This morning was my first morning this year driving to work after Daylight Savings Time. My drive to work, normally darkened with a hint of stars, now contained a gorgeous sunrise. The sky was all sorts of purple and blue and the frost on the grass was sparkling. It should have been beautiful.
I couldn’t appreciate it.
The night before I was talking about an issue that’s been going on in Cleveland for decades. The problem with our major league baseball mascot being an incredibly racist depiction of a Native American. Something people have been fighting to have removed for decades to no avail.
And last night, I truly realized how wrong I was about how far we’ve moved as a society when people started defending the logo. Stating that it wasn’t a big deal. Stating that it wasn’t racist.
I want to argue these. I want to say, “if it’s not a big deal and doesn’t offend you, then why not allow it to be changed so that it stops offending those it does offend.” Or, “how in the hell is a ‘red sambo’ not racist?”
But I realized that the people on the other side of this arguement are, essentially, NPCs. And this is exactly what I’ve started to realize I’ve been fighting against in almost every struggle I firmly believe in.
For those of you who don’t know what an NPC is. It stands for “Non-Player Character”. They’re, essentially, the people in a lot of role playing video games that stand in one spot and say the same thing whenever you talk to them.
I realized that before my drive to work this morning.
The Cleveland magazine Scene published an amazing article entitled “The Curse of Chief Wahoo” (yes, even the name of the mascot is a bit racist) in which the author presents five pages of amazing research and insight as to the damage the logo causes.
It explains the Native Americans that came here to try to take it down. The people still fighting to this day. The effect racist caricatures have on society. All of this.
But what’s one of the first comments I see? It was something like, “I find your lack of research disappointing.” The first one, of course, some guy saying “Long live the Chief”.
It’s the same no matter where you look. It’s people who do not actually read the articles, who aren’t willing to understand that something they’re used to might be damaging, just immediately trying to belittle people who oppose them with the same tired talking points over and over again.
You see this the most with racist debates. People unwilling to let go and grasping at straws.
But the thing that completely caught me off guard was when it happened on my own Facebook wall last night.
Two long time friends, in a sea of facts, kept spouting the same talking points. Saying that, because they don’t find it racist, it isn’t racist. Using the same copypasta talking points that everyone on that side uses.
And, I’m not going to relive the argument in it’s entirety here, but there were some points where they’d say things that were just so unbelievable that I would go red in the face with anger.
I will pick one in particular. The people who’s only argument is that the issue someone is rallying for “isn’t a big deal”.
So…because you don’t care about something, that means EVERYONE shouldn’t? That’s the exact attitude that kept slavery around so long. It’s the same thing that kept women from voting. That slaughtered the Native Americans. Too few people willing to rock the vote and too many people just wanting to silence people.
And now, as I drive through this gorgeous sunrise, all the more lengthened by a traffic detour that made my morning commute an hour long, where do I go from here?
I’m a father now, I have a son who has to grow up in whatever’s left of this world when he gets old enough and I have people I’m friends with who are being the part of history books that we couldn’t believe used to exist.
I mean, I remember, in Civics class in high school, reading about the events of June 11th, 1963 in which George Wallace was blocking two black students, Vivian Malone Jones and James Hood, from entering a school because he strongly believed that segregation was a thing we needed.
Same thing with the Woolworth lunch counter event, the various bus incidents, and practically everything that happened in Alabama in the 50’s and 60’s.
And I remember looking at pictures of this and other events of the time, seeing all the people in the background siding with these monsters. Slowing progress and honestly believing what they were doing was righteous and not racist. And being so dumbfounded that those people existed.
Then, you find out that people you’ve known for years are those people that might end up in the background of those pictures in my son’s history class. When he learns about how long it took to get rid of this sort of thing. How much of a fucking embarrassment we were. How many times will my kid come home, show me a picture, and say, “wasn’t that the guy that used to come over when I was little?”
Obviously, my friends aren’t going to be showing up in these pictures, more than likely, but their roles in slowing down progress will definitely not be forgotten.
I always thought to myself, “what sort of changes will happen that my son will get to experience”, but now it seems more like “what sort of problems will he be inheriting.”
Long story short, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to sit back and continue interaction with people that would defend this. I don’t know how to not let it consume me.
This morning was a sunrise wasted.