I have put some miles on the car this summer by visiting family and friends, but that’s really nothing new. Each trip to visit the family puts about 2,000 miles on the car, but I consider it a small price to pay to get together. Having made the drive many times, we have chosen a few standard places to stop for gas and munchies. At one stop, I availed myself of the facilities. In the spirit of capitalism, the McDonald’s at the truck stop had purchased some advertising space on the back of the bathroom stall doors. In this case, the item being hawked was McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets.
Not being a big fan of McDonald’s food, I didn’t pay much attention to the ad. On my return trip, however, I noticed the ad had been defaced. Someone had drawn an arrow to the phrase, “made of 100% white meat” and wrote, “Even McDonald’s is raciest [sic].” My first response was, “Geez, learn to spell ‘racist’ right!” My second response was to look at the meat in the McNugget on the ad. I couldn’t think of any way to best describe the color of the meat, other than to call it white.
In chickens (and some other birds like turkeys), the muscles that don’t see much use, like chest muscles, tend to be a lighter color than the muscles that are used constantly like the thighs and legs. Other birds that fly more than chickens, such as geese, are all dark meat. Because we Americans have different tastes when it comes to white and dark meat, people often carve the Thanksgiving turkey into piles of white and dark meat and allow the guests to choose the kind they like best. It is common for commercial food preparers to use only white meat in their chicken nuggets, not because it tastes any better to be made only of white meat, but merely because the appearance is more attractive to most people. There is even a scientist who has spent time figuring out ways to turn the dark meat of a chicken into white meat. I’m not a big fan of chicken nuggets from any fast-food place, since to my tastes the dark meat on a chicken has more flavor than the white. This is also why I like duck and goose meat more than I do chicken, but their higher cost means we don’t eat them very often.
But how exactly does “white” and “dark” apply to race, when we are talking about different portions of a chicken? The only way I can see that “made of 100% white meat” could be construed as a racist comment is if the person reading the advertisement views any use of the word “white” to be racially charged. And doesn’t that make the reader a racist, since he is viewing the ad (and, I assume, the world as well) through the distorted lens of racism?
If you get bad service at a restaurant, do you assume it is because of your race, age, or gender, or is it because the waiter is having a really bad day? If you instantly see any slight you might receive as being due to your race, doesn’t that make you a racist? My definition of “racist” includes those people who automatically classify others because of race. Saying “[blank] people are all [something] because of their race” is a racist attitude. And leaping to the conclusion that others are treating you poorly because of your race is also a racist attitude.
Americans are sensitive about being branded as racists. Those of us who grew up after the civil rights changes of the 1960s have been instructed and indoctrinated that we must not be racists. And because of the American melting pot effect, many Americans are mixtures and blends of different races and cultures. If we are guilty of racism, we could be guilty of hating ourselves. Tiger Woods is a good example of this. He is a mixture of Thai, Chinese, white, black, and American Indian. He is just as much black as he is Indian. He is just as much white as he is Thai. But he is really 100% American. And that’s the way we, as Americans, ought to think of ourselves. The other option is to spend our time in meaningless measurements of racial percentages, trying to discover whether it was our great-great-great or our great-great-great-great-grandfather who was of one race or another. Spare me.
Calls of racism have surfaced in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Kanye West labeled President Bush a racist during a fundraiser for the survivors of Katrina. Others have assumed racism in the different ways that people in photographs were identified as having “looted” or “found” food, when the reality is different. Now that Hurricane Rita is roaring to landfall, certain people will look at the different ways that local, state, and federal officials react to this hurricane as proof positive that the response to Katrina was racist. I find it much easier to believe that different people in different places will act differently, and that having seen how things were mishandled with Katrina, they will do whatever they can to keep the same mismanagement from occurring with Rita. It’s called learning from the mistakes of others.
Another common call of racism comes whenever someone points out that the attacks on September 11th were carried out by Arabic Muslim males between the ages of 18 and 45. The follow-up to such an observation is a call for more scrutiny of males of Arabic descent between the ages of 18 and 45, but some people will claim such behavior is racial profiling. It should be common sense that since we have been attacked by male Arabic Muslims, we should actually focus our attention on them. Pat-downs at airports of elderly ladies and of former Vice President Al Gore do not make us more safe. It is only common sense to focus more on the persons who resemble those who have actually been attacking us. Any time someone suggests this, the cry of “racism” and “racial profiling” comes up. But as Jim Quinn has said, giving more scrutiny to Muslim males of Arabic descent is not so much “racial profiling” as it is “a description of the perpetrator.” Heather Mac Donald wrote about this issue at National Review Online:
There are, however, no unambiguous physical markers for being a Muslim. So rational Islamic-terror investigators must use a surrogate: apparent national origin. Al Qaeda and other Islamic-terror groups have drawn the vast majority of their members from what Krauthammer calls the “Islamic belt” — the Middle East, Pakistan, and North Africa, where white skin is not indigenous. Does that mean that Islamic-terror investigators are biased against people with darker skin? Of course not. Nor does it mean that antiterror agents should treat every Middle Easterner as a suspect. But they should be allowed to factor in apparent Muslim identity in evaluating whether certain behavior is suspicious. A string of eight Saudi males seeking to purchase large quantities of fertilizer at a garden supply store outside of Las Vegas should raise more questions than if eight Mormon missionaries were to do so.
When my wife read this quote, she said, “Yeah, but you gotta watch those sneaky Mormon missionaries. Let ‘em into your home and they could–horrors–CONVERT you to a Christian faith!!! And then you’d engage in horrible activities like humanitarian projects and potluck dinners! Gahh!” Given a choice between having more au gratin potatoes at a potluck dinner or having my head cut off with an “Allahu Akbar” chorus, I think I’ll take my chances with the Mormon missionaries.