Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Go Ahead and Discriminate

Please note: The following was originally written three and half years ago. I just wanted to have it posted on the Oxgoad.

The channel change was clumsily yet effectively executed. I ran down the hallway and leapt onto the couch. My right hand snagged the remote from off the end table. My left arm supported me as I rolled onto the floor within four feet of the TV screen, and, with extreme prejudice, I zapped the “Catfight” commercial before my young boys could catch an impressionable eyeful of buxom bimbos battling over beer. My name is Travis; I am a father and I discriminate.

In the soft porn commercial dubbed “Catfight”, Miller Lite has ratcheted up the old “taste’s great, less filling” debate. In years past, aged athletes argued this monumental dilemma in the local tavern, however, the modern version depicts the aforementioned “ladies” ripping off most of one another’s clothes while trading punches in a fountain and then in wet cement. Degrading to women and offensive to most, nonetheless, “Catfight” is reportedly the cat’s meow with its target audience, 21-31 year old beer drinking males. Hannah Storm, pioneer female network sports anchor and current co-host of the Early Show said, while on air, that the commercial offended her, especially because she is a football fan, and with three daughters, she doesn’t want “those kind of images” coming into her house. The brewery defended “Catfight” as no different than most reality TV programs. For whatever it’s worth, and in all fairness to Miller Lite, that is a correct statement.

After seven and a half years of parenting and thirty years of living it has become apparent that discrimination is not strictly a black and white issue. Growing up in a small southeastern Indiana river town, I only occasionally saw people of a different hue. Most of my “knowledge” concerning the different races was derived from TV. I actually believed that most black men dressed and behaved like Huggy Bear from Starsky & Hutch. At that point in my abbreviated life discrimination was simply “us” and “them”, with the “them” being not only blacks but also anyone not “white.”

While in school, the only flesh and blood “non-white” person I knew was a kid who had a white father and a Korean mother, and I didn’t meet him until high school. He wasn’t black, as in African-American, but he wasn’t lily white either, so he endured ugly name-calling. This fellow was my friend, and still is, however, to my ever-lasting shame I must admit that at times I also participated in the inane name-calling. Isn’t it curious that one can exhibit poor discrimination while discriminating?

Is discrimination unfairly and unreasonably judging people or situations without full knowledge or complete examination of the facts? Yes. Is discrimination making a clear distinction and discerning the facts? Yes.

Inequitable racial and gender discrimination has always, and will always, exist in certain sectors of society. That is to mean every society, not just American culture, but all cultures. This is not a radical, unproven statement. Indeed, history has borne this idea out. Discrimination does not equal bigotry; at least, not all discrimination equals bigotry. All people should be discriminating, that is to say, insightful and discerning.

Every day you must choose to discriminate. When you cross the road it is either you or the bus, not both of you. When choosing a school, a major, a vocation, a system of beliefs, one must discriminate; which is simply judging the best of available options. As a parent of three small children I regularly, and unapologetically, discriminate between the TV shows and movies my children are allowed to view. I loved the movie, and the book, We Were Soldiers; however, my three sons will not be allowed to enjoy that movie with me until they are mature enough. Nor will they, or myself for that matter, view commercials like “Catfight” or any new Coors Light commercial. (Whatever happened to Peter Coors, somewhere near Golden, Colorado, silhouetted by majestic mountain peaks and icy cold babbling brooks?)

“Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world,” the traditional Sunday school ditty says. My kids regularly sing those words at church every week, but the song is not new and millions of kids have grown up singing that song only to later don a white hood of prejudice, either figuratively or literally or both. Why? Because of poor discrimination that leads to racial discrimination. To judge someone based solely on his or her gender or skin tone reveals a lack of discrimination.

I am a father and I have the awesome privilege of molding three male lives which are just bursting with potential. I must teach them, mostly by example, to not discriminate while at the same time teaching them to be discriminatory.


Jeff Voegtlin said...

Good point. I liked this post.

Anonymous said...

I actually believed that most black men dressed and behaved like Sugar Bear from Starsky & Hutch.

Um. Don't you mean Huggy? Sugar Bear was a cereal mascot.

Travis said...


I need more than "spell check". I need "authorial intent check". Yes, I meant to write "huggy" bear. Sugar Bear is that way cool pitchman for Super Sugar Crisp. Whether or not he is related to Huggy Bear is debatable.

Thanks for pointing out this snafu. Will you proof-read all my posts?