By MARC McDONALD
In a perfect society, there would be no bigots and no racism. Of course, America will never be mistaken for a perfect society. And despite our national delusion that we've become a "colorblind" society that has moved beyond racism, the truth is more complex.
In some ways, it's actually harder to fight racism these days in America than it was, say, 30 years ago. For one thing, a lot of people (particularly Republicans) deny that racism even exists today. In fact, most of these people insist that white people are the "victims" of racism.
In the old days, foes of racism had clear-cut targets and goals. Fighting for African-Americans to be able to vote in the Deep South of the 1960s was no picnic---but at least it was a concrete, clear-cut goal to work toward.
But these days, the fight against racism is more complex. It's more difficult to fight racism when vast numbers of white Americans deny that it even exists these days.
The fact that shockingly high numbers of African-Americans are locked up in prison? Nope, there's no racism in today's America.
The fact that African-Americans still are much more likely to live in poverty than white Americans? Nope, there's no racism in today's America.
The firestorm of (idiotic) controversy about President Obama's birth certificate? Nope, there's no racism in today's America.
Back in the old days, bigots were at least upfront and honest about their racism. I recall during my younger years growing up in the small towns of Texas, I knew many "old school" bigots. These people had no problem with openly using the "N" word. They openly expressed their contempt for "n*ggers."
I recall a sad scene that I witnessed in 1983 in Fort Worth, Texas, while I was working as a truck driver. While I was unloading a truck, a fellow employee was talking to his two children, "instructing" them about the "ways of the world."
"N*ggers don't work in this country," he said. "They all sit around collecting welfare. Come welfare day once a week, they all jump into their Cadillacs and drive up to the welfare office. Never forget, kids, n*ggers are the real problem in this country."
It was sad to see this middle-aged bigot poisoning the minds of his young kids.
But sometimes, I actually prefer old-school bigots like that to today's new breed of "stealth" bigots. You've got to give credit to the old-school bigots: at least they were honest and upfront about their racism. After all, we do (allegedly) live in a "free" society. If people want to be racist, that's their right.
Then there are the "stealth" bigots, who are becoming increasingly common in today's America.
You've met these "stealth" bigots yourself. They're full of quietly simmering hostility toward minorities. They routinely listen to Rush Limbaugh's racist spewings. They're the ones who're always forwarding to you unsolicited right-wing mass emails (which often feature shockingly bigoted and racist content). And yet, they always get angry and indignant if you suggest that they're racist in any way.
I once had an acquaintance who routinely raged about how minorities were "ruining" America. He routinely spewed the "N" word in private, but took care to avoid saying it in public. And he fiercely denied being a racist in any way.
Once, I was arguing with him about why America was facing financial ruin. I pointed out to him that a good part of the reason for America going broke is our ruinous wars, like Vietnam and Iraq, which cost America trillions.
But my acquaintance was having none of it. "The reason we're going broke is because of welfare going to nigglets in places like Detroit," he said.
I pointed out to him that this was not only wrong, but racist. "You do realize that the word "n*gger" is racist, don't you?" I said.
"I didn't say n*gger," he responded with a straight face. "I said nigglet."
So it goes when dealing with today's "stealth" bigots. Of course, these people have mastered their craft of "stealth" bigotry at the knee of their heroes like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and the rest of the bigoted right-wing media.
Limbaugh, of course, is the master of "stealth" bigotry. This is a guy who has made an art form of skillfully dancing around the "N" word.
Limbaugh has never actually used the "N" word on his show. But he very carefully packs as much racist content into each program by skillfully using code words and "dog whistle" phrases, while pushing all the right emotional hot buttons of white working class males who are angry with their declining standards of living and eager to find a scapegoat.
Limbaugh is hardly alone in his stealth bigotry. You hear a lot of this same sort of subtle racism across the entire sewer hole of 24-hour U.S. right-wing talk radio. You also hear it on the likes of Fox News and the right-wing blogosphere. Spend some time at some of these right-wing sites and you quickly come to the realization that racism is as bad today as it's been in decades in America.
The likes of Limbaugh and Fox News show how in some ways its more difficult today to fight racism than it was years ago. After all, back in the 1970s, racist bigots often simply shared their views by word of mouth. Back then, they didn't have their own 24-hour news channels and national talk radio networks to spread their filth.
I have nothing but contempt for these new-school "stealth" bigots. If you're going to be a racist bigot in America, go ahead and put on the white sheet and openly use the "N" word. Be honest and upfront about your bigotry. But please, please, don't dance around the "N" word and pollute your mind with Limbaugh and Fox News and use words like "n*gglet" and then claim with a straight face that you're not a racist bigot.