Once upon a time there was a guy who sincerely believed that he was a liberal. He ate liberal food, read liberal magazines, dressed in liberal clothes, had the kind of profession that liberals have. He watched liberal television and tuned in the liberal radio station to download his daily opinions. He was so liberal that he had a New York accent even though he was from Texas. No kidding. He took pains to avoid the words that liberals dare not speak and was openly disdainful of those insensitive enough to say "black" instead of "african-american."
He was also super compassionate. He just oozed sympathy and sensitivity understanding and inclusion. Everywhere he went he left a trail of glistening compassion.
Then one day this guy showed his true colors. He was a talking liberal and a practicing racist.
One day Mr. Compassion signed up for a class so that he can earn his motorcycle license. Also in this class was a late-middle-aged black guy. This black guy had an offer of a higher paying job at some distance from his house. He couldn't affford a car and he couldn't afford the extra two hours' daily bus commute. He had arranged to buy a used motorcycle if he passed this course.
Being not so very young and not so very fit, the black guy's strength toward the end of the day began to flag. Mr. Compassion noticed him panting and struggling to horse his bike around the course. Using his best, most unctious touchy-feely social scientist voice, he took the black guy aside and assured him that it wasn't worth the exertion, everything's okay, tomorrow is another day.
The black guy was minutes from victory, and Mr. Compassion talked him out of it with sweet sweet words. Rather than giving strength to the black guy, Mr. Compassion sucked it out of him like a vampire.
This black guy had tried to better himself economically through his own efforts, and Captain Liberal had held him down by pretending to be his friend. This was economic race warfare and the black guy had been beat with a helping hand.
Because he didn't get his motorcycle license, he couldn't take the better paying job. The course isn't offered again for several weeks, and the old black guy isn't likely to get any younger or any stronger, and that better job isn't going to be waiting for him. Even if it is, he has to come up with the cost of taking the course again, and the reason he's taking the course is because he's short of time and money.
The really insidious aspect of this kind of racism is that the black guy thinks this is his best friend in the whole white world.
I wonder if Mr. Compassion even considers the harm he has done. Is his disguise so perfect that he fools even himself? Is this something he does deliberately, or is it just worked into his program?
When you strip away the motives, the black guy lost his shot at a better job. Mr. Compassion can walk away from the consequences of his toxic benevolence. The old black guy can't.
RTJ--2/1/2005Arkansas Travelogue home page | Matters Literary