(This is a continuation of a similarly-named story, which may be found here.)
My ex band-mate, the Bishop S.F. Makalani-MaHee, belongs to just about every put-upon minority in modern America. She's a musician, first of all, which naturally raises the suspicions of the world's decent people. And she's female. And black. And a dyke. (I feel comfortable using that word because when we used to play in bars together, our most popular song began with the line: "I am a black dyke.") Also: she's very short, wears glasses, and serves has served as an out queer minister in several Christian churches. Through her music, her leadership of Black Gay Pride, and her work with youth and more community non-profits than even she can rightly remember, Bish has been one of diversity's loudest and most colorful advocates in SoFla. So I wanted to get her thoughts on the Ann Murray flap, which frankly confuses the hell out of me.
Me: So, Bish -- what's up with everybody wanting Ann Murray fired? Shouldn't we have compassion when somebody's tongue slips?
Bish: Compassion, sure. But what comes out of the mouth ... very often reflects something, what's going on deep inside. Talking about Ann Murray, two things come to mind. One: You don't take certain jobs that hold you to a higher standard if you can't live up to that. Two -- what was the context in which this was said? ... To have said what she said while on the job, in diverse company, doesn't just suggest racism; it suggests a real lack of propriety.
And propriety's important, too.
But you, or me, or anybody -- don't we all make racist or classist or whatever comments from time to time?
Sure. Everyone's a little bit racist, sometimes. Absolutely true! But then I think -- there's certain positions, and certain professions, that those types of character defects cannot be permissible in. But it's not a question of: "Do we have the ability to fight through our racism?" I think it's an issue of: "Do we have the desire?"
Because this is tricky stuff. We shouldn't paint with broad strokes. Going with broad strokes, you become just as guilty as the offender, because in painting in broad strokes we don't make room for exceptions. Painting with broad strokes, we go to zero tolerance -- like, racist rhetoric is unconscionable and intolerable under any circumstances ...
And it's not. I'm sure the people condemning Ms. Murray have made racist statements before -- you have, too, I bet, said something bad about white people. But there's some kind of difference.
When black people make racist comments, it's often as a response to racism -- it's not "I don't like white people," it's "I don't like white people because they don't like black people." Which is dangerous.
But it's not just the saying of something racist. It's --
It's the situation you're in. What you said, why you said it, where you said it ... And if you're in public service, meant to uphold the rights and dignities of every citizen, I don't have a problem with someone going, "You know, these are the people whose tax dollars are paying your salary." Some of these people voted for you. They're your bosses, and you badmouthed them. You deserve to be fired.
I think the position I'm coming around to, vis a vis Ann Murray, isn't that the problem is her being racist. The problem is that, saying what she did with no emotional impetus, out in the open air, in mixed company -- it's that, okay, she's bigoted, so are we all, but she's not even fighting her bigotry. It seems like she just accepted it.
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Yes, exactly. The desire to fight one's own bigotry has got to be spurred by a confrontation with that supremacist, superior feeling in oneself. If one is not willing to confront and deny that superiority, there's not going to be the willingness to fight those feelings. Because, in the mind of a supremacist, those feelings are valid.
Thanks for your time, Bish.
Good hearing your voice, sweetheart.
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