I'm only a racist if you call me one. There's no defense against the charge of racism other than “I'm not a racist! I have plenty of black friends! See?” which sounds exactly like the drug addict saying “I can stop any time I want!” The fear of that particular charge is why, in my opinion, most white people say to themselves “I'm not a racist, so I don't want to have any part of the discussion,” and then promptly act as if nothing is wrong. We strenuously avoid any sort of discussion where the slightest possibility of misunderstanding will result in getting tagged with the racist label if only out of the irrational fear that some 'loud,angry black man' (read: Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton , Louis Farrakhan) is going to target us, find out where we live and have a thousand people descend upon our town and protest in front of our homes. If you think that fear is irrational, then ask yourself this question: “Are there people of good conscience in Jena, LA, who are not racists or bigots who have now been tagged with those labels by virtue of living in that town?” Yes? No? Maybe?

I'm going to go with “Yes.” You, gentle reader, are free to choose differently.

I'm just typing and rambling here, but there is also a certain exhaustion which sets in to the discussion as in:

 “Slavery has been outlawed in this country since December of 1865, when the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified. That means that no one alive today has been a slave or slave owner, and now there's a discussion about Reparations? For dead people? That was 142 years ago! No! Not going to happen! Over my dead body! Dead people? Dead People! No!”

To which there is the reply: “It's [reparations] not just about slavery. The repercussions of slavery have tainted the lives of countless African Americans in the generations that followed, such as endemic poverty, lack of opportunity, Jim Crow, segregation, and the list goes on.”

And that reply is valid. I'm not disputing that. But then the person afflicted with liberal-white guilt exhaustion counters (and I will presume to speak only for myself here): “But there was the Civil Rights Movement, and the overturning of anti-miscegenation laws, and the end of separate-but-equal. Which all happened, by the way, before I was born.”

And then comes the reply, also valid, “Racism is still alive and well and black people – and other people who aren't white – encounter it on a daily basis in ways both subtle and overt, and it hurts.”

Now this is where it gets really personal for me, where I can say “And homophobia is alive and well and I encounter it on a daily basis in ways bothsubtle and overt, and that hurts, too.” And then we can play the game of “who's the bigger victim?” if we wanted to do so. But I don't. It doesn't solve anything.

But the point which I've been leading up to is that the exhaustion that sets in (for me at least) comes from the perception that there is a seemingly never-ending laundry list of complaints andgrievances , which no matter how valid, I can't fix or change, and I didn't have anything to do with in the first place, so what is it that you expect from me?

The only thing I can do is deal with the person in front of me based on the facts that I know about them, and assume in good faith they are going to return the favor. For instance, I would find AlanKeyes just as repellent if he were purple with green and lavender spots. I would have said 'white' but James Dobson already exists. And that's judging someone on the content of their character and not the color of their skin, isn't it? And as another for instance, in the '92 presidential race when Ross Perot addressed the NAACP and said the phrases “you people” and “your people” I was baffled at the backlash: he used the same condescending, nasal tone the he used with every other group that he spoke to, and come on – old, rich, white guy – we were expecting what? A paragon of PC virtue? And seriously now, I know theSouthernism “you people” is often used when the speaker is expressing vexation, but it's not inherently offensive. Assume good faith.

The 'Black Community' is no more monolithic than the 'Gay Community'  or the 'White Community.' That 'laundry list' I mentioned above is, I'm fairly certain, only relevant in the minds of some black people, not all, but I don't know for certain, because I haven't met every black person in America. There are plenty of people in those 'Communities' who go about their lives, as I do, operating on the notion that the people around them are acting in good faith, until they are presented with a reason to believe otherwise. Such as when I say “If I can use the word 'faggot' because I'm gay, then anyone else can use that word too; which means if someone can use the word 'nigger' because they're black, then anyone else can use that word as well.”

 Now here's the “Assume Good Faith” part. Did I say what I said because I have an opinion that I want to share and I'm assuming good faith on the part of the reader and am expecting reciprocation? Or did I write 'nigger' because I thought I could get away with it? So in this instance, I'm a racist if you decide to call me one. But if you do, is that because I used a particular word, or is it because I admitted to being exhausted with discussions about race, or is it both, or is it something else?

You know, Whoopi Goldberg, in her special on Bravo said that she doesn't mind 'that word' “because I don't know any and I've never been one.” So hand in hand with assuming good faith on that part of the people we are talking to, if we're going to have this discussion produce anything meaningful, we're each going to have to know who we are and what we are not as well.

That's just my opinion. Your mileage may vary.