Racism in All Its Glory

Even though it was appropriate for cable network HBO to publicly slap the wrist of stand-up comedian Bill Maher for referencing a racist slur (looking, as always, for a cheap laugh, Maher used the antebellum plantation term “house nigger”), let’s not be too quick to congratulate ourselves for “doing the right thing.”

Indeed, let’s not pretend that we’ve made so much progress in regard to the virulent, hardcore “racism” that existed prior to passage of the 1964 and 1965 Civil Rights Acts that we can now focus our attention on such pesky, tangential items as tasteless jokes and taboo remarks, because clearly that’s not the case. In truth, we’ve made remarkably little progress. Racism, in all its glory, is alive and well.

Back in 1994 and 1995, exactly 30 years after passage of those two pieces of landmark civil rights legislation, Michael Moore had a network television show called, “TV Nation.” In one of the episodes, intended to demonstrate just how ingrained and pervasive racism was, they took a youngish (mid-thirties) African-American, put him on a New York City curb, and filmed him trying to hail a cab. The results were simultaneously startling, tragic, demoralizing, and “hilarious.”

After numerous cabs purposely ignored this guy (who was initially wearing regular trousers and a polo shirt), they spruced him up a bit. They put him in slacks and a sports jacket. Still, cabs continued to pass him by. So they kicked it up a notch. They dressed him in conservative business attire—a pinstriped suit, coat and tie. Still no luck. Cab after cab cruised by, unwilling to make him a passenger.

At this point, realizing the tragic absurdity of the whole thing, and wishing to exploit the issue to the max, the producers pushed it to its existential limit. They outfitted this man in a formal tuxedo. A splendiferous garment it was. So there he is, standing on the curb, dressed in a fancy tuxedo, trying to hail a cab.

Still no takers, which was positively nuts. So they kicked it up yet another notch. In addition to the fancy tuxedo (which practically screamed, “I am not a crackhead”), they had him try to hail a cab while carrying a large floral arrangement. Incredibly, there were still no takers.

So they decided to finish the gag with a flourish. They had this very presentable African-American gentleman not only stand on the curb, wearing a tuxedo and carrying a bouquet of flowers, but they now had him holding a baby in his arms. Absolutely true. There he is: Tuxedo, flowers, baby. But presumably, because he was black, cab after cab passed him by. I witnessed this telecast myself, so none of it was reported to me second-hand.

In addition to all the obvious revulsion, there was another distressing component to it. According to 1990s New York City demographics, the majority of these cab drivers would be Pakistanis. In other words, these were men who’d been in the U.S. for 10 minutes, and were already “hip” enough to know that you don’t pick up a Soul Brother. Apparently, American racism is not only endemic, it’s contagious.

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
March 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Roberto J. González
The Mind-Benders: How to Harvest Facebook Data, Brainwash Voters, and Swing Elections
Paul Street
Deplorables II: The Dismal Dems in Stormy Times
Nick Pemberton
The Ghost of Hillary
Andrew Levine
Light at the End of the Tunnel?
Paul de Rooij
Amnesty International: Trumpeting for War… Again
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Coming in Hot
Chuck Gerhart
Sessions Exploits a Flaw to Pursue Execution of Meth Addicts
Robert Fantina
Distractions, Thought Control and Palestine
Hiroyuki Hamada
The Eyes of “Others” for Us All
Robert Hunziker
Is the EPA Hazardous to Your Health?
Stephanie Savell
15 Years After the Iraq Invasion, What Are the Costs?
Aidan O'Brien
Europe is Pregnant 
John Eskow
How Can We Live With All of This Rage?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Was Khe Sanh a Win or a Loss?
Dan Corjescu
The Man Who Should Be Dead
Howard Lisnoff
The Bone Spur in Chief
Brian Cloughley
Hitler and the Poisoning of the British Public
Brett Wilkins
Trump Touts $12.5B Saudi Arms Sale as US Support for Yemen War Literally Fuels Atrocities
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraqi Landscapes: the Path of Martyrs
Brian Saady
The War On Drugs Is Far Deadlier Than Most People Realize
Stephen Cooper
Battling the Death Penalty With James Baldwin
CJ Hopkins
Then They Came for the Globalists
Philip Doe
In Colorado, See How They Run After the Fracking Dollars
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Armed Propaganda
Binoy Kampmark
John Brennan’s Trump Problem
Nate Terani
Donald Trump’s America: Already Hell Enough for This Muslim-American
Steve Early
From Jackson to Richmond: Radical Mayors Leave Their Mark
Jill Richardson
To Believe in Science, You Have to Know How It’s Done
Ralph Nader
Ten Million Americans Could Bring H.R. 676 into Reality Land—Relief for Anxiety, Dread and Fear
Sam Pizzigati
Billionaires Won’t Save the World, Just Look at Elon Musk
Sergio Avila
Don’t Make the Border a Wasteland
Daryan Rezazad
Denial of Climate Change is Not the Problem
Ron Jacobs
Flashing for the Refugees on the Unarmed Road of Flight
Missy Comley Beattie
The Age of Absurdities and Atrocities
George Wuerthner
Isle Royale: Manage for Wilderness Not Wolves
George Payne
Pompeo Should Call the Dogs Off of WikiLeaks
Russell Mokhiber
Study Finds Single Payer Viable in 2018 Elections
Franklin Lamb
Despite Claims, Israel-Hezbollah War is Unlikely
Montana Wilderness Association Dishonors Its Past
Elizabeth “Liz” Hawkins, RN
Nurses Are Calling #TimesUp on Domestic Abuse
Paul Buhle
A Caribbean Giant Passes: Wilson Harris, RIP
Mel Gurtov
A Blank Check for Repression? A Saudi Leader Visits Washington
Seth Sandronsky
Hoop schemes: Sacramento’s corporate bid for an NBA All-Star Game
Louis Proyect
The French Malaise, Now and Then
David Yearsley
Bach and the Erotics of Spring