Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Racism: The Clouded Lens

By Dan Pens

The other day I flipped on the Donahue Show to kill a few minutes before chow. The featured guests were families who raise their children to be racists. Instead of teaching them familiar Mother Goose rhymes, the children are taught to recite:

Adolf Hitler is our friend,
He fought for us to the end.
The audience was appalled by such unabashed racism. They booed and hissed and vented their righteous indignation at the racists. In response to blasts of rage from the audience, the parents justified their racism with remarks like:

More than 80 percent of all crimes are committed by [Blacks] (another term was used) And: They [Blacks] carry the AIDS virus. If we don't teach our children to stay away from them, they might end up being infected.

At this point I'd seen enough. I flipped off the tube and started to ruminate about the role that racism plays in our society. And you know something? It occurred to me that the parents of those children on Donahue are as much a victim of racism as anybody. Hmmmm... maybe victim isn't the best word... ummmmm... dupes. Yes! That's exactly it. Dupes.

Now before I explain any further, let me assure you that I am not a communist. But I'm not a bit reluctant to use some of the terminology that you'd normally associate with communist propaganda. What I'm saying is this: Read on, but don't get the impression that I'm trying to persuade you to become a commie or anything. Just read.

As I thought about racism and the role it plays in our culture, I was struck by a coincidence. There has been a sharp increase of racism during the last decade. It coincided with the inception of Reaganomics, sweeping cuts in social programs, adherence to supply-side economics and the trickle-down theory. In the 80's the rich got much richer, and the poor got much poorer.

What I'm talking about is class differences. Ohhhhh.... hmmm... that sounds pretty communistic. Class differences. But hey, they exist. And you know something? The mainstream media (would bourgeois media be too much?) never utters that phrase: class differences. The mainstream media rarely even acknowledges the existence of classes. Only occasionally will you hear a passing reference to the working class. But you can bet yer' multi-national corporation that you'd never hear the phrase ruling class uttered in the media. Why? Simple.

The media is owned by the ruling class. It acts in its own self-interests.

Ruling class? Another commie catchword? or reality? I recently read that the top one percent of the population own more assets than the lowest 90 percent. Those one percent comprise the ruling class.

What has all this to do with racism? Well it's pretty simple. Consider the social ills that plague our country. Most people would list crime, drugs, crack-babies, welfare mothers, the homeless, gang wars, the underclass, etc, etc. Well now, who's to blame for these problems? Who should we scapegoat? How are racist attitudes a part of the formula?

When we see criminals portrayed in the media (especially in cop-show dramas) they are usually minorities. The media feeds us images, and those images affect our worldview. Quick: what image comes to mind when you think of welfare mother? A Black female? How about Crack addict? A Black teenager? How about Violent criminal? A vicious looking Black man? Those images pop into our minds almost unbidden. Where do they come from?

Every day we're bombarded by thousands of images. Tens of thousands. Most are produced by the mass media... by the ruling class. We see news stories about crime, and we're shown the image of a minority.

Occasionally the television will exhibit anti-racist fodder... a news story about the KKK, a made for TV movie about neo-nazis (portrayed as the bad guys), or maybe racist parents on the Donahue Show. And even though the words in the story may be anti-racist... we're still seeing the images of racism. Actions do speak louder than words! The words fade quickly from our consciousness. Images have a more profound impact on molding our world view; our mental map of the world.

Again, what has all of this to do with the ruling class? Consider this: As long as we tend to see the ills of society in racial terms, our vision is obscured from seeing those same problems in terms of class differences.

The ruling class controls the media. The media shapes the images (and words) we consume. It is in the interests of the ruling class to hold the clouded lens of racism before our eyes. If we were to view those same problems in class terms.., we might see ourselves being exploited by the powerful one percent who wield the real power in this country.

Does this all sound a bit paranoid? Is there really some huge conspiracy to blur the vision of America with racist propaganda? Do media moguls sit around in boardrooms and plot how they'd brainwash the masses into hating each other (instead of hating the ruling class?) Of course not. The dynamics I have described in this article don' t require any kind of malevolent conspiracy. It's just the way things are. Consider this: Those who own the media - the ruling class - have their own world view... what they honestly believe to be the truth. If they were to adapt a world view that described our social ills as being rooted in class differences... well, that'd probably make 'em feel mighty uncomfortable. No, they're simply more comfortable perceiving things in good 'ol racial terms. Nothing terribly sinister in that. We all tend to avoid seeing things in a way that might be threatening to our self-interests.

But you know....? When I was watching those racist families on Donahue, and the hatred they espoused... when I observed how the audience despised them... and how the anger and shame and blame were being tossed back and forth.... Well I just couldn' t help but wonder about those fat cats who own the Donahue Show, and the networks. Could they be sitting far in the background, safe and unnoticed, laughing up their sleeves while the lowly plebeians hurl hate and anger and blame at each other?

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login