I was driving my kids to school this morning and I had the car radio on, listening to the morning show on a local 'classic rock' station. The hosts are your typical morning radio sort, guys making calculatingly boorish comments to their ageing, mostly white male audience. The usually amusing banter is interspersed with Led Zeppelin songs to assuage the lost youth of the listeners.
Today's commentary was about a twenty-two year old black woman working at a Staten Island Home Depot who was videod wearing a hat that said "America Was Never Great" and the ensuing viral controversy swirling around it. Let's call the hosts Abbott and Costello for the sake of not singling these guys out, this could have happened almost anywhere, obviously, given the stale nature of morning radio these days.
Abbott introduced the story, and Costello offers up the expected tirade about, "why doesn't this punk kid say that to a veteran? Or to the families of vets that fought and died for this country? Where does she work, Home Depot? Why can't she get off her lazy ass and stop waiting for everything to be handed to her? I can't stand people like this."
Abbott then played a clip from an interview with the woman where she said, "I'm wearing this hat because of Donald Trump, and how he singles out people for whatever group they're in, If you're not white, or if you disagree with him, he puts you down. It's like if you're not like he is, he's gonna put you out. Donald Trump is for only his sort of people. If he becomes president, what's going to happen? I don't hate America, I'm just expressing my opinion."
Abbott asked if her explanation made any difference to Costello. "What if she's a recent grad and can only find a job at Home Depot? Since she's a Black American, do you think it may be that people older than her, in her family, experienced things in the past that weren't so great?" Costello was unmoved. "Nah, makes no difference."
So, I dropped my kids off at school. Living on Long Island, where economic inequality is rampant, where segregation is as bad as it ever was, where even the purveyors of rock and roll music can be as rigidly conservative and subliminally racist as a humorless Archie Bunker, it's hard to be hopeful about where this country is headed.
Communication breakdown, it's always the same.