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

vicariouslyAlive

Ok... so let me get this straight... it's now being seen as racist to offer a member of other ethnic groups the meals of their ethnic background?

God forbid I offer a Mexican some fajitas or a black guy some collard greens... but when you offer a white dude a double whopper with cheese you don't see them getting all butt hurt over it...

Racisim is perpetuated by the very groups that claim to be the victims... without racisim they'd have nothing to pin their faults on. "Oh, I can't get ahead in society because I'm (insert race here) and whitie don't like that."

How about this fellow Americans of varying cultural backgrounds, if you're tired of the steriotypes, try not living as one. Try holding down a consistent job and working hard at it. Trynot ppulling the peace card everytime you're reprimanded for breaking a rule or law, and try not being so touchy about things that you literally have to reach a mile for to convince someone that what they said was racist.

Morgan freeman said it best, and I'll paraphrase, in his interview with that guy from 20/20... racisim only exists because we keep talking about it. And its true. We celebrate cultural holidays instead of generalized american ones. We allow grouped like the NAACP to even exist, which is just as racist and exclusive as the kkk, and lastly the news coverage of certain events over other because one could cause a race riot and another won't is just a bigotted as the catholic Jesus being a white guy.... a Mexican American shot a black kid (trayvon saga) the same week 6 black people raped and murdered a white chick jnfront of her boyfriend before killing him too... now why weren't both stories on the national headlines?

If we want to cure racism it needs to be done on all sides, not just white people having g to watch what they say or do. End all ethnically specialized groups. Get rid of ethnically specialized funding, and finally put an end to this era of having to be overly politically correct.

Darwin's choice

+1000

luvblues2

Amen.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Any organization exists to attract those of similar thought, appearance, etc. Gym memberships to churches to (using a recent example here) Boy Scouts are created to serve a specific demographic and facilitate their social (sometimes economic, like a credit union) needs. That group will continue to propagate their factors that allure subscribers as it in inherit in them. A problem they all face from centuries-old faiths to even mega-corps is that of communication.

Conveying your message is easier when you are speaking to others who appear more closely to you. I am sure a Mormon Missionary could go into depth about their experiences going door to door and who is generally more receptive to inviting them than not. I can only speculate, but it would probably be those who already subscribe to a faith or are open to options given certain, dire life circumstances.

That is why it is seen as "more accepted" for two people of similar [variable] to call each other something or another, or to know that they are friends because there is context. I am not sure if Tiger got upset with this other golfer because maybe they actually joke about this stuff on the course. But others who don't have their (presumed) context get offended on behalf of him.

That takes us to the point that an organization can be a xenophobic (to any degree) walled city if they prefer, but much more can be accomplished if instead of a barrier they become a medium through which communication between X group and Y group can be made. While I haven't attended a NAACP meeting, I would presume from even the name of the group that they would serve as such a conduit. If they aren't but supposed to be, then shame on them just as churches are supposedly havens for good people and not bad abusers.

One step we can take as a nation is, as you imply, to tear down the walls of exclusivity. I would be delighted to see February be modified into U.S. History Month. This isn't meant to diminish Black History Month as it is intrinsically tied to U.S. History. But so are the histories of many other groups that deserve study and to see how each intertwine in a tapestry instead of following a single thread.

The modern world has changed so that to be truly good at what you do, you must be knowledgeable in multiple disciplines. Not only does it help you personally, but it also allows you to communicate better with other people.

TL;DR - I get what you're saying, just that there's a bit more to it that is worth including.

Put America 1st

You make some strong points... I do agree with the premises on organizations but to correct you on a few things. Tiger Woods was truly offended by Serigo Garcia ill comments, this is not the first incident with a white golfer offering Tiger Woods "fried chicken" where Tiger Woods found it offensive. You know how you can tell a joke went to far The Hero Zone??? When the other person does not laugh. For the record the NAACP have members that are non-black afterall my family physican is a member.

The reason for Black history month and etc.., is to educate individuals about other people culture, religion and etc., that may not look like you nor worship as you do but share this country as you. Unfortunately people forgot the intention of the gesture adn when we do, we attract some of bigots on this board.

2cents

Dito!

santown419

How is chicken a meal of blacks. I Always see more than blacks eating chicken. I prefer italian myself.

Raoul Duke

VAlive: You did a pretty good job of typing while driving your pickup truck and drinking PBR!

OH-IO

Vicariously Alive no one knew how racist you are until you tried a desparately attempt to defend racism.

The Big Dog's back

Absolutely OH-IO. You don't have to proclaim you're not racist. Your actions and words define you.

vicariouslyAlive

m not defending racism at all. If everyone wants to make things truly equal, then they should be just that. Until no one race has any privledge that is not offered to all races equally then the bigotry simply won't end.

Think of it this way, and I use and example that has nothing to do with race at all to import a small I since of inequality. Women have wanted equal rights for years right? Well one burkg feminist got into a guys face calling I'm all sorts of sexist names and even began pushing intohim. When they guy shoved her back, she tried cclaiming abuse... so why is it ok for women to hit men, but when a guy acts in self defense the woman tried to play the sexist card?

Same thing happens in the race issue. Other races want their equal treatment without having to give up their unequal advantages... it can't happen. As long as institutions like the NAACP exist and publications like jet and ebony magazine are around, equality will never be found.

If all races truly wanted to be equal then they'd give up their unequal advantages and publications and television networks and be held in the same respects as the rest of us. Its not a stripping of their culture or heritage, its a sign of actually wanting equality.

I don't ask for special grants because my family is multictural. I don't see any "hey your familyb background is from somewhere else magizine" that fits my heritage. I don't get any special lawyer when I'm call a honky or beaker, because my family is comprised of both... so when you stop and think about it, the most racist acts committed in society isn't the hate and bigotry, its the ethnically exclusive lrivledges the "minorities" seem to get to enjoy that the rest of america see as unfair. Where's Irish history month? Where's Russian entertajnt television? Where's paisty white magazine? Oh that's right... its racist for white people to have those things...

End the privledges and you'll see the racially charged segregation disappear... because the sad truth is we'll never be equal as long as any race gets any lrivledge based only on the color of their skin. The hate and anger Jo longer comes from ignorance... those days have long since past... the anger now come from the knowledge that the very people claiming to be victims of the system are the largest exploiters of that very same system.

sandtown born a...

What all white collages are available with the caucasion collage fund paying for schollarships ???? There would be he!! To pay if someone tried to start that. I say equallity for all no extras for nobody you want it earn it. This is just a dream we will never see. Racist is a word to describe many people in many races.

SuspectBlackMale

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Remarks that discriminate based on age, race, religion, disability, etc. and Libel and defamation.

The Big Dog's back

Spoken by a true racist.

Put America 1st

"What all white collages are available with the caucasion collage fund paying for schollarships ???? There would be he!! To pay if someone tried to start that. I say equallity for all no extras for nobody you want it earn it. This is just a dream we will never see. Racist is a word to describe many people in many races"

Obviously education was not important in your family. Colleges not collage and horrible grammer, if I may prove a point, lack of education leads to ignorance and racism. Thank for letting me use you as an example.

santown419

Black history month is also irish american month.

gene44870

Some people just use this as an excuse to start trouble , If a black man was called the n word by a white man they would be all over them , but let a black man call him that its all good
I am one that dont like to be called anything but my givin name , so I dont call someone else something that they are not
Its in sane the way things work in this world and we all need to respect one another and if we do , theres will be a better world for which we ca n live not to mention raise our kids , which is the next generation .
So what I am tring to say is if you dont like the word start letting people know it regardless of race .And you kids will see it and it might just change thsi world just a little bit for the better, and most of all respect people regardless of race , after all we all bleed red

santown419

Why so many whites stuck on calling people something they know is wrong. just because i hear women call each other B****, C** is it cool for me to do it to women i dont know? Im so tired of just because you have some ignorant people using the n word which by the way is not what alot of people spell it to be dosent give you the right to call me that since i dont use it, If you know its going to cause problems why do it?

Put America 1st

Well said and true. Everyone in this country know what is proper and what is not.

grandmasgirl

I agree that the people who keep racism alive are really more racist than the ones who make jokes, etc. There have always been dumb blond jokes. Are blonds offended? Who really cares? The jokes keep coming. How about the redneck jokes, the polish jokes, the fat jokes? And the list goes on. I have had jokes (and some very hurtful remarks) made about me. Do I let it bother me? No! The only people that things like this bother are people who want to make something of nothing. You can't change how people feel about another. That is their problem, not mine. I just keep plugging along trying to love everyone.

The Big Dog's back

Then we have those who try to equate slavery and brutality with dumb blond jokes. Oh boy.

grandmasgirl

And then we have those that can't move on. They blame everything that happened over 100 years ago for every little thing that goes wrong in their life. Just imagine what this world would be like if every Jew, rape victim, or other victims let the past dictate their future. The sad part of it is that some blame everyone for what others did. I doubt that any SLAVE OWNERS are still alive.

Put America 1st

First a blonde, redneck, fat and etc., can be ANYONE of ANY racist. We are talking about individuals that are disrespect for race, religion, gender or sexuality. Also I have never met a black person who blame a slave owner or a jewish american blaming hitler. The sad part is your mentality leads to racism and ignorance.

OH-IO

vicariously Alive you did it again. The article was well written. Too put up a defense about it means your defending something. Racism.

luvblues2

The article was intended to stir crap in a pee pot. Plain and simple. It obviously worked.

The Big Dog's back

luv, do you think the things the people in the article said were racist?

luvblues2

Some yes and some no, BDb. I was asked by my daughter-in-law if I liked Tosh.0 on Comedy Channel. I was honest and said, "Sometimes he makes me laugh my butt off, other times I want to punch him through the tv screen."

I have also watched Chris Black scream and shout his diatribe as well. Felt the same way towards him.

EDIT: That would be Chris Rock and Lewis Black...They both scream and yell and somehow my mind put them together. :) Both use racist comments in their comedy.

Brick Hamland

I am not racist, but I am big time prejudice. I have beliefs in me that have been geenrated through personal experience in my life and as a result I prejudge others. When I am driving down Columbus Ave, I have encountered on mulitple occasions kids that are walking across the street very slowly despite the light being green. A lot of those times the kids pants are sagging lower and their underwear is exposed. I am not racist, but based on my life experiences I can tell you when this happens 90% of the time it is the same race. When I read about violence in the local newspaper or when I worked in the court system, one race seemed to really dominate the paper or the courtroom. Based on these experiences I live a certain way and have preconceived notions of what to expect when I come into contact with certain races. Those notions may be wrong, and because I can change my mind after that person proves to not be a moron or different from the preconceived notion i have of that race. That is why i am not racist, but i am prejudice.

SuspectBlackMale

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Remarks that discriminate based on age, race, religion, disability, etc..

SamAdams

Sorry, I agree with vicarious. Mostly because he's RIGHT.

Sure, I've been known to tell a joke or two involving racial stereotypes. But then I've told more than a few lawyer jokes, too. What's your point? (For the record, I heard a lot of those lawyer jokes from a county prosecutor where I used to live — she LOVED them.) That doesn't mean I'm racist or that I hate lawyers. It's just that, unlike a lot of the politically correct crowd, I still have a sense of humor. (And yes, in case you're wondering, some of those jokes involve MY ethnic background because they're FUNNY. Duh!)

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