When Joel Ward of the Washington Capitals scored the winning goal in overtime to send the Boston Bruins home for the spring without a second shot at the Stanley Cup, there was a barrage of racist rants on twitter targeting Ward, who of course is black. No one really knows how many of these tweets were sent out, but apparently they were more than a handful, in fact it is likely that there were hundreds.
Now Boston is a passionate sports town and so such a heart-breaking loss can release harsh emotions. But there is more to these twitter racist rants than just high emotion and sports fanaticism.
It is not a false generalization to state that the Bruins are the favorites of the white working class in a town with a national reputation for not being welcoming to African-Americans. Sure the use of the N word in the tweets may be from a small minority and both the Bruins management and many fans condemned the messages sent out, but this episode of overt racism in our midst should serve as a stark reminder that right beneath the surface lies racial hatred.
Sure we have a black or at least multi-racial president of the United States; sure the workplace is fully integrated; sure the number of inter-racial marriages is skyrocketing and sure most of us often use the line, ” some of my best friends are black”, but it is important when such a racist incident is exposed that all of us think about how tolerant we really are, how welcoming we are toward people of different skin colors and how willing we are to accept non-white people in power or the victors in a sporting event.
There is no doubt that as a nation we have come a long way from the days of blatant discrimination and segregation, but we still have not conquered racism in its more subtle forms. There is no doubt in my mind that all this birther baloney targeting President Obama is race driven; there is no doubt in my mind that there remains far too many examples of race entering into hiring decisions, promotions, bank loans, construction contracts, and development projects; and there is no doubt in my mind that white folk quietly wish that more sports heroes had white skin.
I am confident that the Boston sports world will learn from this racist episode with the Bruins and some of its intolerant fans, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that there is still work to be done to change the thinking habits of most Americans. People have different skin colors, get over it and treat them as human beings, not some oddity or worse yet a danger.