Watch that mouth! Michael Richards. Mel Gibson. Don Imus. These guys make a few off-handed remarks, and they’ve been stung big time. And now, Richard Gere discovers public kissing is very bad, very bad in India. Gere apologizes in kissing controversy in India, but forgiveness doesn’t come so easily in the arena of public perception when it comes to unintentional (or intentional) racism and intercultural ignorance.
Now mainstream media is not particularly known for transparency, but maybe blogging culture’s alternative voice is rubbing off, and small wrongful remarks can be blown out of proportion. If a racially-charged remark can take down a talk show king, it can take down anybody. Here we are in 2007, decades after the Civil Rights era, and there is still so much racism beneath the surface. Volatile little sound bites indicate a lot of racist junk still in the hearts of people.
Lesson to learn here? You’re being recorded all the time in the public eye via video (tv camera, cell phone camera), audio (the mic could be live even when you don’t expect it, right, Mr. President?), and eyewitness reports (bloggers). You’d better learn to live a transparent life, and be consistent when the lights are on and when they’re not. Best way to go: character and integrity all around.
3 mini-episodes from my past Atlanta weekend:
I visited an old seminary friend now living in Georgia, who I’ll name David 2 (Caucasian), and with me was David Park (Korean). We’re having delicious BBQ at Claude’s in Loganville, and we’re talking about “churching” and culture and more over the span of 2 hours. While talking about the Virginia Tech tragedy, David 2 remarked on his shock at discovering the shooter’s identity being Asian: “that’s what white guys do.” [at the 1:00 mark] He wasn’t white after he saw our loud reactions of laughter. He turned beet red. The conversation was recorded, so listen to the actual MP3 audio excerpt, so you can hear it in context.
I chatted with Kevin Kelly (founder of Wired magazine) at Q in a compressed conversation, not wanting to hog 5 or 10 minutes with him, knowing there’s many others who’d want to talk with him. I asked for his top-of-mind futurist perspective on racism, since the United States is now 30% non-Anglo and the world is less than 20% Anglo. His response: we have to break the white & black dichotomy in America, and bring in brown and yellow (referring to Hispanic/Latinos and Asians), and that triangulation will change and diffuse the interracial dynamics. Brilliant!
I walk past Mike Foster (ethur.org, formerly xxxchurch.com) as I egress from a pit stop and he’s on the way in. He’s wearing one of those hairline mic’s, and I nudge him and say, “Check the mic!” He checks it, and I think we averted a potentially embarrassing on-air moment. While I’d like to trust the sound board guys, double-redundancy safety-check is a better idea.