I'm not a racist

I just make comments as if I might be one. See links to video.
Associated Press
May 24, 2013

It's almost a cliche. First, someone talking about blacks makes reference to fried chicken, watermelon, monkeys or dogs — or even uses the indefensible N-word. Then, along with the inevitable apology, comes the kicker: I'm not racist.

The latest denial is from golfer Sergio Garcia. Asked a joking question about having dinner with his adversary Tiger Woods, Garcia said: "We will serve fried chicken." He later apologized for what he called a "silly remark," then added, "but in no way was the comment meant in a racist manner."

Perhaps the Spanish-born Garcia was unaware that chicken stereotypes have been used for at least a century to denigrate African-Americans. Maybe he was unaware of attitudes buried in his subconscious mind. As the backlash increased, Garcia did apologize further, calling his remark "totally stupid and out of place."

But by then, he had secured a place on the lengthy roll of people who have offered justifications for statements widely considered offensive.

How can words so hurtful be so easily brushed off? And what does the word "racist" even mean if it doesn't encompass people who use racial slurs?

"I think it's human nature that if you're a racist, you don't want to admit it," says conservative radio host Mike Gallagher.

"If Tiger said, 'Let's serve tacos at dinner with Garcia,' the world would go crazy," Gallagher said. "When a bigot tells a bigoted joke and they get called out on it, the pattern is, I'll say I'm sorry and maybe it will blow over."

The pattern is unmistakable. Said golfer Fuzzy Zoeller, after joking that Woods shouldn't order fried chicken for the Masters champions' dinner: The comments were "misconstrued." Said comedian Michael Richards, after responding to a black heckler with a lynching reference and the N-word: "I'm not a racist." Said actor Mel Gibson, after claiming that Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world: "I'm not a bigot."

The phenomenon has been even more pronounced since Barack Obama became America's first black president:

— Montana's chief federal judge resigned after emailing a joke in which a young Obama asks why he is black and his mother is white. The punch line involved a dog. "Although (the joke) is racist, I'm not that way, never have been," Judge Richard Cebull said.

— After drawing national attention for selling an anti-Obama bumper sticker that said "Don't Re-Nig in 2012," creator Paula Smith of Hinesville, Georgia insisted that neither she nor the sticker were racist. She called the uproar "amazing and entertaining."

— New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino was pilloried for sending an email labeled "Obama Inauguration Rehearsal" that showed an African tribesman dancing. His response: "I'm not a racist. I'm proud to have created jobs for hundreds of people of every color and ethnicity."

— Arizona radio host Barbara Espinosa said she "voted for the white guy" and called Obama a monkey. Asked if that was offensive, she replied, "I'm anything but racist."

Clay Routledge, a social psychology professor at North Dakota State University who studies the ways people defend themselves against psychological threats, said they often engage in "self-deception": They may think they're a good athlete, for example, or have an outgoing personality — or do not have racial biases.

"People have narratives about themselves, self concepts, a whole host of attitudes that they want to think about themselves," said Routledge. "A lot of times they match well, but sometimes they don't."

Other psychologists go further. They blame "implicit bias" — unconscious attitudes based on the way racial groups are commonly portrayed in the public space.

Using scientific studies that measure how quickly people associate words like "black" with "criminal" or "Asian-American" with "foreign," these researchers conclude that many people — of all backgrounds, not just white people — are unaware of their own racial biases.

Phillip Atiba Goff, a UCLA social psychology professor, says this may be what happened with Garcia: "He was trying to be funny. In the moment, especially if you're nervous and not thinking, stereotypes come to mind very quickly."

Goff emphasizes that having an unconscious bias does not mean someone is a racist — it means he or she is a human being who has absorbed ubiquitous information.

So, can a person say something racist but not BE a racist? Might people who make racist statements be telling the truth when they say they are not racist?

Goff says it depends on the individual — but that the rush to brand people as racist obscures the bigger issue of the harm caused by their statements.

"Let's have a conversation about why (Garcia) said it in the first place, and why these moments seem to come up so much," Goff said. "We should be able to say, 'You know what, that was one of those implicit bias moments.'"

Whatever they are called, such moments come up every day for Logan Smith, a journalist who runs the Twitter feed YesYoureRacist. He started about eight months ago, after noticing a plethora of tweets starting with "I'm not racist, but."

Some of his favorite examples: "I'm not racist but having a black president is just not smart," ''I'm not racist but black people scare me," and "I'm not racist but I can see where Hitler was coming from."

He said most of the tweets seem to come from teenagers: "They didn't grow up seeing 'coloreds only' water fountains, or civil rights marches in the papers, or apartheid on TV, and as a result, many of them simply don't understand what racism means," Smith said via email.

"They think that unless they're actually lynching a black person or something, they're not racist," Smith said, "because they don't understand things like institutionalized racism or inferiorization, and the historical context of their statement."

Many might not know the ugly history of chicken and black stereotypes.

In the early 1900s, periodicals and postcards commonly displayed images of black people as grotesque, simple-minded "coons" obsessed with chicken and watermelon. From the 1920s to the 1950s, a three-restaurant chain of Coon Chicken Inns was popular around Salt Lake City, Seattle and Portland.

So when people associate black folks with chicken, the past often rushes into the present — as in a famous routine by the black comedian Dave Chappelle.

"A lot of black people can relate to this. Have you ever had something happen that was so racist, that you didn't even get mad?" Chappelle said.

He then tells a story about walking into a restaurant, contemplating his order with the counterman, and "before I even finish my sentence he says, 'The chicken!'"

"All these years I thought I liked chicken 'cause it was delicious," Chappelle said. "Turns out I'm genetically predisposed to liking chicken!"

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Jesse Washington covers race and ethnicity for The Associated Press. He can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jessewash... or jwashington(at)ap.org.

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Online:

Mike Gallagher: Link
Logan Smith: Link
Implicit Association Test: Link
Dave Chappelle: Link

Comments

Put America 1st

Another poor example. NAACP have members from all walks of life try another organization.

SuspectBlackMale

So it is RACIST to post sourced facts. Just a shame when moderators abuse their "authority" to go way beyond enforcing the very subjective rules to delete posts they just don't like.

FACT - BLACKS who are 12% of the US population commit 50% of the MURDERS and are 50% of VIOLENT OFFENDERS in prison.

FBI DOJ report on Homicide Trends in the United States
http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=...
FBI DOJ Bureau of Justice Statistics
http://www.bjs.gov/

Guess integrity and ethics are four letter words to most if not all moderators here.

There is NOTHING racist about sharing facts from the FBI/DOJ website

Nemesis

Statistical correlations are not racist. However, to cite them in a context where they would be irrelevant without underlying causality is to imply said causality, and THAT is racist.

To acknowledge that blacks are overrepresented among criminals is not racist, but to believe, say, or imply that this overrepresentation is due to something intrinsic in being black is racist.

thinkagain

I definitely see a trend in the liberal’s issue avoidance tactics.

The most overused word of:
2008 - Racist
2009 - Hater
2010 - Bigot
2011 - Racist
2012 - Hater
2013 - Bigot

Liberals repeat the same stale talking points, hatred, bigotry and racism ad infinitum. Without them, they would have to actually debate an issue and that would require intelligence.

The Big Dog's back

Debate an issue? Yeah, you're real good at that.

Swiftshot

My brother lives in a predominant black community and he can use the n word all the time in a certain context with his black buddies and he is as white as paper. Any other white guy in the neighborhood would get their butt kicked. Having said that, I believe people blow certain things out of porportion! I believe there is more reverse racism. And I do believe The register is stirring the pot. I do believe that the black community sticks together better than a group of whites.

VOTENO

I hate everybody.

Red Baron

These same a-hole call people racist and then refer to redheads as Gingers.
Swap the first G and the N in "GiNger" and what do you get?

Put America 1st

You get a lot of misspelling and a poor attempt at satire

Nemesis

Sometimes people who grew up hearing certain colloquialisms that were common when they were young may repeat them without meaning, or sometimes even knowing, the sentiments behind their origin.

Put America 1st

You are offering an excuse for stupidity. No matter your age or part of the country you live in, we all know what words or comments will start a fist fight.

Nemesis

You've obviously led a very limited life. You'd be amazed what people don't know.

eriemom

If you feel the need to explain why you are not a racist, then you likely are a racist.

In America we have the right to be a racist. We just can't take that same right from others. We also don't have the right to subjugate any race (or religion).

Nemesis

I don't assume anyone is a racist until they clearly articulate an unambiguously racist opinion. However, I've seen the accusation of racism tossed out at people just for telling someone of another race something they don't want to hear. According to Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) one is racist if one votes against raising the debt ceiling.

puffthemagicdragon

Is it still ok to call the kettle black? If so,my day is complete...

Raoul Duke

I'm sure that I'm racist to a degree, but I more consider myself~
an asshole-ist. I think that's self explanatory.

CAST THE FIRST STONE

Racism is here but people use it for their advantage at every turn. I have a so called friend that is a racist and tell bad ethnic jokes and talks badly about non-white people. But guess what. He voted for Obama and you wonder why. Because he works for a school union and thinks that he will benefit from Obama playing the race card for him and his public pension. It makes me sick that ethnic groups are on the same side as my racist so called friend. This has made me feel hopeless in the future of our economy

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