I distrust so-called “public interest” groups. Whether they are social or environmental “progressive” organizations or moral or religious “traditional” associations, all of them have some qualm with society how it stands, and believe it’s their job to make others see things their way.
Yet if, say, the Parents’ Television Council somehow convinced networks not to show sex, violence and other attributes they deem dangers to “our children”, there is no way the PTC would disappear. They have to keep finding objectionable content, otherwise their group serves no purpose, supporters will cease to fund them, and everyone within the PTC would be out of a job.
That brings me to a news story out of Los Angeles, as broadcast by KABC-TV. Though you can likely make an educated guess as to what I think, I still would rather my opinion not bias your own, so please watch the clip first (you may also want to look at the accompanying pictures), then come back to read the rest of this post.
So what did you hear when you heard the greeting card? I heard exactly what Hallmark claimed: “black holes”. I tried to hear “black whores” like the Los Angeles NAACP claimed, or even “black hoes”, but couldn’t; the word to me was unquestionably “holes”. That might be because my ears aren’t fine tuned to be insulted and offended whenever I can get cheap, undeserved publicity, but I’m not sure; that’s why I wanted you to watch and listen first.
Hallmark has a line of greeting cards called “Mahogany” made especially for the African American cultural market. Hallmark also sells Project Red cards. No, they aren’t centered around African Americans, but producing something to help raise funds to stop the spread of AIDS in Africa certainly is not the action of a company “laughing and joking about blackness.” Sure, the two card lines could just be marketing ploys by Hallmark rather than honest caring. But even if they weren’t sincere, deliberately creating a card with a racist message would be counterproductive to trying to attract, well, Mahogany business.
Hence if the card was an attempt to get a bigoted message out hidden within an outer space theme, it would have been the work of a few employees, not Hallmark as a whole, so the company should have gotten the benefit of a doubt. If nothing else, the Los Angeles NAACP should have been willing to hear Hallmark’s side before passing judgment.
Allow me to make the connection to the Parents’ Television Council example from before: The purpose of civil rights advocates is to guard against racism. As society becomes more tolerant, it becomes harder (I will never claim it impossible) for groups like the NAACP and their allies to find overt, deliberate racism. Therefore racism will have just gone “underground” or become “institutionalized”.
Let me put that another way: A color-blind society makes civil rights advocates obsolete. Therefore, to preserve their own interests (and means of living), racism cannot disappear. If they are allowed to define what racism is, it will not disappear.
While I hate that Hallmark acquiesced to the Los Angeles NAACP’s demand to pull the card, I understand why they would do so. It’s easier and less of a financial loss to stop selling the card than to deal with the potential bad publicity, or worse, face a lawsuit. Fighting the accusations may result in Jesse Jackson and/or Al Sharpton also becoming involved, which is certainly a nightmare to be avoided if at all possible.
Nonetheless, I have to hope that soon, some person, company or organization that has some of these ridiculous and reckless accusations levied on them, fights them. Better still, when that does happen, I hope millions of others will also have the courage to support whomever that may be. Because real unity cannot and will not come from the claims of politicians, civil rights groups or academics. It will and must come from everyday people.Commentary civil rights