Warning: This is a half-baked thought process that uses shit as a crass metaphor for racism, so if you don’t want to hear about one or the other, then feel free to move on.
I keep being frustrated by the pretend world where you’re either racist, and the worst person in the world, or you’re totally not racist, and you’re okay. When someone is accused of saying something racist or insensitive, all sides act like they were just accused of murdering children, and we don’t get anywhere except in a big fight. Racism has become such an overloaded word, it isn’t very useful anymore. We all have lizard brains, and those lizard brains do stupid lizard things sometimes, and it’d be cool if we could just admit that sometimes, the way that we handle the fact that we’re all walking around with shit somewhere in our lower intestines.
If shitting was exactly like the way I experience racism in America right now, it would go like this: Almost all of us would admit that shit is a thing that exists, but we’d all pretend that we didn’t have any shit in us. People used to shit all the time, we’d say, and they still shit in some parts of the country, but they mostly don’t shit here. We’d all know, at some level, that there was some shit in us, but we’d be scared to death that someone would find that out about us.
Sometimes, someone would fart, and it would be the worst, because if they apologized, they’d be admitting they had some shit in them. Everyone would be embarrassed at first. Someone would accuse the person of having shit in them. Then the person would deny not only the shit, but the fact that they even farted. They’d fart again, and insist everyone smell it, to prove it wasn’t a fart. Some people would defend them, and those people would start farting too, and insisting their farts weren’t farts. They’d accuse the smellers of being overly sensitive, or of being fart-dealers themselves. Pretty soon, everyone would be farting and yelling, and the whole room would smell like shit.
If, on the other hand, we handled racism they way we handle shitting, we might get somewhere. We’d all recognize that we all have a little bit of racism in us, and we’d be decent enough to try to get rid of it discretely. We’d have trouble ever getting rid of all of it, and we’d have to accept that it wasn’t pleasant, but as long as we didn’t make other people deal with it, it wasn’t the end of the world. Sometimes, we’d have to deal with racism from the elderly or the very sick, but we’d recognize it as illness and not more.
Occasionally, someone would let something a little bit racist slip out, and it’d be embarrassing. But because we’d be able to assume that the person who let the racism slip out was more embarrassed than we were, we’d be able to trust them to go deal with it discretely. If someone persisted in being racist, someone would take them aside to talk to them about their problem, and they’d either deal with it or be shunned.
Anyway, I’m a white male American, which means I get to unfairly opt out of dealing with lot of the effects of unfairness in this country. There’s I don’t know, but I DO know I’m sometimes full of shit, metaphorically and literally, and so is everyone else, and if we could all admit that, we could start figuring out what to DO with all that shit.
Tony Beeman has lived in Seattle as a writer, performer, director and software developer since 1998. In addition to performing, directing and serving as Artistic Associate at Unexpected Productions in Pike Place Market, Tony performs regularly with 4&20 Improv, Seattle Experimental Theater, and Improv Anonymous. He has taught workshops in seven countries. His Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is INFP.