We have strong civil rights laws. We have an even stronger national consensus against racism. Racist behavior is a huge social taboo, as it should be.
Now we should just leave it alone— let the scab heal. Morgan Freeman said this best in a famous interview with Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes back in 2006. (Unfortunately, the great actor rescinded this later. But I prefer to believe in this more sophisticated, calmer Morgan.)
Here’s a transcript of the key parts of that exchange:
MIKE WALLACE, CBS`s “60 MINUTES”: Black History Month, you find…
MORGAN FREEMAN, ACTOR: Ridiculous.
FREEMAN: You`re going to relegate my history to a month?
WALLACE: Come on.
FREEMAN: What do you do with yours? Which month is White History Month? Come on, tell me.
WALLACE: I`m Jewish.
FREEMAN: OK. Which month is Jewish History Month?
WALLACE: There isn`t one.
FREEMAN: Why not? Do you want one?
WALLACE: No, no.
FREEMAN: I don`t either. I don`t want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.
WALLACE: How are we going to get rid of racism until…?
FREEMAN: Stop talking about it. I`m going to stop calling you a white man. And I`m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man. I know you as Mike Wallace. You know me as Morgan Freeman. You`re not going to say, “I know this white guy named Mike Wallace.” Hear what I`m saying?
Yes, I hear you, Morgan. I hear you loud and clear and I know you were telling the truth. In fact, what you were saying is so important that it deserves being quoted again and again.
As one who has had the great fortune to travel the world and visit some sixty countries, the USA, in my view, is the least racist of all.
Is there still racism here? Of course. Will there always be? Most likely, humans being what they are.
But the best way to get rid of what remains is to shut up about it.
The sooner the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman affair disappears in the rear view mirror, the better for all of us.