I am not just your token black guy

By George Ploss

I once received an e-mail from a very upset person telling me that I should stop writing my column. He said I need to discontinue my racist rants about how bad the University is and that the only reason why racism still exists is because people like me keep it around.

After a long period of laughter and subsequent pity for the poor ignorant soul, he ironically began a racist rant himself talking primarily about how “we” act like thugs, cry racism every chance we get, how we don’t deserve special treatment and justified it all, at least in his eyes, by mentioning his token black friend named whom we’ll call “Tyrone.” “Tyrone” doesn’t complain about racism and such. Although I could critically breakdown the many ignorant and vague points about this persons e-mail, I will only address what made disturbed me the most, Tyrone.

Briefly I want to address people who have only one or two black friends and tell them the simple fact that they are not large windows into the world of blackness. They just have their own little perspective (or lack thereof) and consequently are a little confused.

What bothers me most, however, and I’m assuming a good portion of us, is the fact that people can go on a racist tirade and cop-out at the last minute by mentioning their token black friend. I was under the impression that people are merely a small window into their larger culture. The target of this specific article is very simple: your token isn’t me nor is he us. Just because an African American sits there quietly when you express your bigotry doesn’t mean he’s agreeing with your arguments. At best he’s abstaining or, worse, Clarence Thomas is his hero.

I’m sure my critic wasn’t conscious of his racism, many aren’t. Consciousness is not an aspect of our general personality that we choose to exhibit when it comes to racial issues and this e-mail was a perfect example.

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When race comes up as a topic of discussion it brings out so many mixed feelings that we become confused by our emotions and we do not use our brains to try and filter them out. This token, “Tyrone,” was a pathetic effort at justifying racist ideology and the poor guy didn’t even know it. It was no different than testifying that all black people are … “whatever.”

There is no word or collective group of language that substantiates this ignorant garbage. People are people, plain and simple. People are part of a collective but when dealing with an individual, that, and just that individual, should always come first. It is very insulting, brainless and downright disgusting to pit a group of historically victimized people and compare them to one man who hasn’t shared any sentiments on race with you.

So to those non-whites and people in general: you should look at individuals as unique windows into a larger world of their group.

Racism is a complex phenomenon that challenges us in many different venues and it takes many different forms. From a dollar bill, to a burning cross, to a handshake or to a test score, racism is a virus that has infected almost anything and everything we know. To talk about politics is to talk about race. One must become simply aware that your black friend is not your smoking gun of proof that black people can become white and that we can all just get along and wear Chief shirts.

To the guy that sent me that e-mail, ask your friend “Tyrone” if he thinks racism still exists today. One day he’ll hopefully become aware that he is still subject to the oppression and prejudices of small-minded people such as yourself.

One Love.