On Facebook today, someone shared the racist comments made about Marc Anthony when he sang the National Anthem before the All-Star Game this week. Anti-Mexican slurs flowed, suggesting Anthony, who I believe is a Native New Yorker, had no right to sing our country’s song,
It frustrated me that the comments were so ignorant, so foolish, so flawed. And I expressed that frustration with a comment … that turned out to be ignorant, foolish, and flawed:
“So damn sad. I bet many of these jerks also sang along to Marc Anthony’s ‘I will be your hero, baby,’ after 9/11. But please don’t take these fools as the only voice in America.”
Do you see my mistake? A beloved former student did: “Chris Ryan, “hero” is by Enrique Iglesias. WTF.”
Fair enough. I messed up who really sang that song. My mistake, my responsibility (though not the focus and intent of my message). To my surprise, my beloved former student continued: “WE DON’T ALL LOOK THE SAME.”
Wow, after all the time we’ve known each other, after championing my students’ causes for all these years, after working with this particular beloved former student on at least two post-graduation projects, now I’m a racists who thinks everyone looks the same because I misremembered who sang a song. It couldn’t be because the music that fills my soul came out in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, eras from which I can identify the majority of popular music sung in English (sadly, high school Spanish didn’t take and I am monolingual), and pure country (just too much twang for my liking, to be honest). By 9/11, I had a lovely wife, amazing kids, diapers, a mortgage, a job, and I didn’t spend as much time with music as I had in my youth.
Doesn’t make me racist.
I’ll even admit that the only reason I know “Hero” at all is because it was included on a fundraising CD featuring mostly acts from my era.
Getting older and less hip doesn’t necessarily translate into being a racist. I misremembered who did a song, just like I always mistake Drake for Lil Wayne, insulting my sons every single time I do it.
Doesn’t make me racist, just makes me older, less hip.
But just seeing my beloved former student leap to assuming I see a whole race as all looking the same echoes for me in the comments I am seeing on Facebook and talk shows and other forums. Too many people are getting worn down by all this, our patience is getting frayed, and, most disturbingly, we are seeing enemies where there are only humans.
Now some of you might be thinking that my beloved former student might be looking a little racist right now for assuming I can’t tell Marc Anthony from Enrique Iglesias, kind of a profiling lite. Nah, she’s not a racist either. She’s just young and angry and full of herself. I love her energy and believe in her ability to grow beyond this knee jerk reaction. And even better, she inspires me.
Because right now, so many people are saying awful things about each other, about groups of people, communities, regions, races. But not everything is about race and not everything needs to be met with anger and not everything is a slight or an attack.
I believe our better impulses should be given more weight in the coming days. We need to resist anger, and embrace insight. We need to digest a little more and attack a little less. We need to each be our better selves if we ever hope to raise our race, the human race, beyond these current limitations.
As ENRIQUE sang (kind of), “You can be our hero, baby.”
Christopher Ryan is author of City of Woe, available on Kindle and Nook, and in print. For more info, click here.