Privilege and Prejudice

In A Sedentary View, Columns, Features by Gregory Banks

This morning I learned of the weekend arrest of actor Mel Gibson, star of the very popular “Lethal Weapon” movies and producer/director of the controversial movie, “The Passion of the Christ,” on charges of DUI.

During the arrest, Gibson reportedly not only made sexually derogatory comments toward a female officer, but made very strong anti-Semitic comments as well, asking the arresting male officer if he was Jewish, and stating how the (bleeping) Jews were responsible for every war in the world.

In a statement released later to the press, Gibson apologized for his behavior and for the “despicable” things he said, but does not believe in personally.

This isn’t the first time Gibson has been charged with anti-Semitism. When “The Passion of the Christ” was released in 2004, many felt that the brutal portrayal of the persecution and crucifixion of Christ was greatly prejudiced against the Jews and their role in the Crucifixion.

Gibson was also reportedly a member of a division of the Catholic Church who historically have blamed the Jews for the murder of Christ. Gibson’s reputation was even further damaged by his father’s reported statements that the Holocaust was a fictional event, a stance often taken up by many anti Semites.

I’ve done a bit of web surfing today researching this story, and of course there are many, many articles about this incident. I’ve seen comments raking the man over the coals for his racism, but I’ve also seen many others greatly supporting the man and excusing him based upon his condition at the time.

While this is all well and good, my problem is that I always thought of alcohol as something that relaxed your inhibitions, that lowers your defenses and allows you to do and say things that you might not otherwise do or say in public.

I’m sure that you might hallucinate if you’re drunk enough, causing you to see things such as the old, clichéd “pink elephant.” I even understand that you can demonstrate an entirely different personality while under the influence.

I’ve always thought that the behaviors and thoughts expressed while drunk are buried parts of oneself, things that a sense of decency, respect, or fear of

the consequences would cause you to consciously keep suppressed.

But seeing as how Gibson’s comments were in no way related to the situation at hand, and how he reportedly went on and on about the “bleeping” Jews while being arrested, I have a very hard time believing that his comments were completely born out of a drunken tirade. To me, such behavior, such anger, such hatred, doesn’t just come from thin air.

A lot of people are outraged and appalled over Mel Gibson’s comments. And they should be. As both a black man and a disabled man, I know what discrimination is like, how it feels to be devalued by others merely for the way you look.

While declaring all of the people who have looked down upon me as being bad, evil people would be completely unfair, I can’t help but question what kind of person one must be to so easily judge others based on such superficial values. If actions speak louder than words, what are the people who stare at me from afar as if I am both blind and emotionless trying to tell me?

And as fan of Mr. Gibson since his “Mad Max” movie days, I don’t have the heart or the stomach to spew venomous retribution toward him over this latest incident. But as a living, breathing, caring, God-believing human being, I can’t help but feel deeply disappointed and sad.

Why would a man with so much wealth, power and prestige, with so many reasons to live and love life, whose fortunes undoubtedly come from the pockets of people of all races, creeds, and national origins, feel the need to hate anyone else?

The poor and underprivileged often need someone or something to focus their rage upon to take their minds off their own self-loathing, but why does a man who can have virtually anything he wants feel the need to hate anyone else?

Maybe Mr. Gibson, like all of those who’ve ever turned scornful eyes on those they don’t identify with, needs to stand in front of the mirror until he figures it out.