Think Aspen’s above racism? Think again… |

Think Aspen’s above racism? Think again…

Oh, great – as I write this, kids across the Aspen School District are waking up to a … what do you call it? A racism day? A pathetic-excuse-for-a-human day? A misdirected-hatred day?It’s like a snow day, in that the schools are closed due to an act beyond the control of the school district. No classes, no school buses, just fun.But it’s not snowing. In fact nothing is falling from the sky except for maybe ashes from distant wildfires, and mild embarrassment over the undeniable fact that we’re no better than anyplace else.Because something definitely has fallen pretty low today, and that’s our valley’s demonstrable average intelligence quotient.We have now fallen victim twice to a lamebrained, limp-petered attempt at self-expression that can best be described as lowbrow. Unless, of course, some kid dreamed up this stunt to get a three-day holiday from school, in which case it was inspired lunacy as well as a sick and twisted thing to do.I should point out right here that I don’t know what the message said on the outhouse wall. The sheriff’s deputies, like the Snowmass Village police a week earlier, have decided it is not in their law-enforcement interest to let us know exactly what the words were. We don’t even know what medium was used to write the message in this latest case, where before we learned it was a felt-tipped marker of some sort.But they have revealed that it was a racist remark, a promise of violence, and that’s certainly a clue as to the rationality of the mind behind it.Racism, in my view, is just about the ugliest outcome of the gift of intelligence to the human species. Doesn’t matter whether you think our smarts came from a deity, a space alien or random chemical happenstance, the unvarnished fact is we’re smarter than the average chimpanzee. Perhaps you prefer other terms, such as “more clever,” or “craftier,” or “more uppity.” However you want to put it, we’ve figured out ways to manipulate our environment to make ourselves more comfortable, help us kill our enemies from farther and farther away, and get ourselves from one place to another much more quickly, along with a few other “improvements.”And we’ve figured out ways to identify our supposed enemies in ways I doubt any sane deity would have been able to foretell or want. If it turns out this particular aspect of our “humanity” was part of a plan, then we’re in bigger trouble than we ever imagined.One way of differentiating ourselves, of course, involves our deities themselves. Who or what we worship has been a source of hatred and violence between groups for longer than anyone can recall. Now, taken at face value without any investigation into deeper causes and motives, how stupid is that? What is there about my interest in worshipping, say, a rock in a desert instead of a certain brand of heavenly superstructure, that can cause my neighbor to rain destruction upon my head?Oh, there are reasons, but we can’t go into them here. Takes too long. Let’s just agree it’s pretty damned dumb.Equally dumb is the idea that anything so haphazard as skin coloration or cultural peculiarities denotes superiority. And the craziest thing about it is, we’re all guilty of it, no matter what color skin we have or what culture we come from. Once again, I find it difficult to believe this was planned by a “creator,” because if it was, that “creator” is one sick puppy and the quicker we delete from our minds any feeling of reverence in its direction, the better.Whatever. Racism, like religious intolerance, has been our lot, and now an ugly manifestation of that impulse has come home to roost in our little valley. It’s not that it was ever absent, simply subsurface, because for a long time this place was as white as the snow on the peaks, racially and culturally speaking.And for a variety of unnecessary reasons, increased diversity comes hand in hand with increased tension.So, some fool wrote out his ignorance on the wall of a portable toilet, and the kids get a day off from school. Let’s just hope that was enough to satisfy the need to lash out, or we’re in for a long, hot summer.John Colson can be reached at

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