Racism is defined as hatred and intolerance of another race. Seems pretty simple to identify and understand when it’s the confederate flag waving, swastika tattoo wearing nut-job spewing hate. I think we would all agree that that person is a racist. Fill in the blank…”I hate all ______ people”.
What is classism? Is it as simple as a discriminatory attitude or hatred based on a social class? How many of us are guilty of that to some degree?… “Eat the Rich”, “Burn the Rich”. The evil, rich, white man keeping his boot on the throats of the rest of us, we hate him. I hate rich people.
What is bigotry? That word isn’t as popular but certainly has it’s applications…
“I hate Christians”. That gets tossed around a lot. Do you really? You hate your Grandma? Maybe you do, I dunno…My Grandma was way cool, but hopefully you starting to get my point.
Hate is a strong word, “to feel hostility toward”. When applied with broad strokes that can get the hater into quite a pickle. Hate is a very dualistic concept, it illustrates a right and a wrong, deals in generalities or stereotypes on one hand while defining a clear line on the other that eliminates anything on the other side of that line leaving no room for conversation or debate.
My friend Mike and I swap stories all the time. We both have cool party stories of doing stupid shit while we were buttered. We both had drinking problems when we were younger and no longer drink so we like to reminisce about some of the wilder times we had. I just flat out quit drinking one day, it wasn’t as easy for Mike, he went to AA and did the whole 12 step program. I think there had already been some religion in his family so it was probably easy for him to embrace some the Christian ideals of AA. In fact it was so easy that it became his bag completely, he went to seminary and took his theology classes and did whatever else it takes and is now a preacher! No shit. The dude drives out to some small town on the plains every weekend and preaches. He’s my friend and I don’t hate him.
Jim’s father was an alcoholic and used to beat him. He too found comfort in religion and is a deacon at a local church known for being pretty radical and accepting. He has a hard time with most hardline Christian conservatives (he has the same issues with them that most of us do) but he doesn’t hate them and I don’t hate Jim. He is one of the most open and loving people I know, he has done some amazing things for people and expects nothing in return other than that Jesus takes care of him when he dies. I can’t say I buy into that (and I am struggling to hold back laughter even as I typed that), but just because I don’t agree doesn’t mean I hate him.
I used to work with this girl (this got messy so I am going to change the name), lets call her Maggy. Maggy and I got along great. I was/am a punk rocker dude struggling to make sense of the semi-corporate environment I work in. Don’t get me wrong, the company is pretty laid back and welcoming of all types of people. I’ve been there for over 11 years now…Anyway Denise and I bonded because of who we were, I being very open and non-judgmental and she…Well Maggy was very open about her being a lesbian . She would confide in me some very intimate details of her life and relationships, again I suppose the reason she felt so comfortable with me was that she knew I didn’t give a shit and that I saw her as person not as whatever label society pinned on her. I always tried to offer the best advice I could and often went to her for help as well.
Maggy got fired one day and did not go away quietly. She went after the company for discrimination claiming the company was racist and homophobic. She was let go for performance issues and she and I had discussed some of the work related issues that she was having prior to her being let go. I couldn’t believe it when she made those accusations and played that card, as her claims had nothing to do with why she was let go and were untrue, but she went there with it. And the company paid…I don’t know how much they paid, but they gave her money to be quiet and go away. Wow.
Again I’m going to change names here, but anyway…You would probably never find a more unlikely trio of dudes; but Mack, Andy and I became pretty good friends. Andy was a former Mormon, was the son of a very prominent well-to-do lawyer, he was a coke-snorting car salesman in the 80’s, a former high-end divorce lawyer, Native American, a father of three, in his mid 50’s and is now very Buddhist. Mack, well he was about my age, but was an on again off again heavy drug user, an ex-gang banger (a Crip), Islamic, and African American. Me, well I used to be a booze bag, am a punk rocking metal-head, anarcho, conspiracy loving nutcase with two kids and am Caucasian.
We’d get together at least once a week to talk about our lives, relationships and to help each other stay on course. Many of our conversations would entertain some level of spirituality without religion more in a sense that we were studying and trying to understand how we were connected to each other and to all other living beings. In some ways Buddhism was the vehicle that we used as a reference to help guide many of these conversations. Mack was impressed enough with our personal and spiritual journeys that, to the dismay of his wife, he denounced his Islamic faith (he was Islamic and wasn’t a terrorist!). The three of us became very tight and even started going to yoga together. Once you looked passed the stereotypes that been tagged to us it was amazing how much the three of us had in common. We were just people sharing our love for each other and letting go of hate…
Since we worked together we able to share some unique experiences and the subject of interviewing new-hire candidates and how our own prejudices played into it came up a few times. What we found out was we were not prejudice to other ethnic or social backgrounds we were prejudice to our own! For instance, Mack was harder on young black males and would really put them through the ringer where I was harder on white guys with tattoos and piercings. Even Andy hammered the older candidates. With the new-hire candidates that reflected the stereotypes of each other, we found ourselves being easier on them. Mack and Andy were softer on white tattooed guys and I was more easy-going on black guys and the older folks. I am sure there is some study to be done here and once we discovered that we were guilty of this, we spent hours trying to examine the reasons we acted this way with what remained of our college psychology courses. And it just boiled down to we didn’t know what the fuck we were talking about!
Here is a quick anecdote about subtle racism in action. Mike (the preacher guy mentioned above), Steve and I were at lunch one day. We got the check and all handed over our debit cards to have them split the bill. The waiter took each of our cards but it was only Steve whose ID he asked for. That might not be a big deal until you understand that Mike’s card said “see ID” on the back, my card didn’t say anything (I never signed it!), and it was Steve’s card that was signed and in order. Steve is black.
The guy that started the company I work for is probably pretty damn close to being a 1%er. He is a millionaire and has money coming out of his ears. He gave a tattooed punk rock guy without a college degree an opportunity 11 years ago. One time he sent me to Phoenix to the office of a company we were buying to interview the Managers and make some business recommendations on what to do with the place. Wow! A business trip! I asked if I should get a suit and wear long sleeves (it was summer in Phoenix but I thought I should cover my arms). He said “you are who you are and I know who you are”. Nuff said; no suit. His kid has some rare disease and is dying…He is a rich white man with boot on someone’s throat I’m sure, but he is a person. I don’t hate him.
My brother lives in a super fucked up neighborhood. One time there was this huge brawl between the punx and the drug dealers and crack heads. It wasn’t about class, it wasn’t about race. There were mixed races on both sides of the fight. Hell some of the week-end warrior crack heads might have it financially better than some of the punx so any assumed thoughts on classism are out the window. You can tell who they are by the way they dress; they are clean and have nice shoes and clothes. They come out of the burbs for the weekend to hang out and “party” on the street. They are white, black and brown. Drug dealers aren’t really racist, the only color they see is green. But the police are…The fact is that the police won’t patrol this neighborhood, it’s seen as being full of undesirables or some shit. Poor people come in all colors…”fuck ‘em all”.
The contradictions in the punk scene are almost never ending. The straight-edgers hate the drunk punx who hate the house punx who hate the street punx and oi boys who hate the crusties who hate showers and pop punx. Fuck…It’s enough to make your head spin faster than a PHOBIA 7”. We are often quick to point fingers and stereotype (often without gathering all the facts and having a full understanding), but not so fast to look in the mirror and examine our own judgments.
Racism is shit, classism is shit, sexism is shit, homophobia is shit, and bigotry (hating someone for their religion is bigotry) is shit. But is it always that easy to identify and understand? I hope that some of the stories I shared illustrate how gray the world really is and why you can’t paint with broad strokes. You have to tailor to the individual or you risk becoming guilty of some other “ism” or phobia, even bigotry. You may not agree with someone’s beliefs but do you hate them for it? I don’t hate Mike, I don’t agree with his belief system or in his Judeo-Christian God , but I don’t hate Mike. I can’t say I hate pop-punk dudes. My buddy listens to some of the most horrendous bubble-gum shit there is…I think it’s easier to get rid of all the “isms” and phobias and just call it for what it is. In a word it is hate. Hating is shit. And I as I mentioned earlier “hate” is such a brutal and dualistic word. I try to teach my kids to not use it and to use phrases such as “I don’t like lima beans” vs “I hate lima beans”…It’s not working very well…
Who do you hate?
Share love, compassion, and empathy and even sympathy, don’t share hate.
End Note 1. I have a new band. We are called APEX and we play crust.
End Note 2. In the last issue some of you might have detected Damien and I have differing views on 911. I put together some of my thoughts on 911 and a primer on False Flag Terrorism…you can read it here- http://thrashhead.com/911.html