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Author's note: In the wake of the recent episode at the University of Oklahoma, where baseball coach Larry Cochell's racist comments led to his subsequent resignation, I found myself back in the therapist's office trying to make sense of it all.
Doc: Seems like you really want to turn away from this race thing, but you can't.
Alan: Yeah, so many people try to tell me that racism doesn't exist and that people like me make this stuff up. But each time I turn away, and say the hell with it, someone like this Larry Cochell turns up and pleads his case. My first thought when this thing broke was: Archie Bunker lives!
"All in the Family." That was a funny show.
I never really thought so. It was brilliantly written and it was supposed to be funny, but I think most folks missed the point. Archie Bunker was supposed to lampoon white people with corrupt values. But part of me suspects that far more people identified with him than saw him as a spoof.
And how does this whole Larry Cochell episode make you feel?
Makes me frustrated. I mean, it's not what people say, or the epithets they use. That doesn't bother me.
It wouldn't bother you to be called the N word?
No. I've told you before how I feel about political correctness. It's not what you call me that matters. I only care about how you treat me.
So what was Cochell trying to say?
I think he was trying to say that Joe Dunigan was one of the "good" black athletes and not among a generation of reckless, glorified hoodlums. I think he was trying to say that not all people black or white are the same. Now, this is definitely something we in the extended black community discuss all the time. But it probably shouldn't be discussed by a white baseball coach and outside the presence of Joe Dunigan himself. But I have to admit, part of it is funny. In fact, when I first head of Cochell's comments, I laughed out loud.
You thought it was funny?
Yeah, in a way I did. See, most people don't understand that racism isn't born of malice, but born of ignorance. And this guy appears to be among the most ignorant people around. That's why I thought of Archie Bunker. He was a comic character. And through comedy you can touch on any controversial topic. Chris Rock, in one of his stand-up shows, says that "black people hate n-----s too!"
Yeah, but that's OK because Chris Rock is black.
Yeah, I know. There's some familiarity involved.
But Larry Cochell didn't have any such familiarity.
Actually, in a way he did, Doc. See, he's a coach. And athletic coaches have the opportunity to interact with black people in very intimate confines. When that's the case, they get comfortable so comfortable they think they can waive their restrictions as white people and become "honorary black folks" or something.
So you're saying what Cochell did was all right?
Well, no. I'm just saying that maybe he thought it was all right.
So what about Joe Dunigan, his father, his teammate and his teammate's father defending Cochell? The older Dunigan called Cochell a "good Christian man."