Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bakery denies cake request for 3-year-old Adolf Hitler

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

EASTON, Pa. — The father of 3-year-old Adolf Hitler Campbell, denied a birthday cake with the child's full name on it by one New Jersey supermarket, is asking for a little tolerance.

Heath Campbell and his wife, Deborah, are upset not only with the decision made by the Greenwich ShopRite, but with an outpouring of angry Internet postings in response to a local newspaper article over the weekend on their flare-up over frosting.


Karen Meleta, a spokeswoman for ShopRite, said the Campbells had similar requests denied at the same store the last two years and said Heath Campbell previously had asked for a swastika to be included in the decoration.


"If we're so racist, then why would I have them come into my home?" he asked.

The Campbells' other two children also have unusual names: JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell turns 2 in a few months and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell will be 1 in April.

Click here for the rest.

Okay, this is an extreme example, but it well illustrates a point I've made here at Real Art on more than one occasion. Clearly, Mr. and Mrs. Campbell are racists. I mean, they named one of their children after Adolph Hitler, and another is named Aryan Nation. And they wanted a cake with a swastika on it. It's not likely that they're simply weird or joking, you know, like Frank Zappa naming his kids Moon Unit and Dweezil. The Campbells are definitely racists.

But they don't think they're racists.

I'm reminded of a bartender I had to endure years ago who had some strong opinions of Klansman-turned-Republican David Duke: "The man's not a racist, I'm telling you; he's just for white rights and common sense!" I don't think I even finished my beer before getting the hell out of there. And it's not like I was in the backwoods or anything; this was at a Bennigan's in Houston's Greenspoint area back in '91 or '92.

David Duke doesn't think he's a racist either.

Anyway, the point is that most white Americans don't think of themselves as racist, whether that's actually the case or not. Like I said, the Campbells are an extreme example--it's pretty obvious where they're coming from. But what about white Americans who oppose affirmative action on the grounds that it's somehow unfair to whites without ever considering the unfairness that people of color have to deal with day in and day out? What about white Americans who couldn't care less about our criminal justice system coming down way harder on black Americans than any other group? What about white Americans wagging their fingers at black single mothers while ignoring the higher percentage of single white mothers? Are these people racist?

Obviously, I think so.

Most of the problem here is that Americans, as a people, do not have a consensus understanding of exactly what racism is. It seems to me that many if not most whites think anti-racism is about being nice to people of color on an individual basis, which is a definition allowing racial oppression to continue while at the same time absolving whites of any sense of personal guilt or introspection. "Why, some of my best friends are black!" Yes, and many of those best friends have black friends and relatives who have been in prison, or are mired in poverty, and on and on.

We, as a nation, really really really need to have a serious dialogue about race, but as long as white people freak out if they're called racist, as long as white people can think of themselves as non-racist while harboring racialist attitudes, it'll never happen.

And just for the record, I freak out and get irrational whenever somebody thinks I'm racist, too. This isn't easy. But that's no excuse.