I once had a friend who thought it was inconceivable for a woman to defeat a man on the basketball court. My friend, who was a very good player, happened to come upon the misfortune of meeting his match. The woman who showed him up was a college hoops star and eventual player in the WNBA, and she made my friend look silly.
After losing to the woman in a game of one-on-one, my friend challenged her to double or nothing. The woman then proceeded to spank my homeboy like a four-year old at daycare, taking his money once again. But my friend was stubborn; his brain could not absorb the fact that he was beaten, and that it was time to walk away. The woman took every penny he had, and he still doesn’t believe women know how to play basketball.
I learned from watching my acquaintance make a complete ass out of himself that a commitment to sexism can get you into serious trouble. The same is true for racism, homophobia, or any other bias you hold near and dear to your heart. These prejudices cause us to make the irrational decision to cut off our nose to spite our own face. When it’s all said and done, the closed-minded person almost always loses.
A recent example of this phenomenon has been the debacle known as the Republican primaries. Because the right wing is so outraged about having a black man in the White House, the party has been hijacked by illogical extremists who are determined to make themselves into dinosaurs. Unfit candidates such as Rick Santorum have been pushed to the top of the party, and Republicans will ultimately lose the White House because of their own internal divides.
Additionally, Republican racism has kept our Congress in a state of perpetual stalemate and created political chaos that may ultimately harm our nation. But the party doesn’t care what happens to America, since they are so angry about that “Nig….I mean socialist” in the White House. Also, their inability to let go of the art of race baiting costs them millions of votes from the highly conservative African American community. If I were a Republican, I’d know how to get people in the black church to support me, but unfortunately, most Republicans do not.
Another good example of how stubborn biases can irreparably harm us was the public implosion of CNN analyst Roland Martin. Roland got into a spat with gay rights activists after a series of public remarks that revealed serious homophobia and disrespect for the safety of the gay community. When the Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) approached Martin about his remarks, he didn’t apologize. Instead, he and his wife only made it worse by getting into Twitter beefs like rappers fighting over malt liquor and baby’s mamas.
The problem for Martin is that GLAAD held all the cards: they’d compiled years of evidence showing Martin’s bias against the gay community. They were able to readily dismiss Martin’s inconceivable story that his string of anti-gay remarks came from the fact that he doesn’t like soccer players. GLAAD didn’t believe him, I didn’t believe him, CNN obviously didn’t believe him and America didn’t believe him either. Martin’s wife made matters worse by attacking both GLAAD and CNN via twitter, referring to the gay community as bullies who demand that we all accept their lifestyle. Actually, they were simply requesting that we not make jokes about beating them for their sexual orientation.
In spite of a public appeal from Tom Joyner that Martin simply apologize, it was the stubborn Southern Baptist minister in Martin that would not allow him to let go of the issue. The fact was that Martin was wrong, which is why none of his high profile friends were rushing out in public to defend him.
I love the game of poker (believe it or not, I’ve even won a few tournaments). One important rule in this intense game of strategy is that when you know your opponent has the best cards, you should almost never raise the stakes. Instead, you fold your cards and live to play another day. Racism, sexism and homophobia make us hold on to things that should be let go, and ultimately cause us to spend our lives trying to kick and ride dead horses.
Time will go on and America will continue to evolve. But those who insist upon positioning themselves as enemies of progress and remain determined to oppress those with alternative points of view will see the world pass them by. Racism, sexism and homophobia are almost never winning strategies in America, and refusing to accept change will end up costing you dearly.