I Have Solved the Problem of Racism Forever
Two words: paper bags.
This is the final edition of This Week in Racism. When I first began this column, it was with a clear mission in mind: "Compile all the most galling, depressing, exhausting cases of racism, either overt or covert, that I have come across in the last seven days."
I think I did a pretty spectacular job of that. Together, we learned about racist burritos, "hood pranks," pork-laced bullets, black Santa Claus, and Justin Bieber. It was a magical ride, but like Seal and Heidi Klum, all good things must come to an end. Surely, you are beside yourself with grief right now. You must be wondering where you will find racist news stories on the internet (here's a good option). You're probably preparing yourself for the dark, empty feeling you'll have every Friday when you can't find this column (though you can just read the old ones). Most importantly, you're likely asking a simple question: Why?
As straightforward as that question is, the answer is equally unambiguous. You see, I have to stop doing this column because I have solved racism. That's right, I cracked the code, like some kind of black Alan Turing.
Actually, maybe I'm more like McConaughey in Interstellar. I had to venture into the black hole of hatred in order to come out the other side with the way to save humanity. Here I am, now where's my corn field and rocking chair?
What's the solution? Why am I burying the lede? Because of the magnitude of this discovery. I was watching the State of the Union address by our first black president, Barack Hussein Obama, and as the Republican mob cheered at the thought of Obama never running for public office again (followed by his sitcom-worthy rejoinder), I thought, What if no one knew the color of Barack Obama's skin?
It's fair to say that in 2008 (and again in 2012) Barack Obama enjoyed both massive popularity and unprecedented scorn because of his race. Yes, Obama benefitted greatly from being black. Yes, he has also been vilified for the same reason. What if...
Are you ready? Here it comes:
The only solution to racism is for all of us to wear paper bags over our heads at all times.
One of the most beloved comedians of the 70s and 80s was the Unknown Comic, a fixture on such television shows as The Gong Show and... well, pretty much just The Gong Show. Every time he appeared on stage, he wore a paper grocery bag over his head to obscure his identity. He literally could have been anyone, but in reality he was Canadian Murray Langston. With that bag on his head, we couldn't tell if Murray was Asian, Caucasian, Mexican, or Arab. Would he have been as thoroughly embraced by America if he were Latino? If we had known he was Canadian, would we have tolerated him? If it could work for Murray Langston, it could work for me and Barack Obama too.
If no one knows my race, no one can judge me. I can finally be free to be judged solely on the content of my character. Say goodbye to stereotypes, dirty looks, old ladies clutching their purses in the elevator, Trayvon Martin, Ferguson, and all the rest. But this could be great for white people too. The resentment and mistrust that minorities feel for whites after hundreds of years of oppression could be wiped out. Finally, white people won't be seen as devilish oppressors or Donald Trump. We'd all just be one beige, papery family, holding hands and singing songs through the tiny slit where our mouths go. This would also benefit ugly people, severe acne sufferers, and Mitch McConnell.
Of course, not all paper bags are created equal, are they? I mean, what if I'm wearing a dollar store bag and my neighbor is sporting a Whole Foods bag made from 100 percent recycled paper? He's just rubbing his wealth in my face (not that he can see my face underneath the bag, thank God). I can't be shown up in my own neighborhood. I'll have to kick this guy's ass and take his bag in order to even things out. It's the only way.
God, what if he got a Gucci bag? I'd have my dumb Whole Foods bag made of 100 percent recycled paper, and he'd show up to the Super Bowl party with gold letters and fancy straps. I can't keep beating the shit out of my neighbor, because he's still richer than me and beating the shit out of rich people doesn't get you anywhere except jail. I'd have to make my own "cool" paper bag that's real "DIY" and "urban."
Now, my bag isn't even fucking paper. It's something my neighbor has never even heard of, like a hemp/cotton/polyester blend from the future. It'd be so cool that people would start asking me where I got my bag. They'd want to know if they can wear the same bag too. We could start a "Cool Bag Club" where we all sit around and talk about about how great our bags are, how "authentic" and legit our bags are compared to everyone else's (no paper baggers allowed).
Before you know it, I'm not going anywhere near a person with a bag that's not like mine. The people with the regular bags would start asking what happened to their idyllic, homogenous paper bag society. They'd plan ways to get us out of their city. "They're nothing like us." Well, obviously not. Our bags are cool. "They keep flaunting their non-traditional bags in our faces." We're proud of our bags. "Maybe the weird bag people should have their own country," they'd say. Maybe we should...
My solution turns out not to be a solution at all. We might be cursed to endure these conflicts until the sun shuts off and the human race freezes to death. Even if we all had interracial babies tomorrow, chances are we'd still find a reason to hate each other. That's kind of our thing.
The only real solution for racism is for the entire human race to overcome its nature and become more compassionate, less paranoid, less jealous, and more empathetic. I don't expect that day to occur in my lifetime (though it's amazing what they can do with pills these days), but it might. Without that sliver of hope, what's the point? If we don't think there's a way for the state of the world to improve, then why not be a selfish piece of shit (or Donald Trump) at all times? This column had a tendency to be cynical, but over the course of the last two years (and reading all the horrible news stories I've talked about) it's become clear to me that cynicism gets you nowhere, since that's exactly where we are as a culture right now: nowhere.
The situation gets darker and more untenable the more hopeless we feel. The Obama Generation, the people like me who really bought into his message, feel burned. That State of the Union—where he seemed disturbingly cocky for a lame-duck president who hasn't accomplished nearly as much as he promised—reminded me how little the ball has actually moved toward racial harmony. But we loved him because he offered us the one thing that keeps us from the edge: hope. It'll always work on us, because it feels good to dream, even when dreaming seems corny.
So, as I leave you, I beg you to keep dreaming of a better world. That's all we've got left.
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