Editor’s note: Below is a video version of this commentary:
Much of what is being affirmed as racism today is something I call virtual racism. The truth is this virtual racism would have been hailed years ago by rank-and-file blacks as "having reached the promised land."
The thought of having been "possibly" redlined for a loan, or "perhaps" not being promoted, or experiencing deliberately slow service at a restaurant would have been an occasion for singing, "We have overcome."
I had a very interesting conversation with a young African-American man recently who owns his own business, and he's also the operations manager for a very successful minority-owned business. He and his wife drive luxury imports and send their kids to a private school.
When he complained about racism because of an article he had seen, I asked him, "How would you define racism in America?" Give me some examples. He trotted out the usual: "People who are refused jobs." "People who disagree with Obama." "People who use the 'N' word," etc.
But I persisted. "Give me a specific example of when and how you have personally been subjected to overt racism or racist behavior?"
He was forced to admit that neither he, nor anyone he knew personally, had ever been subjected to overt racism. Well, he was forced to admit that neither he nor anyone he knew personally had ever been called the "N" word or experienced other racist behavior from whites.
So I asked him, "Have you ever seen a segregated water fountain?"
He laughed, "You're kidding, right?"
Nope, I used to drink out of them all the time in segregated parks.
"Sure! You don't think blacks and whites used the same parks, or playgrounds and schools do you?"
"Get out, Ben!"
"Have you ever been to a 'colored' cemetery?"
Yeah, there were also backs of buses, separate waiting rooms and even separate churches. You know, a white church member I met years ago believed that God had ordained segregation and actually said to me that we can be together in heaven because there we'll all be washed whiter than snow. That's a true story.
He just looked at me.
So I asked him, "Tell me again what you were saying about racism in modern-day America?"