What I find so crazy and so ominous about the events I wrote about in the last story, “Bumpers,” is how easy it was–and still is–to demonize others based only on hearsay. We see it today, as pernicious as ever, in the absurdities that go viral with depressing regularity on the internet.
The total fabrication that there was a Negro conspiracy to bump white people off the sidewalks in Waco, a rumor that made its way from ear to ear and eventually sprang from the mouths of gullible children, was an early version of the conspiracy theories that abound today on the web.
I’m continually amazed that people who are willing to believe so many unattributed and unsubstantiated rumors circulating on the internet refuse to accept thoroughly vetted and resourced stories from legitimate news outlets.
We humans are all too willing to believe the worst, especially of people we don’t know and have no experience with. It was particularly easy, when so few of us had any regular contact with people of color, to buy into tales that reinforced the pervasive racism of the era of segregation,
Today that problem is magnified a thousand-fold by the speed with which bogus stuff can be circulated on the web. We are assaulted hourly with all kinds of outrageous accusations, wild charges, salacious rumors, conspiracy theories and outright fabrications that have been posted and recirculated countless times.
Much of what’s out there reinforces what we’re predisposed to believe –Muslims are terrorists, Obama hates America, conservatives care only about the rich, liberals want big government to control your lives, the poor are undeserving, the wealthy are uncaring, and on and on and on.
What worries me most about all this is that in the rush to demonize those who are ethnically or economically or politically different, we have abandoned the belief that a multi-cultural, multiethnic, politically diverse society benefits and strengthens us all.
Which is why I’m writing and drawing about what happened more than half a century ago–because we are still struggling with those same demons.
Okay, enough about all that. I’ve finished my rant. On to the next Sleeper Ave. story, a much more benign and, I hope, humorous tale about my early adventures as a budding artist.
I’ll post it tomorrow. Enjoy.