The news on Imus this week has really provoked a lot of conversation and I've enjoyed sharing my opinions with my friends and family. Being a father, I'm especially careful of how I educate my children. It's absolutely true that racism and bigotry are passed from parents to their children.
My Three Rules:
- I will never understand. As a man, I'll never understand what it's like to be a woman. As a white, I'll never understand what it's like to be a minority. As a straight man, I'll never understand what it's like to be a homosexual. As a Christian, I'll never understand what it's like to be any other religion. I have accepted that it will never be possible for me to ever understand; so instead, I simply try to respect those that I do not understand.
- Everyone is different and it's our differences that make us unique and a gift from God. I love the differences in cultures, race, religions, sexes, wealth… everything about them. Perhaps it's one of the reasons I love food so much… the flavors of different cultures (Indian, Chinese, Taiwanese, Italian, Soul Food, Polish, Ukrainian… mmm) are amazing. My music tastes are much the same… you can find me listening to Notorious B.I.G., the Three Tenors, Mudvayne or Babes in Toyland… and everything in between. (Though I have to admit that I have no taste for country).
- Double standards are a part of life. Income tax rates, S.A.T. scores, handicapped parking… you name it and there's a double standard for it. Double standards are not a bad thing… everyone is different and different standards should apply. I've heard and seen some people wanting to now apply the same guidelines that got Imus fired and apply it to hip-hop or comedians.
IMHO, there is a huge gap between targeting racial remarks to a specific group of people to joking or generalizing about many. Make a joke about fat people and I'll probably be the first to laugh and tell the joke to someone else… but make a fat joke meant to hurt me and that's different (although I still might laugh and tell someone else). I've heard jokes about Conservatives, Liberals, Jews, Christians, Blacks, Whites, Asians, Arabs, etc. that are hilarious… they humorously exaggerate a stereotype but they do not spread the stereotype in a hurtful manner.
The difference is whether the goal is to hurt or help our understanding of one another. Sometimes that is a matter of perception, but that's exactly what we have to be aware of. There's no line in the sand. Something can be funny to one person and hurtful to the next.
That said, “Have I ever gone over the line?”. Yes, absolutely… and I immediately regretted it and was sorry for it. I don't believe I was ever a bigot, but I was young and ignorant of others. These three rules are what I've worked on to give my kids more of a head start than I had.
If people learned to recognize our differences, respect and embrace them, I honestly feel like this world would be a much easier place to live.
Thanks to JD for inspiring me to write this.