So the media focuses LeBron James, who claims that racism played a part in his decision to move out of Boston. Last year, President Obama felt it was necessary to hold a “beer garden conference” because of a black college professor accused a white police officer of racial profiling. There’s a hotly debated law in Arizona that supposedly grants police the right to ask for immigration documents. A minister in Florida threatens to burn religious books. It seems like racism is alive and well in America.
Is that really true? Have we made no progress? Or does the media explode in to a larger issue than it really is?
Last night, an old friend Mike Cassam took me to one of his favorite clubs in Detroit for an after-hours jam session. I was in town playing w/ “Keith Lockhart and Friends” (think Boston Pops “Light”).
I did notice that when we got near the club that we were in one of Detroit’s more “sketchy” neighborhoods. When we walked in the door, I was the only lilly-white person in the room. Mike’s a dark-complexion guy of mixed genes. Not black, but didn’t stand out like I did.
A couple of people looked up when I came in, but no-one said anything. In fact, it took me all of two minutes to feel completely at ease.
Later that evening, the band invited me up to play. Mike and I jammed with them for quite a while playing R&B funk tunes. I can’t remember the last time I had that much fun playing for the sheer joy of it. The band itself was incredible. Solid, experienced musicians who really know how to bring out the best in themselves and others.
After we finished playing, it was a familiar scene. I made a boatload of new friends.
Musicians intuitively know things that many people still miss: Your skin color is simply a detail about you. It’s not who you are. Further, if a black musician walked in to an open-mic jam where all the musicians were white, he/she would be treated the same way. I’ve seen that happen many many times.
My point: racism is alive and well in America. We have a long way to go. But in my opinion, we’re pretty far past that half-way point.