Martin Longman brought my attention to the fact that, Opie and Anthony Are No More. Apparently, for almost twenty years, there has been this thing called, The Opie and Anthony Show. It’s one of those shock jock shows that young men of limited intelligence think is super keen. I don’t mean to paint with too broad a brush, but Howard Stern is generally considered the best there is and I find his show to only be of reasonable quality with many aspects that don’t much appeal to me. I figure that Opie and Anthony are on the lower end of the maturity scale, but I really don’t know.
Well, it seems this last week, Anthony Cumia was out in New York City trying to take some pictures. A black woman happened to be in one of his pictures. She objected, Cumia escalated the situation and before long things got totally out of hand. According to Cumia, the woman “punched” him several times, but without minimizing it, I suspect it was what I would call a hit or a slap. And when I’m out in public and I call a woman the n-word and the c-word, I don’t think I’m in much of a position to complain if she knees me in the groin. Apparently, then some black guys came to the defense of the woman. But he doesn’t claim that they touched him and Cumia never went to the police.
Instead, he did what any privileged white man would do: he went on Twitter to vent to his 162,000 followers. And vent he did. No one tweet is a total barn burner. He never uses the n-word (but his followers do), but he does use the c-word. He talks about “those people” and how he was attacked because he was white and how they are savages and it’s a jungle. But his whole interaction was with one black woman. And the black men who came to her defense, probably did it because all they heard was him yelling expletives at her. Regardless, as we know (though it isn’t always right), in an altercation, people will go to the defense of the woman.
But let’s assume that it was a group of ten blacks and Mr Cumia was unfairly wronged by them. And let’s assume that he didn’t go on Twitter and say a bunch of racist and misogynistic things. His takeaway from the incident is the fundamental racist problem in the United States. If the same thing had happened with a group of white people, Cumia would likely be just as mad. But he wouldn’t generalize about it. It wouldn’t be “those people” in the general sense; it would have been “those ten people” who abused him. Because in modern America, white isn’t a race. It’s just the default. All other races are defined by how they deviate from white.
Now I know that Cumia will say that he has nothing against blacks and women. And in fact, right now, his latest tweet [Since deleted. -FM] is of him smiling with his arm around a black man. That’s not it. That’s not how racism works in the “I make $3 million per year crowd.” The problem is thinking that if one person who we’ve arbitrarily placed in some “race” (an artificial construct, but a useful one) does something we like or don’t like, it must say something about the entire race.
My favorite example is a racist driver. A black guy cuts him off in traffic. The guy thinks, “That’s totally typical! That’s what blacks are always doing!” If a white guy does the same thing, he thinks, “What a jerk!” And that’s the end of it. But if a black guy does something nice like allow him to merge into heavy traffic, the guy thinks, “Well, that’s unusual.” Nothing changes, of course. The nice black guy is just the exception that proves the rule. That is racism in America: white people are individuals whose actions only reflect on them; black people are representatives of an entire class.
The terrible thing is that I doubt seriously that Cumia is any more racist than any of us. In my life, I fight gut reactions (good and bad) all the time. But I am at an advantage of understanding somewhat how it works. I don’t delude myself into thinking that just because I would never consciously treat a black man differently that I don’t suffer from racist impulses. I am afraid that it is unlikely that Cumia will ever understand this, especially since so many of his fans seem to be egging him on in the opposite direction.
[In checking the broken Twitter link, I noticed that Cumia now has over twice as many followers as he did at the time of this article. Racism is a good career move in America. -FM]