" I am NOT a racist...I hated Obama's White Half, too..." -- The Overlord
Part Two of our quest to make sense of the insensible.
Racism for Fun and Profit
Before we begin in earnest, I want to tell you a story about the condominium the Overlord now lives in.
It is in a rather upscale neighborhood. The surrounding area contains within it's borders a very nice public golf course, the largest shopping mall anywhere in New York City, miles of nature trails through protected wood and wetlands. The average income in this particular area is roughly $70,000 a year. The least-expensive apartment in the Overlord's building (that would be a one-bedroom condo, that comes with a concierge, security system, in-house washer/dryer, modern kitchen appliances, underground parking space, swimming pool, gymnasium and enclosed terrace) begins at $400,000.
I don't tell you this to brag.
I tell you this because the next paragraph is about who lives here.
My new neighbors are a rather diverse (how I hate that word!) lot: Asians, Hispanics, Jews, Eastern Europeans, Arabs, and...Blacks.
The only color anyone here saw when they were handing out mortgages was green. Everyone gets along quite nicely. There's always a "good morning" or "how are you?" when passing in the halls, or sharing the elevator. Someone, perhaps multiple someones, has a habit of leaving candy and fresh-baked cookies in the lobby for anyone to take. When we first moved in, the Welcome Wagon showed up to greet us, bringing food and wine and telling us that "if you need anything, I'm in Apartment ____, just knock."
My neighbors, aware of Mrs. Overlord's illness because they've seen me pushing her around the grounds in her wheelchair, will always inquire as to her health.
I tell you this because if there is anything approaching the pandemic-levels of racism that some insist is baked into the crust of American Life, it is not evident here.
In fact, it has been hard to detect such things for many years here in New York City.
I'm going to return to my neighbors in a moment, but let's say a few things about New York City, in general, before I move on.
The Overlord is a Native New Yorker. Born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, raised in Brooklyn and Staten Island. For a period when I lived in Charlotte, NC (about 18 months in the Heart of Klan Country, and I saw rather polite and happy people the majority of the time), the Overlord has seen neither much in the way of racism, and at the same time, little evidence that there actually is much of it at all. He's also seen great changes that have transpired over the course of his 54-plus years with regards to race.
I choose to present New York as an example for a variety of reasons. NYC is America's largest metropolitan area in terms of population -- 8 million souls; by comparison, Los Angeles has roughly half that number and Chicago, a quarter. If you include "The Greater Metropolitan Area" (as we call it), which includes the suburbs north of the city, Long Island, southern Connecticut and Northern New Jersey, there are somewhere on the order of 18.5 million people living here. A New Yorker is at home in, say, Newark, NJ, just as much as someone from Darien, Conn. would be in familiar surroundings in The Bronx.
We're not a heterogeneous lot, either: New York is the proverbial Melting Pot. If you can name the place, we have the people. We live in neighborhoods called Little Italy, Chinatown (there are actually THREE Chinatowns, here), Little Cairo, Koreatown, Little Havana, Indian Village, Spuyten Duyvil, Little Odessa, Little Brazil, Little Germany, Little Syria. Brooklyn, alone, has the largest population of Jews outside of Israel. Here, on Staten Island -- tiny Staten Island! -- we have the largest communities of both Sri Lankans and West Africans outside of their native habitats.
OF COURSE things were different once.
As a tyke, I never saw a black person unless it was on television. You could turn on the boob tube and see Morgan Freeman on Sesame Street; Bill Cosby, Flip Wilson, Pearl Bailey, Sidney Poitier, Sammy Davis, Jr., The Jackson Five, Diana Ross were all staples of the entertainment scene, in those days.
My childhood heroes were Hank Aaron (still the greatest!), Willie Mays and Julius Erving. All a face on television.
But I never was in the same room with a black person until my aunt married one, probably around 1975 or 76. The neighborhood in Brooklyn that I grew up in was somewhat more mixed, but that's a stretch: there were a smattering of Puerto Ricans and a few Indians (Gandhi-type Indians), but not many blacks. I first encountered blacks on a somewhat-larger scale when I first went to Catholic School, about second grade: my school had a handful of them, perhaps 10, or so. High school was much the same: in my school of 600 or so boys, there may have been about two dozen black kids.
And yet everyone got along. The kids all played together; the neighbors were always pleasant to one another and helped each other with the snow-shoveling, and lending assistance changing a flat or changing someone's oil, and as a kid you were just as likely to be narked out or admonished for wrongdoing by any other parent in the neighborhood -- regardless of color -- as you were your own.
And your parents would both thank them for it and return the favor vis-a-vis their own children, too.
About the only evidence or incidence of racism that I can recall from those early days was that some idiot had taken the trouble to paint, in large letters in white paint, upon the handball court in the local schoolyard "No Niggers after 8 P.M." and there was an enormous uproar about it, with someone taking it upon themselves to not only paint over the offensive message, but to paint the entire court a lovely shade of battleship gray, probably at his own expense.
No one called anyone "Nigger". You rarely heard anything like "Spic", "Hebe", "Wop", "Mick" or any other derogatory term.
I'm not telling you that people were absolute saints: I'm surmising that if they did harbor any latent racist tendencies, they pretty much kept them to themselves.
Doing so, this Native new Yorker can tell you, is an essential survival skill here. It goes with all the other necessary skills one learns, like not making eye contact with anyone on the subway, or being able to ignore anything happening that doesn't directly involve you, and learning to mind your own business.
Because doing otherwise might get you killed.
It is this ability to seemingly not give a fuck -- along with ingrained impatience with stupid tourists (as if there were any other kind?) -- that has given New Yorkers a reputation as cold, unfeeling, obnoxious, rude and degenerate people.
But nothing can be further from the truth.
Because give New Yorkers a genuine crisis --a blizzard, a hurricane, floods, a terrorist attack, a pandemic -- and, suddenly, the disparate herds of identity and the uncaring automatons spring into action and unite like no other people on Earth.
Seen it far too many times to count in 50-plus years to deny it.
There is nary a neighborhood here were the elderly shut-ins are not looked after. There is hardly a person who will step over the body of someone knifed on the subway or hit by a car in the street who will not lend assistance. Snow is everyone's enemy, and it is not uncommon for entire neighborhoods to pool resources to dig each other out. The amount of charity that suddenly appears from generous New Yorkers when it is needed is staggering.
Give us a cause and we will rally, black, white, yellow, brown, red or polka-dotted. I think this is a common tendency among all people, but you never see it to the extent that you will see it here, and given the contrast of the reputation for being callous bastards, it is a phenomenon unique in it's breadth and scope.
When the Overlord grew some and went to work for the first time, in the Big City, he suddenly found himself among the strange: Jamaicans, Salvadorans, Koreans, and all the rest. Again, there was mutual respect among people, and in the business environment it became obvious to me as the years passed that the only color anyone saw here was green; as long as money was being made, no one seemed to care WHO was making it.
And yet, there were still some issues that people just didn't talk about.
In 37 years in the business world -- 25 of them on Wall Street -- I have NEVER come across a segregated work force; I have never seen a directive issued, anywhere, to NOT hire anyone based on race; I have never seen, nor heard of, anyone making a racist comment or gesture towards anyone that wasn't swiftly punished with unemployment.
In my own business, I was thinking recently, that the truest expression of the wish "a world where race doesn't matter" is to be found among my own staff.
Fifty years ago (I have, by necessity, to limit my timeframe to my own, limited, experience), blacks wouldn't be allowed inside the building I operate from unless they were there to clean it, let alone be armed with Master's Degrees. If a hispanic was anywhere in the area, she was either selling coffee outside on the sidewalk or dishing out Sloppy Joes in the cafeteria. Thirty years ago, it would be possible to classify people strictly on the basis of race and ethnicity, and be correct about 98% of the time.
But not any more.
Now, I look at the younger generation among my employees, and I see people whose racial or ethnic background defies classification. There's the Black/White database administrator, the White/Asian programmer; the Indian/White technician; the Jewish/Hispanic communications engineer. I even had a young lady whose father was a Palestinian and a Jewish mother; the Asian/Black data engineer.
This would not have been possible -- mixed race marriages? Mixed race children? With degrees and all working in a professional atmosphere? -- unthinkable in, say, 1967. In 1997, it seemed to be the norm. In 2007, no one gave it a thought..
Race has long been a non-issue in America, either because the wider culture moved on to other bugaboos, or because, at the very least, people still had enough respect for one another to not make a federal case out of it.
Which brings me back to my neighbors.
Recently, there has been a crisis in the building. Something so godawful that it has required the entire building to devote vast energies and resources to solve a critical problem of our day and age.
There is a lost kitten somewhere in this building.
The Overlord first heard it meowing from his terrace five nights ago. It was across the street, probably hidden in the shrubbery of one of the other buildings in the complex. He thought nothing of it. Certainly, it's mother would come for it.
Late the following evening, the Overlord heard the kitten meowing in the parking garage. He looked for it, but the kitten would stop meowing every time he got near, and presumably move on to a new hiding spot.
This past weekend, the Overlord entered the garage to find approximately a dozen people gathering and organizing a search for this kitten. They ranged from the elderly, stereotypical "cat lady" to the homosexual dudes, and they were armed with cat carriers, food and water, and were organizing a thorough search of the garage and surrounding area. Within a few hours, there were more than 20 people engaged in this activity.
They tracked the kitten to a car parked in one of the outdoor spots. Apparently, the kitten had gotten into the vehicle (probably through a wheel well), and got lost inside. With the owners permission, some of the men started taking the rear bumper and quarter panels off the vehicle in a desperate search for a kitten that had probably not eaten or had water in several days. There was no success, and to the best of my knowledge, the kitten has not been found, and probably has, unfortunately, passed by this time.
But, the point is that people -- of all stripes, colors, orientations, ages, what have you -- put aside any differences they may have, even secretly -- to engage in a life-or-death rescue operation.
And one sees something like that and thinks "What racism?".
He also thinks "typical New Yorkers".
But the Kumbaya isn't the real point here. The salient issue is that, when it comes to RACISM (in caps, because those who scream loudest about it tend to think of it that way) there really is none. Sure, there's douchebags in 21st Century America who hold ridiculous opinions or harbor genuine hatreds based on race, but they are few and far between, and even here, in the most-populous city, with the most-diverse population imaginable, racism (small 'r' because it's not that big a deal) hardly rears it's ugly head, anywhere you go.
Unless you travel to some of the more, shall we say, questionable, neighborhoods in the city where racism is a cottage industry.
And this is the point.
RACISM does not exist to the extent that some would like you to believe, and even racism, itself, is not much of a problem for most people in their daily lives.
There are those, however, who make their livings on it, and these are the people who have a vested interest in ensuring that if racism doesn't exist, then they're going to make certain that the idea persists, even if they have to lie about it.
The worst offenders are the "Civil Rights" crowd. Having won the war, they go on fighting the same battles, ad infinitum, for lack of anything productive to do. Some of these folks, veterans of the fight in the 50's, 60's and 70's, haven't realized the society they set out to change largely did. Perhaps this is because a good many of them -- who experienced real racism, back in the day -- have been so psychically and emotionally scarred by their experiences that they simply cannot conceive of a new reality. Others have turned "the Struggle" into a cash cow they're loathe to abandon.
Next in line is The Left. Since the Left cannot survive without discontent and an emotional backdrop of "struggle", it, too, cannot admit to anything positive having transpired. Although some elements call themselves "Progressive", they have a unique talent for failing to recognize progress when it is made. For many, it's not 2021 -- it is still 1921, or even 1821, and the specters of Jim Crow and Slavery are always just a heartbeat from returning. They deal in fear and uncertainty because those are the things that best motivate voters and donors.
The Media bears a lot of blame. Modern media, especially The News, ceased being about the conveyance of factual information a long time ago and morphed into a constellation of propaganda outlets, each aimed as a particular point-of-view, or worse, a particular fantasy, and preaches to it's own choir accordingly.
The new generation of _____ Studies idiots are perhaps the absolute worst. This pernicious swarm of mosquitos perpetrates stereotypes, worn out tropes, blatantly lies and re-writes history to suit it's needs, which are a means of finding jobs for bullshit "academics" and the new regime of social hall monitors who all do little of practical value and extract a very good living for doing so. Critical race Theory is what happens when you give an illiterate the title of "Professor" in a fake field of study.
It takes but a little observation to see that the "problem of racism" in America is largely manufactured.
Because every day we see that if you leave people to their own devices, they're quite capable of respecting one another, or, at the very least, exercising a great deal of tolerance without having to have someone sitting on their shoulder telling them what to do.
It has become almost a comic meme that if you need a good, old-fashioned Hate Crime, you have to do it yourself.
I'm certain your daily experience may be similar.
And nowadays, like the Lost Kitten, we here in New York seem to have a cause to rally behind and around, and that cause is Joe Biden and the lesser Satan of Bill DiBlasio.
When it comes to expressing discontent about those two losers, it seems all the colors are on the same page.
A black man was elected President of the United States -- twice -- despite being lousy at the job. Do you think none of the other races voted for him because they hated him?