After reading the Wednesday's letter, “Attacking chamber is misguided,” I’m reminded of what Jimmy Stewart’s character says in the movie, "The Philadelphia Story": “The prettiest site in this fine pretty world is the privileged class enjoying its privileges.”
Though the movie looks at the upper class, it is easy enough to apply this quote to the privilege of simply being white in our society. The author of the above letter believes the antics of a few “golfers with a sense of humor” are “inconsequential,” in effect arguing for the preservation of “what is good (fine and pretty) about this country.” Sadly, nothing can be further from the truth.
There was a time in our country when blackface was considered humorous entertainment for whites. Jim Crow, the character developed by Thomas Dartmouth Rice — the “father of minstrelsy” — was very popular. But not everyone was amused by the negative stereotypes portrayed by minstrels.
Abolitionist Frederick Douglass failed to see the humor of these entertainers and considered them “the filthy scum of white society, who have stolen from us a complexion denied to them by nature, in which to make money, and pander to the corrupt taste of their white fellow-citizens.” And of course, negative stereotypes have a way of becoming “the rule of law” in our democracy; Jim Crow became a term describing laws mandating discrimination based on race in the southern United States.
Fortunately, we learn from our mistakes; but mistakes must be recognized before they get out of hand. To dismiss the negative stereotypes portrayed by these humorous golfers is to ignore their hurtful effect upon those being portrayed, in this instance the handcuffed Mexican caddy and thus all Mexicans everywhere.
And now I’m reminded of something once uttered by Clifford Roberts, one of the Augusta National Golf Club’s founders in 1933: “As long as I’m alive, all the golfers will be white, and all the caddies will be black.” We have done a lot of stupid stuff throughout the history of our country, but only through admitting our mistakes are we able to remain these United States.