For decades, now, we enlightened ones have snickered at the bad jokes and patently racist attitudes of The Right almost to exhaustion. When allies relented and began inviting “opposing viewpoints” onto pubic forums, many of us wondered if the schism was permanent.
The abhorrence of racism became the stuff of comic strips.
Tuesday night CNN’s Anderson Cooper extended comedy into sarcasm and lambasted racist tele-evangelist Pat Robertson like never before.
Robertson is the star of the Christian Broadcasting Network and he had just answered a question on the popular “700 Club” show about ebola. He warned would-be travelers to Africa against using towels there that will infect you with AIDS.
This isn’t a gaff, it’s a simple reflection of a quintessential racist belief that black is evil.
It was hardly Robertson’s first time at it. Last year he actually claimed that gays in San Francisco wear evil little pointed rings so that when you shake their hand they can infect you with AIDS, which he called “their stuff.”
Apparently the attention to the ebola controversy breaks the threshold of cartoon tolerance of racism. Robertson’s network apologized for this remark the next day, although he never has.
No apology was ever made for the gay ring remark.
What struck me as particularly important this time was how Africa reacted. Like many of us before, Africans tend to shrug off racist attitudes as something held by bumptious uncles. Inured to the point of frustration, the general viewpoint has been that most of these attitudes will die out with the current generation.
In fact Robertson’s remarks got little attention in the African media until Cooper flayed them.
Now, for the third straight day running, it’s the most popular story in the Kenyan media.
Take that link above and scroll down to the local comments. Here are a few of my favorites:
“You can contract the sometimes incurable disease of ignorance if you listen to the likes of 700 club.” – Melissa Wainaina
“Sorry, dear Kenyans, but that’s America (USA). They don’t know there anything about other countries.” – Hanna
“Can one get aids from Towels in America? … This is ignorance and racist mixed into a potent mix.” – cbertmann
The irony is that Pat Robertson probably has a larger following per capita in Kenya than in the U.S. “What is more sad is that this guy has a huge following in Kenya,’ Shazam3535 reminded readers.
That’s because Kenyans are far more religious than Americans. Kenyans are also, in my opinion, far more tribal and therefore actually more racist than Americans, although their racism is black-on-black more than black-on-white.
Racism is racism, though, and it’s heartening reading these comments to recognize what might be a new awareness that religious evangelism provokes if not causes racism.
Are the times really changing?