Reacting to racism

The author apologizes for his outburst and hopes to do better next time

George Gold, a recent political-science graduate of California State University, Los Angeles, is a computer-systems engineer managing enterprise-level large-scale disk-storage subsystems. He lives in Butte County.

I want to apologize.

On June 9 at The Graduate I watched a great basketball game between the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks. It turned out to be the last game of the 2011 NBA season. The Mavs won.

At the very end of the game, when MVP Dirk Nowitzki bolted from the court to the locker room, overcome by emotion, a fellow at a table or two behind me yelled out, “Way to go, you Nazi stud!”

I could feel my brain working, but I also could not stop my body from responding. So I got up, turned around and clearly stated to the speaker, “F**k you, you motherf**ker, you stupid idiot.” Mind you, I had drunk one beer during the game.

The next thing I knew Mr. Bouncer Man was escorting me out the door. Was what I said OK? No, it wasn’t. Did I offer to buy Mr. Nazi Stud a beer and explain to him that my parents are Holocaust survivors, and that perhaps he didn’t understand how racist his comment was? No, I didn’t.

Realizing now that most of the people at The Graduate that day probably heard what I said because I said it loudly and clearly, and that they probably didn’t hear what Mr. Nazi Stud said, I want to express my sincere apologies to them. I am truly sorry.

But wasn’t Mr. Nazi Stud really saying that white players are a distinct minority in the NBA and that this white man, this German from the master race, had just shown all those black men how to play basketball?

To me this was a spontaneous racist remark, and he believed he could get away with it as a sort of joke. It was disgusting.

Perhaps next time I’ll have my wits about me and use the incident as a real teaching moment by having a friendly chat with the speaker and sharing my perspective on his hateful speech.

As a veteran of the civil-rights era who watched President Johnson sign the 1964 Civil Rights Act, I guess I just have to get over my disbelief that in 2011 racism can be so close to the surface.