Tuesday, July 1, 2008

"I am not a racist"

Dog "I am not a racist", Bounty Hunter

Okay, I know race talk is tired but of late I have began noticing the whole debate on racism take a different tone, especially with public figures. I just watched a piece talking about Bill Clinton's primary injuries from the Obama camp. One of which was the accusation that he is a racist, an interpretation that stemmed from some of his offending remarks aimed at Barack during the primaries. Anyway the pundits say that Bill is very bitter because his long hard earned reputation with in the black community had been tarnished. To be part of the general election, they say, the onus is on Obama to reintroduce Bill to the black community and help clean up his tainted image and win back the love he once had (why that its so important, I am not quite sure). Bill meanwhile was just out partying away his woes at Mandela's 90th birthday. The general feeling is that his legacy was damaged by the primaries and the racist charge was the worst attack.

Michael Richard's full rant

However, there are numerous public figures that have been caught with their racist pants down and the first thing they say is, "I am not a racist". Look no further than the infamous Michael Richards rant and Dog, the Bounty hunter. After being caught they went out on public campaigns to explain how they were not racist. Dog's son was out trying to clean up his dad's image. A few months later, a picture of the same son with a white supremest emblem of his jacket was taken. It was at that point that I realized that even if you found someone with a swastika tattooed to their forehead, their first response will be, "I am not racist". Which begs the question, what makes a racist? Sometimes I feel blacks and whites have different definitions and what blacks think is a racist, whites don't see it as such. So what does it mean to be a racist?

Also I wonder, why are whites so offended when they are accused of being racist, most especially when they have done something that is indicative? I am quite aware of my biases and if someone called me out on them I doubt I would go to the great lengths I see many accused white people go through to disapprove something that may be true.

Michael Richards apologizes

I think this is where our different definitions come in. Even more surprising is the reaction of the white public to an accused person. The level of condemnation is amazing. In many times worse than what the blacks have to say. Though one has to question the genuineness of some of this outrage. In the case of Michael Richards, he was almost attacked by the audience at the Laugh factory after his tirade but the Seinfeld DVDs released at the time sold much higher than anticipated. The DVD sales support largely by white America was seen by some as white America's underlying agreement with his sentiments. But publicly he was condemned.

So what does it mean to be racist ? When minorities treat each other cruelly, as I have on many occasions experienced, are they being racist?