When I was asked to write about what our society learned about racism in 2014, my initial response was to say "nothing." We've been repeating the same mistakes of systemic prejudice, bias, and senseless violence since long before I was a twinkle in my white dad's eyeball. It's hard to look at the images coming out of Ferguson, Missouri, and not assume that some grotesque apocalyptic nightmare has been belched out from underneath our feet. The only thing I feel like I've learned is to stay the fuck inside my house with the doors locked and a firearm at the ready.
The problem with staying inside is that people are still getting shot outside (also, you eventually have to go to the store for more snacks). It'd be great to just hit the "eject" button on life and read Archie comics all day, but even Archie's got some shit to deal with. If the Riverdale Gang can't even catch a break, we're doomed as a culture.
2014 made us all want to give up, but we've got to overcome, at least until the end of Obama's second term. He's got two more years to find his inner Dolemite and dropkick the world into a neverending state of inoffensive, mushy bliss. In the meantime, let's try to make sense of the last 12 months of bummers.
Cops and Black People Don't Get Along
Cops: can't live with 'em and can't live without 'em. The police are like the dad that puts money in your trust fund, but keeps slashing your tires at random to make sure you can't get to your job at Hot Topic on time.
It'd be great if your cop dad would chill the hell out for one second and let you carry on with your life. He can't, though. He has to keep slashing your metaphorical tires to remind you who's boss around these parts. He's the boss, and he has no patience for your antiquated concepts of "justice" or all that smarmy bullshit about how "the punishment must fit the crime." He's going to persist in pushing you around, because he knows when you threaten "revolution," you don't mean it.
You need your cop dad. Your cop dad keeps the lights on and the bad guys away from your doorstep. Do you really want anarchy? Do you really want to live in a world without law and order (the show or the concept)? Do you want an angry mob burning down your favorite pizza restaurant? Where will you get your dinner? The store? Heaven forbid! Monday Night Football is on and there's no time to waste.
Cop dad has you by the balls, and there's nothing you can do about it but go cry to your mom (the Democratic Party) who will tell you how mean dad is and promise that she'll make him wear body cameras so you can watch him slash your metaphorical tires over and over and over and over again, the pervert.
The nation was still reeling from the death of Trayvon Martin when 2013 ended. Eight months into 2014, we were presented with the tragedy of Michael Brown in Ferguson. A month before that, Eric Garner was killed by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo. Neither of these high-profile 2014 cases resulted in an indictment, but did lead to plenty of riots, tears, and societal strife. There's no number of body cameras in the world that will prevent some cops from going too far. This is our new normal. People like Wolfeboro, New Hampshire police commissioner Robert Copeland, who refused to apologize for calling President Obama a "nigger," get to make decisions that affect people's lives. Copeland was forced to resign, but his story should inspire us to demand more from our law enforcement officials. We can't afford not to.
There Are Way Too Many Racist Public School Teachers
The children are our future, a blank slate for projecting our hopes for a better tomorrow. School is suppose to educate the young about how to navigate the system we inherited and hopefully improve on it. Unfortunately, a lot of our teachers spend their time showing their students how fucked up that system really is. From making jokes at the expense of the president to openly using racial slurs in front of kids, you have to wonder if maybe our public school system requires a rethink. Gil Voigt, a teacher in Cincinnati, was fired for telling his students that "we don't need another black president." Voigt claimed he was misquoted, but was fired regardless. Whatever the exact phrasing was, he probably shouldn't be running his mouth about personal political theories in front of grade school kids.
It's Fun to Be Racist (in Private)
You know that phrase, "If a tree screams 'nigger' in the woods, but no one is around to hear it, is it really racist?"Justin Bieber and Donald Sterling put it to the test this year by saying racist things in private, but having it all end up in public anyway. Multiple videos of Bieber using racial slurs were leaked by TMZ. In the most notorious, unforgivable video, Bieber sang his hit song "One Less Lonely Nigger." One thing I learned is that Justin Bieber sounds like shit when they don't auto-tune the racial slurs out of his music. It's crazy what you can do with computers these days.
The leaked audio of Donald Sterling losing his shit over his mistress bringing black men to LA Clippers games cost Sterling his basketball team, but Bieber still has plenty of black friends. I guess Sterling doesn't get a pass because he can't moonwalk.
Racist Symbols Are Making a Comeback
After a brief resurgence in the 1970s thanks to a drugged-up Sid Vicious, it seemed like we'd finally banished the swastika to the cultural dustbin. The swastika is like the James Bond of racist images—no matter how irrelevant it seems at the time, it always finds a way to reinvent itself eventually. In 2014,The Raëlians—a sci-fi religious cult that's also obsessed with trying to get women to take their tops off—started a movement to rehabilitate the symbol of man's greatest crime against itself. Their website, proswastika.org, reminds us that swastikas were historically a symbol of peace in Hindu and Buddhist tradition. Sorry, but I think the Nazis kinda fucked that one up permanently. This came after Kanye West used the Confederate flag on merchandise for his tour in 2013. Some things just need to be left in the past—like live TV musicals and Hulk Hogan.
We're Not Ready for Commercials with Multicultural Families
I come from a biracial environment, so it was heartening to see this Cheerios ad featuring a family that more closely resembled my own. It wasn't nearly as appealing to the very vocal YouTube commenters who were aghast that a black guy and a white woman could have a baby together. They were also probably shocked that the dad was depicted as a person and not a series of postcards from prison. Let's take a second to mourn a world where some people think racist stripper mom Janelle Ambrosia is a better role model than the couple in this commercial.
"Redskins" Is Definitely Not a Cool Name for a Football Team
Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder spent most of 2014 ignoring the pleas of Native American activists, liberal talking heads, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and even some run-of-the-mill sports commentators whose typical style of bloviation doesn't extend beyond Tom Brady's completion percentage. The NFL has weathered more than its fair share of ugly controversies (Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, the concussion issue) but this one sticks out because it's the easiest to fix.
The name is offensive, so change it. Claiming that it's about "honor and respect" is disingenuous because the very people who are supposed to feel pride over this asinine name are the ones most upset. Just because we've tolerated this name for so long is no excuse to let it continue to be used in the context of the most popular professional sport in America. We accept and ignore so much in this country just because "that's the way it is." The form of apathy I felt at the start of writing this piece is one of the very reasons we're stuck watching our cities burn.
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