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From Imus to Africa: Racism Here, There, Everywhere

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Message Jan Baumgartner
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Racism continues to be a primary issue in this country, and the world.  And truth is, we will never give a damn about the genocide in Darfur, the slaughter in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or the demise of Zimbabwe, or any other place where blacks are enslaved, disenfranchised or expendable, if we can't clean up our own mess here - in the United States of America - where we continue to live, breathe and walk in the shadows of a racist society.

While the race issue must continue to be at the forefront, and part of an ongoing and constructive dialogue, many of the Imus arguments over the last few days have bordered on the absurd, if not juvenile.  How much more of this childish tit-for-tat must we bear witness to?

Adult:  "What you said was despicable and unforgivable."

Child:  "You're right.  I'm sorry."

Adult:  "Do you understand that this cannot be tolerated?"

Child:  "But I said I was sorry.  I won't apologize again!"

Adult:  "You must be held accountable for your hurtful and racist remarks."

Child:  "Well HE said it first!  How come THEY can say but not me?! Why can THEY get away with it...It's such a double standard and SO unfair!"

Boo Hoo.  Or Ho, as it were.

Naturally, the first line of defense when we've been "bad" is always to say we're not the only ones.  Someone else did it first.  Especially when we are guilty.

The Good Ol U.S. of Shifting the Buck.

It's not about THEM.  Each of us has to take responsibility for our actions.  We have to be accountable for our own venom - and cowardly hiding behind the guise of humor or entertainment or any other smoke screen - is not viable and should not be tolerated.

How can we weigh and measure racism?  Is being just a little racist okay?  As long as we give free passes to those who "entertain" at the hurtful expense of others, we will always be an intolerant, hate-mongering society. 

To defend Don Imus by suggesting that due to his philanthropic efforts for children with cancer, or anything else for that matter, is irrelevant to the issue at hand.  His racist, misogynist comments heard by millions have absolutely nothing to do with that.

I have no doubt that there are many Ku Klux Klan members who give to charitable organizations and raise scads of money for kids with cancer and dogs with mange and horribly battered women - but what they spew is undeniably reprehensible.  At the end of the day, they're still hiding under white sheets.

Unfortunately, there are thousands of racists among us - some may be pillars of their communities.  Raising money for this charity and that.  Do-gooders.  So, if they burn a cross on someone's lawn one night, and deliver a hot casserole to a homeless shelter on the next, they should be given a pat on the back?  Given a "proceed with caution" reprimand for hateful actions - as fair and balanced punishment?

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Jan Baumgartner is the author of the memoir, Moonlight in the Desert of Left Behind. She was born near San Francisco, California, and for years lived on the coast of Maine. She is a writer and creative content book editor. She's worked as a grant (more...)

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