That word more than most these days is equally vilified and employed.
Sometimes the word is unspoken a la racists and other assorted bigots.
Its spoken as an aside when describing women, assumed when “traditional values” are evoked.
All is a word that is mostly assumed whenever someone accuses someone else based on their membership in some group.
Sometimes “most” will suffice.
In my life as racial ambassador, confident, guy who goes where others dare, member of the family, incognito brother, I’ve experienced a lot of insider access to casual racism. In shops, firehouses and among friends and family, I’ve been the guy who isn’t like the others…assuming most of “us” are a certain way… the guy with which they let their guard down.
As that guy, I’ve heard people say things that they’d never feel comfortable speaking in public, for a second they forget that I’m one of “them” and let the truth fly.
Satirical as the above might be, there is more than a kernel of truth to it. Many whites, when they feel safe or are alone don’t give away newspapers, but they do give away a sense of their reality. Any “woke” white person who has been in a place where working-class white gather knows this as well, painfully.
When I read the story of a Kansas City man who spat on and called a little kid a Nigger, I wasn’t surprised. I also wasn’t surprised by his admission of being a “first responder” as I know for a fact that, in places where those who serve don’t look anything like the served there is plenty of room for harboring racial resentment at the very least, and regularly, racial hostility. And in the places where they do (I’ve been to Overland Park, and it is VERY white) the harboring is more like hosting.
The incident is a tip of the iceberg one for me. It marks a swing in the pendulum back to the 70’s and 80’s when whites felt much more emboldened to make judgments on blacks loudly and publicly. It marks the return to an open hostility that has been stirred up by the racial progress of the last 15 years, where the fact that we had our first President of color was only the tip pinnacle of a cultural sea-change. A change that took place in the culture that started (again) sometime around Disco and continued through Gangsta, driven first by curiosity and rebellion and then by marketing.
It is also a terrifying emergence of a new paradigm.
We never addressed our institutional race problem, we tried to introduce a measure of fairness here and there, but our affirmative actions never went far enough. In our police stations, firehouses, military, and rescue forces there are still deep pockets of racial hostility. We never went far enough to get minorities to take seriously the professions that pillar many white communities, rural and urban. We never propped up black and brown boys and girls who wanted to be cops and firefighters as well as carpenters and mechanics. Though seeing this made that reality unsavory to many of us:
The truth is that vocational education failed to reach many of us. Even if we did break through the stigma, what greeted us when we tried to gain entry into the professions was a cultural gatekeeper that made the process all but impossible.
So this guy, who may or may not be what he claims to be, was able to by his assumed membership in an indeed revered and protected class, avoid arrest and escape prosecution. They used to hang us for looking the wrong way at whites, (night sticks and tasers are now the preferred methods) this guy assaults a black boy, degrades him and in 2018 barely gets a slap on the wrist because he claims to be “hero.”
This whole culture glorifies the warrior myth. I hear people who dodged the draft or avoided service extolling the virtues of the Army, Air Force, Marines and the flow through professions of Fireman, EMT, and Police. Some without the virtue of first-hand experience and others who benefitted from the inherited whiteness of them. The associations are clear, first responder, military = white.
So the question is, does this guy get off on the denigration of his fellow heroes by claiming he is immune from being arrested for assaulting a preschooler or is he evoking the long tradition of racial safe spaces in our firehouses, ambulance companies, and police stations?
It will be interesting what response, if any, comes from the first responder community.