For Part 1 of this post, which lays a foundation giving context for those who need clarification on meanings of the word "racism" and "racist," please click this link.
So, given what happened recently in my state of Louisiana, the Justice of the Peace admitting he won't marry interracial couples and the words he used to defend his views,
I thought it was time for a review of some situations that have prompted people to make the statement "I am not a racist." Perhaps someone who hasn't considered before why the whole "I am not a racist" statement alienates black people will grasp that it may be one of the worst phrases a white person can utter before or after making a racially-charged statement or doing something that any sane person should know is racially offensive.
Here's the long list with examples and commentary. Scroll down for the simple Top 10 list. However, I advise that you proceed with caution. If you don't know why "I am not a racist" sounds ridiculous as a defense when you may have succumbed to a common human condition, then you should probably read each paragraph. Here we go.
... I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else." (Keith Bardwell, a Louisiana Justice of the Peace in Tangipahoa Parish)
Bardwell was speaking of his refusal to marry a black man to a white woman, and it was not the first time he's refused to marry an interracial couple. Showing not only world ignorance but ignorance of his own state's history, Bardwell said that after talking to both blacks and whites, he thinks neither community would accept such a marriage's biracial offspring. So, he's refusing to marry interracial couples because he fears for their children. When first writing on this story, I prefaced commentary on Bardwell with "... wait for it ... he is not a racist" because the "I am not a racist" qualifier has become the calling card for people making outrageous, racially charged statements.
"I am not a racist." (because I performed CPR on black Celtics basketball player Reggie Lewis)" --Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge Police. In an exclusive interview with the Boston Herald in relation to the Henry Louis Gates incident, Crowley cited giving the basketball star mouth-to-mouth resuscitation as proof he was not a racist. Without purchasing the story from the Boston Herald to get Crowley's direct quote, it's unclear whether he connected the dots this way or the reporter did, but several reporters definitely connected the dots for him in various stories that attempted to remain objective about Crowley.
"I am not a racist. ..." (but if I had) "been the officer he verbally assaulted like a banana-eating jungle monkey, I would have sprayed him in the face with OC (oleorosin capsicum, or pepper spray) deserving of his belligerent non-compliance." --Boston police officer Justin Barrett. The officer wrote this in a mass email that made its way to the Boston Globe. The "jungle monkey" name calling is a reference to Henry Louis Gates. Barrett was angry about a Globe editorial that sympathized with Gates, but when Barrett's job was in jeopardy for his commentary, he began a round of apologies that started with "I am not a racist. I did not intend any racial bigotry, harm or prejudice in my words."
He may have also said his words were taken out of context and that he has black friends. Who can keep up with this kind of doublespeak?
"I am not a racist. I've never made a racist comment and I never attacked him [Obama] personally." --former POTUS Bill Clinton. Yeah, that was Bill talking about Hillary's campaign in 2008 and his offensive comments in South Carolina. He stepped in it when he compared Obama's 2008 win in South Carolina to Jesse Jackson's '84 and '88 wins. Critics thought the comment was part of a Bill and Hillary strategy to make Obama "the black candidate" in the political sense of blackness.
Clinton's use of race and racism as political strategy is a part of his history that Princeton Professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell discusses while examining one of his more recent statements. In a Larry King Live interview, the former president talked about race and the health care debate. The professor took issue with his claim that he's devoted his life to rid the world of racism and wrote about his "checkered past" of using racism as a political tool. File under "I am not racist ... I'm a Democrat."
And Imus in the morning. I am not a racist but them is some nappy-headed hos. No, I am not revisiting this one today in depth, but please keep in mind the misogyny, castrating minstrel performances, and self-hatred of some black rappers, who Don Imus seemed to think he imitated, is a book not a blog post.
"I am not a racist, an Uncle Tom, or a self-hating African-American. I am a black Republican." Similar comments said on any number of occasions by black conservatives who make statements such as the following:
The phony charge of racism is continuously used as a weapon to silence conservatives who dare stand up for our nation's traditional values and oppose the radical socialist agenda of Democrats and the Obama Administration. Limbaugh deserves our gratitude for showing no fear of the race-baiters, fighting back and helping to preserve the freedoms that have made this country great. (Frances Rice)
And here's another:
I am a young black American who does not deny that it is a great accomplishment for Barrack Obama to be the first black American to become President. This does not mean that I have to agree with his policies and socialistic ideas. I do not want murderers who cross the border illegally to be ELIGIBLE for OBAMACARE.
When Barrack Hussein Obama was elected President I was really hoping that much of America's conflict about race would lessen. With so many Americans in government who are black, I wanted to believe that people would stop calling conservatives racists all the time. I wanted my son to live in a world free of racism. But regrettably the opposite has been the case.
I am offended by those in government and the liberal media who are just throwing around the term racist and playing the race card. It is just another way to segregate the Black American once again from being a legitimate part of America. Health Care is not about race and those who make it so are fear mongering. (Shawn Woodhouse)
I know these kinds of statements will confuse progressive white people who've been struggling to understand how African-Americans feel about race and racism in America. Indeed, such statements will also baffle if not anger many black Americans. I'm not going to measure funhouse mirror distortions nor dissect the psychology of brainwashing at this time; however, the words of these black conservatives should at least remind readers that African-Americans don't all think alike. In addition, I direct readers to a post I wrote a while back about the television show Lie to Me: "New Face of Racism: You Too Can Take the Bias Test."
"I am not a racist. I just love the Confederate flag." Nobody in particular to name here either, but Congressman Joe "You lie!" Wilson comes to mind because well ... I've got this thing about people who are willing to romanticize the Confederacy.
Has Rush Limbaugh ever said "I am not a racist"? I don't know. The man has said so much over the past years. More notably he hides behind, "I'm an entertainer.." Still, in case you're wondering how he views charges that he is a racist, please consider that Rush thinks it's all a liberal smear campaign that's kept him from owning an NFL team, the St. Louis Rams. Straight from his website:
Folks, also, I don't know what to do today. I really don't know what to do. The audio sound bite roster is, again, 95% about me. The reason for my indecision here is that -- well, I've talked to you about this before. People lob attacks at you and when you respond to them they think, a-ha, we've hit home runs here. There's so many outrageous, fabricated lies. There is a genuine full-fledged smear campaign being orchestrated by liberal sportswriters and picked up by other liberals in the State-Controlled Media that it's breathtaking. I'm used to being taken out of context, but we have sourced it, we have found where it was found, these fake, totally made up quotes attributed to me which are being repeated without any fact-checking at all by liberal sportswriters. ... As you people know, I'm very uncomfortable using this program to talk about myself. I've run a test, I take an average 45-minute segment of this show and compare the number of times I use the word "I" compared to the number of times Obama uses the word "I" in an average 45 minute speech and it's no contest. I mean I'm a piker compared to the personal pronoun usage of President Obama. (takes a call from caller telling him that his supporters are not racists or "homophobes" and he is their leader.)
RUSH: (continues) Well, this is the dilemma that I admitted having when the program began. I've talked about this a bunch. Brief history. When I started this radio program in 1988, I had never been called a racist, a bigot, a sexist, a homophobe. People who knew me never thought that. It was ridiculous. But then I got on the radio as a conservative and all of a sudden I started being attacked as a racist, sexist, bigot, homophobe. And I didn't know what to do about it. It had never happened, and there was nobody that could give me any guidance. I just got a bunch of advice and there are basically two pieces of advice I got. "Rush, you gotta hit back! You can't let people make those claims about you and try to ruin your reputation and smear you. You gotta fight back on that!" (Rush transcript)
What's worse, to be a racist or to have narcissistic personality disorder? I'm going to leave Rush alone but solicit your prayers for this man. In the meantime, you may review his ego adventures as presented by a pundit on the left, Keith Olbermann, who operates with almost as much dramatic flair as Limbaugh and argues that the conservative talk-show host has declared himself insane. In addition, Limbaugh credits himself with spawning Glenn Beck.
I am not a racist, and I've got a black side kick, Juan Williams, who agrees with me. That's a mashup of Fox News host Bill O'Reilly's thinking in general, but his flawed logic and slow entry into the 21st century are directly reflected in comments he made in 2007 regarding a trip to Harlem with Rev. Al Sharpton. It's funny in a sad way. He's trying the way people tried back in the 60s. It's his stab at Civil Rights 40 years after the climax of the movement. He expressed surprise that he was around black people and nobody was cussing or fighting.
During the September 19 edition of his nationally syndicated radio program, discussing his recent trip to have dinner with Rev. Al Sharpton at Sylvia's, a famous restaurant in Harlem, Bill O'Reilly reported that he "had a great time, and all the people up there are tremendously respectful," adding: "I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patronship." Later, during a discussion with National Public Radio senior correspondent and Fox News contributor Juan Williams about the effect of rap on culture, O'Reilly asserted: "There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, 'M-Fer, I want more iced tea.' You know, I mean, everybody was -- it was like going into an Italian restaurant in an all-white suburb in the sense of people were sitting there, and they were ordering and having fun. And there wasn't any kind of craziness at all." O'Reilly also stated: "I think black Americans are starting to think more and more for themselves. They're getting away from the Sharptons and the [Rev. Jesse] Jacksons and the people trying to lead them into a race-based culture. They're just trying to figure it out. 'Look, I can make it. If I work hard and get educated, I can make it." (Quote from Media Matters, 2007)
Patronizing much, Bill? I applaud any effort on O'Reilly's part to understand anything foreign to him, and perhaps these kinds of shocks to his system, such as an uneventful dinner at Sylvia's and seeing a black Harvard lawyer win the presidency, explain his continuing obsession with black people, but he is so mired in his myopia that he's become a breathing artifact to me.
Here he is more recently debating Detroit Free Press sports writer Drew Sharp. O'Reilly asserts Limbaugh has not ever made any racist statements that O'Reilly's crack research team can find.
Sharp was a little dull there, woefully unprepared for O'Reilly. I'll wager it's because the sports writer assumed that any idiot knows Rush Limbaugh uses racist rhetoric with regularity.
Poor, Drew. He missed the limited edition documentary revealing the alternate universe in which Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, Anne Coulter, Michelle Malkin and Rush Limbaugh live.
Perhaps he doesn't keep up with today's racism chasers (Field Negro, Racialicious, Aunt Jemima's Revenge, Media Matters, BlogHer CE LainaD, etc.) who document the nonsense of folks like Limbaugh. That's why he didn't have a list ready for O'Reilly. If he had spent a little time reading up on Rush Limbaugh and hate speech before he took his knife to a gun fight, that interview would be more entertaining and educational.
Dear Drew, why did you trust Bill O'Reilly to recognize and find racist statements for a Rush Limbaugh segment? Now that he and Limbaugh can have babies like Glenn Beck, you should anticipate collusion and join the party packing heat.
And finally, drum roll please! --- "I am not racist. I voted for Obama." -- Oh, so many people can lay claim to that quote that the silly logic behind it has been examined already. For instance, Siddity covered that kind of thinking when talking about reaction to the black kids kicked from the Pennsylvania pool. I referenced her piece in "Racism is not for Conservatives Only."
Summing up: The Quick and Dirty 'I am not a Racist' List
- I am not a racist. I didn't vomit when I ate dinner with Al Sharpton and I loved the collard greens.
- I am not a racist. I let black people use my bathroom.
- I am not a racist. I've swapped spit with a black person.
- I am not a racist. I'm a Democrat.
- I am not a racist. Don't you know Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Republican?
- I am not a racist. That George Lopez is so funny, and my son's dating a Mexican.
- I am not a racist. I'm a defender of American values who happens to love those beautiful stories about the antebellum south when black people were slaves and the glory of how we fought for our freedom to own them.
- I am not a racist. I have an Asian friend. My BFF is Latina, and I love Beyonce.
- I am not a racist. Besides I'm a minority too. 2/16 Cherokee Indian, 1/16 Jewish, some other Eastern Bloc ghetto stuff, and Italian.
- I am not a racist. I voted for Barack Obama.
How much pain and frustration could we avoid if people would do a little introspection before opening their mouths?
More Food for Thought
- Limbaugh Defenders Ignoring Record of Racist Remarks, Fair.org (Is it possible they don't recognize racist remarks when they hear them?)
- The Political Rhetoric of Race and Racism by Maria Niles
- Season of Our Discontent: Life with the N Word
- "I am not a racist but ..." (University study, PDF)
- Stuff White People Like and Choosing Friends Carefully
- Et tu, Amy Poehler? What's So funny about desiring a big, black woman?"
- Soledad O'Brien, Lou Dobbs, CNN and Latinos in America by BlogHer CE Kim Pearson
- Top 10 Reasons I'm Not a Racist, Part 1
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