang related.

It wasn’t intended as a racist remark. I have a white relative who recently left a gang, luckily with his life. But we’re taught by movies and TV that white gangs, like the mob and bikers, are to be glorified, and the Black and Hispanic gangs are to be villainized. In 1987, Robert Townsend released his movie “Hollywood Shuffle,” where he showed how the most prevalent roles in Hollywood for these two ethnic groups were pimps, drug dealers, and gang members. This has changed over the ensuing decades, but the acceptance of actors of color still has a long way to go. Whether I intended it to be or not, the tweet has racial overtones.

I had an extensive talk with a Black friend of mine, an actor and producer, about how for decades I’ve tried to deal with the concepts of racism and white guilt. He’s been very vocal with his angst over racism in law enforcement and in the entertainment industry. “Whether or not you want to accept it, you’re a bit of a racist,” he told me. “You can’t help it. You’re white. Your white culture subtlety teaches you racism and you accept it, because you’re taught nothing else and you’re not encouraged to question it.”

Another Black friend pointed out, “You don’t understand what people of color go through because you’re not one of us. You can’t just Rachel Dolezal yourself. Being Black is a lifetime experience.”

I’ve written on the concept of race – a term that I don’t really care for as it is itself rascist in its nature and origin – here on the Final Days blog. On the ThemedReality blog and social media channels, I’ve written about how the theme park industry didn’t get its first Black GM until the 1980s and how they remain few and far between, on how SeaWorld’s lack of Black animal trainers is a biproduct of the segregationist South, and my concerns on just how much of Disney’s inclusiveness policy is being driven by the potential for new merchandise sales. I rarely see these issues discussed.

Does it matter? Disney gets credit for replacing a racist ride with a Disney Princess. But Disney’s attractions aren’t just about the experience anymore. Three years ago, the company merged its parks division with consumer goods. They’ll sell lots of Tiana merchandise. But then again, the subtleties of racist society keep many of the girls that would want to visit Tiana in a socio-economic bracket where their families just can’t afford to take them to Disneyland or have to save up for a once a year trip. Every time Disney raises ticket prices, it’s not just a cash grab. It’s a way to keep certain groups within society out of the parks.

Does it matter? For the past two decades, I’ve been attending museum conferences where the topics of race, inclusion, and equity always come up. They continually ask, “How can museums serve underserved and underrepresented communities?” This year, I started hearing something new. Shake up your board. Get rid of the old guard who’s adverse to change and bring in new members who represent the demographic you want to target. If you don’t get rid of the old (interpreted as “upper crust white primarily male”) guard, there will be no change.

Over the weekend, I saw tweets about Travis Scott being Satan and the deaths at the festival being God’s vengeance. I also saw tweets about the behavior that led to the deaths being a hip-hop thing. Both of these types of statements are absolute rubbish and pure racism. In fact, when one looks at the worst incidents resulting in death and/or injury at concerts and festivals, they tend to revolve around white rock bands.

I wrote a racist tweet and I didn’t even know it. Because racism has its grasp, subtle for some, not so subtle for others, on us all.


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