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I am not a big movie fan. I have not been in a theatre in over a year, and I have not watched a movie since Labor Day. Hence, while the rest of the world was watching the Oscars I was watching a Discovery Channel documentary on Marine boot camp at Parris Island. Earlier that day, I watched Kansas beat Oregon the NCAA basketball tournament. In fact, I am so cinematically clueless that I had not even heard of the movie for which Halle Berry was awarded the Oscar for best actress.
Don't worry: I am not so detached from the Mother Ship that I did not hear about her acceptance speech at the Oscars and her crusade against the racism that has tormented her so. It matters not that her black father deserted her and her white mother raised her. It matters not that she is unbelievably wealthy and famous and the idol of white America. It matters not that there are God knows how many successful black entertainers. It matters not that Bill Cosby and Oprah Winfrey are the two biggest television personalities of the last 40 years. It matters not that innumerable good things have happened in American race relations in these 40 years.
Columnist Betsy Hart writes the following about Ms. Berry: "Berry says she's 'enraged' at the racism that permeates her life but she's determined to 'rise above it all.' I know we're supposed to be really impressed, but . . . rise above what? A handful of unbelievably lucky and talented people get top parts in movies. So Berry doesn't always get her pick of the screenplays. Pretty much everybody else in America never gets his or her pick of screenplays." (Italics mine.)
Berry made these remarks in a New York Times interview right when the Oscars were being voted upon. It could not have hurt to lay a little guilt on the voters as they cast their ballots. I would wager that the ideological center of gravity of Oscar voters is somewhere in the vicinity of the women's studies faculty at U.C.-Berkeley. If they had not yet awarded a black woman "best actress", perhaps it is liberals who have the problem with racism.
When will it cease? This relentless quest to find a bigot under every bed got old years ago, to the point that almost no one even pays attention anymore. The dominant media culture would have us think that we had not advanced beyond the days of segregated lunch counters and drinking fountains.
Is the fact that it took until 2002 to award a black woman "best actress" simply a matter of old-fashioned Jim Crow style racism? Or are other factors at work in America?
I have a friend, a very humble person whom I shall refer to as David, who holds a Ph.D. from MIT. Last summer, he and I were talking about some mountains in Colorado called Mt. Harvard, Mt. Yale, and Mt. Princeton. David remarked "I hate to blow my horn in such a fashion, but why did they not name a mountain after MIT?"
For that matter, why do they not name streets after MIT? David and I live in a segment of town where streets are named after colleges. I live on Harvard Avenue, which is right in the same neighborhood as streets named after Yale, Cornell, Dartmouth, Vassar, etc. David lives almost due west of me on a street named after a very swanky private college. I sent David an e-mail asking why they do not name streets after colleges like MIT, or my alma mater Arizona State. "Conspiracy!" I proclaimed.
David and I, middle-class guys, were being facetious. Certain colleges lend their names to streets and mountains more than others. Ms. Berry, who has the world by the tail, is not being facetious. Whenever life does not play out ideally, there are always folks like her and Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who just can't wait to put a racial spin on things.
Walter Williams, the well-known black, conservative author and economist, has observed that discrimination is like oxygen: it is everywhere. If oxygen is everywhere, shouldn't we have fires everywhere? Likewise, if discrimination is everywhere, shouldn't we see downtrodden minorities everywhere?
The days of separate drinking fountains and signs that say, "Irishmen need not apply" are long gone. America has done more to assimilate racial minorities than any other country in the world. And yet, at some point in everyone's life, someone will decide that they are too black, white, young, old, fat, thin, ugly, beautiful, educated, uneducated, or whatever, and exclude them from something on that basis and that basis alone. DEAL WITH IT! Utopia ain't gonna happen.
I am a white, Christian, heterosexual male. Based on these factors and these factors alone, people will doubtless make some wrong assumptions about me and exclude me from certain things. I am also in the unenviable position of having some severe physical limitations due to a relapse of an old back injury. The Naval Reserve made me retire because of this, and many potential employers will no doubt use this as a reason to deny me employment.
Oh well. What am I supposed to do? Sleep on a park bench for the remainder of my days? Or should I stop discriminating against myself and go into business for myself?
Airlines have very valid reasons for denying blind people positions as pilots. Brain surgeons who contract Parkinson's disease will have a tough time holding onto their jobs.
I write this on Final Four weekend in college basketball. The majority of the players on any elite basketball team are black, and two of the head coaches in the four surviving teams are black. Is this evidence of institutionalized racism, or do blacks outperform whites thereby earning a place among the elite?
In America's most ruthless and unforgiving meritocracy, the world of sports, there are huge disparities in the representations of various ethnic groups in various sports as opposed to the population at large. Why are there so many Latin American baseball players, and so few Latin Americans in other sports? Why are the only Oriental athletes anyone sees in baseball, and why are they almost all pitchers? Why are pro hockey players from Europe almost all from Russia, Sweden, Finland and Czechoslovakia, as opposed to, say, Greece, Italy, and Portugal? Why have there been so few elite Jewish athletes? And what about white sprinters and black swimmers? Is this symptomatic of institutionalized racism? Or is it a matter of culture?
I have long had a theory about why various ethnic groups and nationalities are unevenly represented just about everywhere. Take 250 ping-pong balls of various colors and put them in a box. Then take 750 white ping-pong balls and pour them in on top of the colored balls. Put a lid on the box and shake it vigorously for a minute or so. Then take the lid off the box and see where the colored balls wind up. Shake it for another minute or so, and see where the colored balls wind up then. The eventual location of the colored balls depends upon a multitude of laws of physics that no one can even begin to comprehend. Similarly, in a society like America, certain groups gravitate toward certain professions for a multitude of reasons that cannot be explained away in one word.
Is it any wonder that the traditional media has, for years, been losing market share while non-traditional media such as the internet and talk radio have been so successful? Millions of people are sick and tired of being preached at about bigotry and millions more are sick and tired of the condescending implication that they are not capable of making it on their own. If the race situation were half as horrible as the media elites would have us think, many if not all of them never could have broken into show business or the media to begin with.
Freely Speaking: Speeches and Essays by Doug Newman
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