I have, on occasion, waxed on at great length about how most racism in society today operates behind the scenes. While we’ve pictured it in our minds as flaming crosses and jackbooted police officers beating up black men on the freeway, it usually tends to happen in much more insidious ways, percolating behind the veneer of our arch-liberal “treat everyone equal” mantras. Of course when the more “classic” examples of racism manifest themselves, it shocks everyone except those of us who have been paying attention.
But those of us who are not particularly sensitive to this new definition of racism can rest a bit easier knowing that the old type is still very much alive:
A sign excluding black people from a future Abbotsford, Wisconsin business is enraging some people in the small town. It’s a sign generations of people may have never seen, yet Mark Prior says it’s his right to discriminate. “If I’ve got a problem with you it’s going to be on the front of my store,” says Mark Prior. Prior posted his ‘No Negros Allowed’ sign after he says he had some problems with black people in the past and needed to make a policy against them.
Wait wait wait… did he actually post a sign that says ‘No Negroes Allowed’?
Yep. He did.
There is a particularly odious argument out in the ether that people should be allowed to serve whoever they want, regardless of what kind of systemic prejudices such a policy props up. On the surface of it, the argument appears to have some validity. After all, if you open up your own business, who is anyone to tell you that you must cater to people you don’t like? Your individual rights of autonomy are being violated, dammit!
“I’m going to stick to my guns because I think I have the right as a business owner to reject service to anyone. It’s not all the black people there are just a few bad ones,” Prior says of his problems in the past.
Of course this is an argument that, like many conservative calling cards, has its basis in the idea of “I got mine, Jack!” So what if the autonomy of others is violated? So what if that pattern of violation fertilizes a de facto second-class citizenship for people based on something completely trivial like skin colour, gender, sexual orientation, or religious belief? As long as I don’t get trampled on, the other stuff doesn’t really matter.
There’s another fun thing that happened in there. Did you catch it? “It’s not all black people, there are just a few bad ones.” Aaaaaand that’s why all of them are banned? It’s one of those cognitive dissonances that reveals the depth of Mr. Prior’s racism – the troublemakers are causing trouble because they’re black. It’s the colour of their skin that’s making them cause trouble, right? Otherwise why specify that it’s “Negroes” that aren’t allowed in? Of course the fact that the guys are causing trouble is not causally related to their ethnicity, but it sure is fun to stereotype.
I’m not a fan of strip clubs. I don’t think anyone should go to them, but people do, so whatever. I’m even less a fan, however, of telling a specific group of people “you’re not allowed in here because of what you are, nothing to do with anything you’ve done”. For nostalgia purposes, it’s nice that folks like Mr. Prior are still around to remind us all that we’re not done dealing with racism, no matter how much we might like to pretend we are.
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