Tuesday, April 15, 2008

American Racism

I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a Red Sox - Yankees game this past Sunday night at Fenway Park. While I had a great time, three things dampened my enjoyment somewhat: the Yankees losing; the bitter cold; and an incident that reminded me just how deep racism still runs in America.

Along with our free tickets, a friend and I had also been given a parking pass to the Ipswich Garage. When we got to the garage before the game, an east African immigrant came over and took our keys to park it - and explained that the lot was valet parking.

When we returned around 11pm, others were in line waiting to get their cars back. But one pair of young white men, probably in their late 20s, were extremely agitated. After a moment, I discovered that the problem was that the valets were unable to find their car keys.

All of the people working in the garage were immigrants of various nationalities, a fact that was not lost on one of the young men, whose buddy was worried that he would be late to work if their keys weren't found shortly. "If you don't find those keys, I'm going to call the fucking INS on you!" he yelled, among other profane threats.

To his credit, the man running the operation did ask him not to yell at them, but that only occasioned more yelling, including "fucking Mexican piece of shit!"

I am embarrassed to admit that I was too fearful of how these two young white men would respond, and as such did not intervene.

The whole incident reminded me of the 2004 flap over Barry Bonds' comments that he would not consider ending his career in Boston. Dave Zirin wrote about this then:

In an interview with the Boston Globe, Bonds was asked a cream puff question about whether he would consider finishing his career in Beantown. Bonds shook his head and said, "Boston is too racist for me. I couldn't play there. That's been going on ever since my dad (Bobby) was playing baseball. I can't play like that. That's not for me, brother." When the reporter countered that the racial climate has changed in Boston, Bonds responded, "It ain't changing. It ain't changing nowhere.

Sure, Bonds' insistence that "it ain't changing" was overly grim. But I would certainly say that "it ain't changing fast enough".


Jasen said...

The irony is that I'm sure David Ortiz is their favorite player and they see no ploblem being racist towards this "Mexican" immigrant and worshiping Ortiz, A Domincan immigrant. This reminds me of Spike Lee's "Do The Right Thing." Mookie (lee) asks Pino (John Turturro) who his favorite ballplayer, actor and singer are. He responds: Magic Johnson, Eddie Murphey and Prince. Of course, Pino is very racist and sees no issue with his love of these black celebrities and his disdain for the average black man.

Pretty sick...

Betty & Bimbo said...

Ugh, sounds ugly.

Koko, do you think this is something especially symptomatic of Boston?

Jasen said...

I will weigh in on that if you don't mind. I just talked about this on a sports radio show I sometimes do... I think fans are guilty of this across the spectrum. That being said, it's hard to deny Boston's racist past. Remember Bill Russell saying that Boston was a "flea market of racism." The man is one of the most storied and successful athletes in the history of the city. If you read the rest of the article that Koko is referencing above, you will see that Zirin addresses this and some other incidents in Boston. It is really worth a read. http://www.counterpunch.org/zirin06232004.html

Anonymous said...

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Nancy D., Girl Detective said...

The most difficult thing for me about this is how do we respond to these situations? Not on a global level, but in the heat of the moment, when the aggression and threat of violence seems real.

I think it might not be a good idea to confront the people making threats, as that might escalate the situation. However, it doesn't feel good not to do anything, and there is a desire to show support for the one being subjected to the harassment.

A few nights ago, I was walking down the street and saw a man and woman in front of me. The woman was yelling, "Go away, go away!" and the man was grabbing her arms. They clearly knew each other, and it was kind of ambiguous as to whether they were just dramatically fighting or whether she was in trouble. I resolved that when I passed them I would ask the woman if she was okay. If she said yes, I would keep walking; if no, I would help however I could. By the time I got over to them they were hugging, so I didn't have to say anything.

I wonder if this kind of approach could work for a racist attack? Rather than confronting the screaming young men, ignoring them but going up to the workers being victimized and asking them if they are okay and if there is anything you can do to help. I am in no way criticizing your reaction, Koko. I've been in similar situations and done nothing. I am suggesting that we do nothing because it's hard to know what to do, but maybe if we think about it and practice ahead of time we can come up with a more satisfying response.

Koko the Clown said...

to answer your question, Betty, I don't think it's unique to boston, but I do think Boston may be more racist than some other places. We like to think of ourselves in the north as very advanced, but in fact I believe they've actually done a lot more working their shit through in the south.