Some of this is obviously bad - very bad - despite the fact that a question like "If I ask to see the manager of a store, I can be reasonably sure that person will be of the same race as I am?" is reflective of basic demographic math than it is racism. With that one, I find myself wanting to explore deeper, instead asking whether we have evidence anywhere on the planet of a minority population comprising 15% or less of the total being treated in a genuinely equal fashion. If we do, then we have a model. If we don't, then it's not promising for blacks, is it?
I also try to take some heart in the fact that, as far as we still have to go, the US has at least shown some general interest in getting it right compared to other cultures. I've been following the whole racism in Euro football issue for awhile now - I'm a big soccer fan and watch as much English, Italian, German and Spanish league football as I can - and it's really true that as bad as racism is in the US, it's a damned sight worse over there.
I first realized something was up in 2000 when we were in Italy and I saw swastikas spray-painted in a number of public spots. More recently there have been a series of well-publicized stories, including:
- goddamned Paolo DiCanio saying he's a fascist, not a racist, and Berlusconi more or less backing him; next time I'm in Italy I'll be sure to seek out all the black and Jewish fascists roaming the streets of Roma raprazentin' Dachau, motherfucker;
- Espanyol has suspended two fans for racially abuse of Barcelona's goalie, who's from Cameroon;
- Samuel Eto'o of Barcelona, one of the most brilliant talents in the world, almost walked off the pitch during a February game with Real Zaragoza because of rampant racist abuse from the Zaragoza fans; UEFA, the governing body of Euro football, reacted swiftly, levying a fine of €9000 (that's $10,975.94 US at today's exchange rate); no word on whether the Primera Liga club paid directly out of the petty cash box.
England's Rio Ferdinand has launched a scathing attack on UEFA for what he sees as a failure to stamp out racism.He couldn't be more right, although so far UEFA hasn't shown that it has any intention of getting serious about the problem.
He backs a European Parliament resolution calling on referees to be able to abandon matches where supporters make racist taunts.
The 28-year-old Manchester United star said: "It is time for UEFA to stop paying lip service to the problem.
"UEFA should look at imposing huge fines or deducting points within tournaments or competitions."
FIFA imposed a £44,750 fine on the Spanish FA after Shaun Wright-Phillips and Ashley Cole were the target for monkey chants during last year's friendly with England in Madrid.
Ferdinand said: "The fines handed out after the England-Spain game were a joke.
"For too long now, European football authorities have not taken the problem of racism in the game seriously and refuse to acknowledge how widespread the problem is.
All of which is to say that as bad as it is in the US, it's worse elsewhere. I'd like it if we could make more headway faster toward becoming the first society in the world to drive racism of all sorts into extinction (or at least get it on the endangered species list). We lead the world in so many categories - wouldn't that be a nice one to be known for?