Well, it’s official. I’m a racist.

I’m not sure when or how it happened. The change could have been slow and gradual, like moss creeping over an old stone wall.  Slow, gradual, unnoticed. In fact, if not for the trained eye of one of my liberal friends, I would have probably been consumed by it without ever becoming aware and might have changed my name to Robert Byrd or something crazy like that.  Or worse, joined a local tea party.

He pointed out my flaw during one of our discourses on political policy.  As was his usual opening salvo, he remarked upon the ignorance of George Bush.  I simply asked him if Bush had gotten better grades than John Kerry. To which he replied, “Yes, well he didn’t get beat by Kerry did he.” No I remarked, he got beat by a man who for some strange reason won’t release any official transcripts from any of the colleges he went to, so we can’t really compare.  To which he related that just like the rest of the “neo-conservatives”, I don’t like Obama because he’s black.

Really.  He went from “Bush is ignorant”, to “show me the grades”, to “no you’re a racist” in less than 5 sentences.  I could tell he was embarrassed and he quickly backpedaled.  Not you specifically, he said, but there are those who wouldn’t believe the grades anyway and would claim he had only gotten there due to affirmative action….his voice trailing off or I was just done listening.  Do you think if I had asked him about the birth certificate thing his head would have exploded?

Looking back on my childhood, I wondered if and when I became a racist.  In our lower working class neighborhood, there were very few white families, and with six kids, I’d bet our family was the majority of the whites in town.  In fact, every family I knew was brown or black, with a few Asian families mixed in.  Maybe being one of only three or four white kids in my grade school class made me racist.  Who knows, maybe I turned out racist because I was always picked last for basketball.

Could have been later in life, maybe when that black kid lived across the hall from me in college.  Must have been.   We worked the same damned shifts at the dinning hall, slinging crap and flipping sawdust-and-beef burgers.  We’d sneak 5-gallon tins of peanut butter and bags of saltine crackers out of the dinning hall so we could snack all week for free.   We had a penchant for chipping in our laundry money so we could buy the cheapest beer in the market, helping us feel like real college guys on Friday nights.  Yup, if he weren’t black I probably would have gone for the Iron City Light instead of the Red White and Blue.

If you’re going to throw the term racist around, you really have a responsibility to make sure you’re quite correct in the application.  Like any good over-prescribed antibiotic, the term is starting to lose its effectiveness.  Using it because you want to win an argument or shut down debate pretty much tells everyone that you are, indeed, a racist bastard yourself, willing to trivialize the plight of those who suffered for the color of their skin just so you can feel more important.  Or smart.

I chuckle at all this really, because it’s been so obvious for so long now.  I am the hated white man. My skin gives me great power over other men. Hell, I’m so white I can read by the glow of my own skin at night.  For most of my adult life, I’ve been told it’s angry white men, white rage, white European men, you name it, we’ve conquered it, plundered it, raped it, stole it, enslaved it, bought and sold it.  I’m now immune to the plight of those who really suffer the effects of racism.  Sorry, I’ve been conditioned that way by those who know so much about racism that they see it in their cornflakes every morning.

Racism has now become that catchall excuse you use to explain away any flaws, failures or inadequacies in your life.  Makes me feel better about myself after all these years though.  Really, I thought I was picked last for basketball because I sucked at it.