Steve Russell: Life lessons from a poker game

"Some months ago, I was playing poker in a clubhouse belonging to an apparently all-white organization known for charitable work, which did not make the game legal but made it unlikely to draw law enforcement attention. I do this about once a week, since the nearest casino is a long drive and losing money is my idea of a good time. I could claim that a game of poker is full of important life lessons, but to people who don't like gambling that's like a guy who says he buys Playboy for the articles, so I don't try.

One of the players, in a joking manner, invoked the digitus impudicus, which set off the predictable responses that are equally as juvenile as flipping the bird:

''What's that, your age?''


''Number of Caucasian parents?''

We all know that in the mythology of race, ''Caucasian'' means ''white,'' an appellation that is assumed in the absence of any other racial identity. In that world, irrational as it may be, I have only one Caucasian parent. The ''one Caucasian parent'' riposte depends for its humor upon not just racial mythology, but racial superiority.

How to respond?

If I say nothing, the racial hierarchy is never challenged, to the disadvantage of me and mine.

If I say something, I poop the party. If they don't think less of me for only having one Caucasian parent, they think less of me for being a humorless prig.

I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't, and reminded of Suzan Shown Harjo's characterization of P.C. as ''Plain Courtesy.'' If good manners mean anything, they mean you don't put people in such a bind. Of course, the bind did not begin and does not end with some thoughtless white folks at a poker game."

Get the Story:
Steve Russell: Political correctness and drawing to an inside straight (Indian Country Today 10/26)