Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist


Avenue Q nailed it on Broadway. We can’t help how we feel. How we behave is what matters.

Joey here.

We kangaroo court puppets fear dogs and dingoes. Dogs chew puppets.  Dingoes eat kangaroos.

Scary dingo!  I’ll watch from indoors.

You would understand if I cross the street when I see a canine approach. But I don’t cross the street, because dingoes are far away and domesticated leashed New York canines are not the enemy. I fight the impulse. I’m prejudiced, but my behavior isn’t bigoted. I live and let live.

In a couple of weeks, Jeffrey and I will be in Oregon.

Every place has crazies. Oregon is where in 2016 the gun-toting Bundy family and armed supporters seized and occupied a federal wildlife refuge.

But today’s Oregon is better known for openness and tolerance, for acceptance, even love, of outsiders.

A few Americans are old enough to remember a different Oregon. Oregon’s dominant 19th Century settlers feared the Other. The settlers were racist. They indulged that racism.


Reportedly these racist provisions were enforced rarely if ever.  But they were not repealed until 1926.

Let’s not be self-righteous. We moderns are not exactly generous ourselves.

Our government breaks good immigration laws (e.g., by forcing asylum applicants into Mexico). It enacts and enforces bad immigration laws (e.g., by expelling lawful residents decades after they committed a minor offense). In the process, our public servants hurt good people and damage our country. They do it all in our names.

These practices aren’t overtly racist. But their effect can be as cruel.

Think about this as you watch what our public servants do to refugees. To asylum applicants and their children. To foreigners who want to visit us. To foreign-born kids who grew up knowing only America. To American businesses needing workers and customers. To American citizens relying on non-citizen family, neighbors, schoolmates, co-religionists, friends.

Foreground: Scary dog. Background: Harmless man (virtually all immigrants are) between ICE officers.

We lie about them. Shun them. Exploit them. Ban them. Break up their families. Hold them to standards of education and behavior that American citizens don’t meet. Oppress them with unnatural laws retroactively applied. Send them, even small children, alone into courts of law, defenseless, without counsel.

These members of our community aren’t being excluded, harassed, arrested, jailed, expelled, for immoral or criminal behavior. They are punished on account of ancestry or birthplace, largely on a civil (not criminal) basis.

Thus does our government, in our names, indulge our fearful instincts.

We Americans can’t help our gut reactions.

We can help how we behave.

Let’s rise above our guts and our history.

I don’t presume that all dogs are a threat, just because dingoes can be savage.

Don’t you presume that foreigners without Federal papers or who have paid the price for past sins (we all have ‘em!) automatically deserve caging or expulsion. Give them a hearing. Give them a chance. Live and let live.

Let’s all vow not to cross the street, or avert our eyes, or harden our hearts, at the approach of those whom our stupid guts fear.

Bad dog! (Poor puppet!) But not all dogs are bad. Some of my best friends are dogs.

Consider: Immigrant Frederich Trumpf made a fortune running bordellos in Seattle and the Yukon. As a draft dodger he was stripped of his Bavarian citizenship. The U.S. let him stay.