A WHITE MAN once called the Larry Elder show to vent.
“I am not a bigot,” he said. “I am tired of being called one… I’m sick and tired of it. But what can I say about it?”
“You just said it,” Elder replied.
The man had taken his first small step toward dealing honestly with race. He had spoken his mind. Elder has taken a much larger step by writing The Ten Things You Can’t Say in America.
Don’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of this book. Although it’s a New York Times bestseller, the major media have ignored it.
Elder, a black Los Angeles radio host, refuses to toe the line on race. He flatly declares that blacks are more racist than whites. And he urges whites to speak out in their own defense.
“Much of what passes for white compassion is nothing more than white condescension…” writes Elder. “Many whites fail to hold blacks to the same standard to which they hold themselves… We all lose if we refuse to tell the truth.”
Inspired by Elder’s book, I decided to search my own heart for traces of white condescension. Was there anything that I wanted to say about race that I had been keeping to myself?
Yes, there was.
It had to do with that awful scene in Dances With Wolves in which Kevin Costner and his Indian friends discover a herd of buffalo slaughtered, skinned and left to rot in a field.
“Who would do such a thing?” the Costner character intones. “The field was proof enough that it was a people without value and soul… And my heart sank as I knew it could only be white hunters.”
Of course. Who but a white man would show such contempt for nature’s balance as to kill more game than he could eat?
Well, Indians, for one.
Archaeologists have found immense deposits of prehistoric bison bones, left over from stampeding herds driven over cliffs by Paleo-Indian hunters - the ancestors of today’s Indians.
“At some kill sites, archeologists find remains of animals that were never butchered,” write the editors of National Geographic in The World of the American Indian. “At others they find skeletons with only tail bones missing, suggesting that the hunters’ main object was to harvest hides for robes and shelter… Plains Indians used the `jump’ or `fall’ technique up to the 1870s…”
Nowadays, schoolchildren are taught that the Indians lived in harmony with nature. They killed for food, but respected their prey, asking the animals’ forgiveness before butchering them.
But who says that praying to the souls of animals makes you an environmentalist? It hasn’t worked for the Japanese.
The Shinto religion honors the souls of whales. Since ancient times, Japanese whalers have placated their cetacean victims with prayers and offerings. Yet, Japanese whalers remain the number one threat to the whale’s existence on earth.
Animal rights activists might respond that you can’t trust any human, even a Shinto nature-worshipper. But people aren’t the only ones who kill recklessly. Whales do it too.
In the January 1999 issue of Natural History, marine biologists Robert L. Pitman and Susan J. Chivers described an event they had witnessed on the high seas. A pack of about fifty killer whales attacked a pod of nine sperm whales, killing one and maiming the rest.
“All may die from wounds received this morning…” the authors observe. “The killer whales killed more this morning than they could possibly eat: hundreds of tons of flesh are left behind. We are struck by the tremendous waste.”
Waste is normal for killer whales. These predators, “are well known for their habit of eating just the fleshy lips and tongues of minke whales, then leaving their victims to die,” write Pitman and Chivers.
Dolphins are even nastier. They kill for pleasure, without taking a bite.
“Dolphins have been found to bludgeon porpoises to death by the hundreds,” reports the New York Times (July 6, 1999). “Unlike most animal killers, which eat their prey, dolphins seem to have murderous urges unrelated to the need for food.”
If all this is true, then white people such as Kevin Costner need to stop flagellating themselves for their lack of “soul.” And non-whites need to stop goading them into these embarrassing displays.
Thank you, Larry Elder, for giving me permission to say that. I feel so much better now. And so will countless others, after enjoying The Ten Things You Can’t Say in America.