If You’ve Ever Said Any of These Six Things, You Might be a Racist

“Why don’t blacks just get over it already, and quit being so sensitive? Nobody who’s alive today had anything to do with slavery. When are African-Americans going to stop living in the past, and start taking care of the present?”

“If making it as a black person in America is so hard, how do you explain people like Colin Powell, Clarence Thomas, and Barack Obama?”

“All kinds of foreigners, of every color, come to this country and make it. Why do so many blacks fail, when so many Asians succeed?”

“God forbid we should ever do or say anything that’s not ‘politically correct.'”

“When I look at a person, I don’t see the color of their skin: I just see a person. Why do we have to be so hung up on color all the time?”

“What about reverse discrimination against white people?”


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  • MissKT8

    Did you see the Meyers editorial in the LA Times today, because he says #1 (but he's black).

    I don't think these comments are necessarily racist, but they are part of the history of race that Obama was trying to explain. Most people don't understand why descendants of immigrants do better than black people, despite all of the sociological studies, etc. There are answers but they are complex and most people don't read enough. It doesn't make them inherently racist.

  • philagon

    "…and then I realized that the fact that racism can be so subtle and so easily glossed over is one of it’s greatest dangers."

    so subtle in fact, that any rejection of "racial victimhood" in favor of responsibility and merit is the easiest way to be labeled a racist.

    Perhaps we can agree that "racists will always be among you". If that is the case, what does that mean for those who inevitably will become the objects of racism? I think an investigation into the success of for example, Asians in universities, should be an opportunity for less successful ethnic groups to ask "Why?".

  • 6. I'm not racist! Blacks are racist!

  • FreetoBe

    philagon–nice post. I agree that a lot of people use race as an excuse.

    Racists will always be among us. That does not mean we let them affect our goals in life, how we get there and/or how we support our families. My children are multi-racial and we raised them to NEVER use that (unalterable) fact get in the way of anything they wanted or needed to do. Nor were they allowed to use their race as an excuse for poor or sub-par effort.

    And, yes, John, God forbid we should ever do or say anything that’s not “politically correct.” We, as Americans, are so hung up on making sure we understand all the underlying reasons why a minority is the way he/she is ("they are part of the history of race" quoted above), that we can't treat people as people. Just plain, good people, with no excuses, no hidden agenda, no care about what my great-great-great-grandsomethingorother did to yours that caused you to…. whatever. And maybe that's pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking (especially given that we were born sinners), but that's what I try to achieve and try to teach my children. Does that make me a racist? According to your list, it does.

  • Dan Cartwright

    Courtesy of the University of Delaware:

    “A RACIST: A racist is one who is both privileged and socialized on the basis of race by a white supremacist (racist) system. ‘The term applies to all white people (i.e., people of European descent) living in the United States, regardless of class, gender, religion, culture or sexuality. By this definition, people of color cannot be racists, because as peoples within the U.S. system, they do not have the power to back up their prejudices, hostilities, or acts of discrimination….’”

    Courtest of WorldNet Daily:

    "The education program also notes that “reverse racism” is “a term created and used by white people to deny their white privilege.” And “a non-racist” is called “a non-term,” because, the program explains, “The term was created by whites to deny responsibility for systemic racism, to maintain an aura of innocence in the face of racial oppression, and to shift the responsibility for that oppression from whites to people of color (called ‘blaming the victim’).”

    The “education” regarding racism is just one of the subjects that students are required to adopt as part of their University of Delaware experience…"

  • philagon: the reason Asians do well is culturally based, not racially based. Asians raised with relaxed standards and without the sense of cultural pride that drives the desire to succeed won't score higher on any tests than the equivalent white or brown person solely because they are Asian. It thus can be argued that the reason black people average more poorly is also cultural, not racial, and thus discriminating against them as a whole (I.E: black people are dumb) is completely unjustified as one can blame the societal standards they're raised with, and white or brown people raised under the same standard would perform equally.

    Studies that show that black people are "less intelligent" on average based off of IQ tests forget the fact that one can study to perform better on said tests.

    It's not race, it's culture. There's a difference.

  • philagon


    Asians do X, group A does not do X.

    Asians do well because of doing X, group A does not do well because they do not do X.

    conclusion: group A, do X!

    The successful repeatability of group A doing what Asians do is only possible by the underlying assumption THAT BOTH GROUPS ARE FUNDAMENTALLY EQUAL. Thus, I don't understand your point, and I regret that you did not comprehend mine.

  • John, I noticed that 4 out of 5 of the 'sayings of racists' you listed were questions. But you know, I think it's good that people who are not black ask those questions!

    I am latina, and I have often asked myself that 3rd question (why do so many people from other cultural groups seem to not face as many challenges as blacks in America?).

    I think that if I were to try to answer that question on my own- without input from a black person, whether or not my answer puts black people in a favorable light- then that would be… maybe not racist but… presumptuous (sp?).

    But when you have the bravery to ask those questions to your black friends, then you are doing a great thing- you are working at RECONCILIATION.

    So, I disagree with your list John, because I think that if people have questions about these things, they need to be honest about that and ask people who would know the answers- black people. And in doing that, you open a door for honest communication.

  • Shell

    They've got some good stuff on this topic over at Sojourners today:


  • philagon: that was my point, actually- that all people are fundamentally equal, and that the differences most people ascribe to race (black people are brutes, Asian people are hard workers) can be ascribed to cultural differences, not fundamental differences between races.

    Because culturally we ARE different, but THAT can be overcome. If I am not making myself clear, please tell me.

  • John! Once again you offend me. I am not a racist. In fact, one of my oldest friends is a (fill in the blank). He is a good man, honest, hardworking, patriotic. Now, if all of the (fill in the blanks) were like him there would be no racism. Sadly, that is not the case.

    But before you get the wrong idea about me, I realize that there are some members of my race who are just as bad. And they don't have any excuse.

  • From Merriam-Webster's:

    Racism: 1) a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race 2) racial prejudice or discrimination

    There was political and economic imperialism which propelled and tried to justify slavery, exploitation, disenfranchisement and injustice. People told themselves that they deserved to do this to blacks because they were supposedly inferior. Those attitudes were once prevalent.

    A lot has changed but we can't be complacent. The legacy of "classic racism" is educational and economic inequality and maybe some subconscious attitudes white and black people have about each other and themselves. This legacy continues. The attitudes, though, have shifted; they have improved somewhat. There is the white person, for example, who says, "I'm not racist but…" and will say in effect, that they would rather not live near a lot of black people or have to associate much with them. It seems to have more to do with the natural human tendency, which many have noted, for us to prefer those who are like us. The outright belief that one group is superior to another has become socially unacceptable. I don't believe I was socialized into those kind of attitudes, but I was socialized into "I'm not racist, but…", into the cultural clique-ism if you will. Studies have shown, for example, that black applicants for mortgages, with the same qualifications as others, get turned down more often.

    Let's examine ourselves, try to understand where others are coming from, get out more and get to know people who are not just like us, realize that a group should not be judged by the actions of a few. Most of all lets let the Holy Spirit transform us; let's let the love of Christ fill us.

  • You forgot one of my favorites, “what about reverse discrimination against white people?”

    And philagon: I like the fact that he left it un-elaborated, I had to stop for a moment and think, “I’VE said some of these things, my extended family is multi-racial, I’m not a bigot!” and then I realized that the fact that racism can be so subtle and so easily glossed over is one of it’s greatest dangers. I think there’s a part of every one of us (no matter WHAT color we are) that’s just a little racist, even still.

  • Ross

    Interesting how the author of the post usually replies to just about every comment, but hitherto hasn't been heard from. Might the whole post just be a way to irritate those who don't subscribe to the gospel of racial victimhood and then see what comments come back? Blog something assinine and see what happens? Perhaps there's some bitterness that in the span of a week the Obama candidacy has gone up in flames?

  • Shell

    Or maybe he's asleep? I'm suprised you're here if you don't like him.

  • Taryn

    I don't even know how to respond to many of the posts here, so I just won't. Instead, I'll tell you what it's like to grow up in a "secretly rascist" family. I grew up knowing all the slang words for every race, not just black. One of my first memories is my dad saying the "clowns just drove by" and me being so excited because I was 2 or 3 and thought I had clowns living down the street from me. My mom told me as I went out to look that they weren't really clowns, but the black family down the street. Looking at my family, you wouldn't think my parents were rascist. I had black friends growing up, but never invited them over (even in elementary school), for fear of what my dad might say. Last Easter, we were sitting in church and he leaned over to my mom and whispered, "look at those monsters…its just horrible." about an interracial couple in our church.

    I have heard The Top 5 many times over from my parents, and even more. I always struggled to sit in class when teachers would teach about how rascism is a thing of the past…I knew it wasn't, because it wasn't in my own family. You want to start making things right, start with kids. Sometimes kids will surprise you in their wisdom, and will show others the right way.

  • Ross

    Actually Shell, if you've read the man for any time you know he is quite the funny guy. Sure some of his past posts have bewildered me from time to time, but I never deleted the blog out of my blog folder in IE as I enjoy a good laugh from time to time. But now that I've discovered my true identity as a modern day racist, I need to go find me some good Klan blogs I guess.

  • Actually, Ross, I don't answer 90% of the comments on my blog. And this time, at any rate, I just got back from a long day spent out of the house.

  • harvey l melton

    as usual john you are right on!! and i say to thee: ”rise, walk!” thats good for us all. good one.

  • I’m not white, just melanin deficient

  • breezy

    My understanding is that because we all descended from Adam and Eve, we are all from the exact same race…discrimination is not a matter of color as much as a matter of perception.

    When you see a a young black man wearing his pants properly, speaking with a modicum of politeness and you see a white man with a shaved head, a seven inch goatee (Pharaoh’s beard, I believe its called), piercings in his face and sexually suggestive tattoos over every exposed part of skin there will be automatic judgments made about both people.

    I experienced constant racism simply because I was a first generation American whose parents emigrated from ______ and I came of age during the cold war.

    Maybe it’s my social-economic background, however, these are the top 5 racist comments I hear most often:





    and the #1. if you don’t like it here…go home

    … three of these have been directed at me on quite a few occasions…

    Racism is one more tool Satan uses to divide and conquer. How will we ever “Love our neighbor….” if being a neighbor is what causes the hate…

  • Taryn! Could it be? Are you that long lost sister I have been told about?

    I can't remember how many times my Dad embarrassed me in public settings, talking loudly about the problems we have with "lazy blacks"

    My mom used to remind me that many of the slaves were better off before they were freed – readily available food,shelter and clothing. They were often like family.

    Once she was telling me about a dress she bought at Macey's. Fortunately it was on sale. She couldn't imagine anyone affording the full price, but you know, she whispered, the store catered to J-E-W s. I think she spelled it out quietly because our German Shepherd was in the room. (Sorry, sorry. I'm of German descent so I hope I can get away with that.)

    I 've known many people, some of them very young, that will make bigoted remarks, often with a nod and wink, as if we belong to a secret brotherhood that has had to go underground. So this is not merely a generational problem.

    I still love my parents dearly and neither one of them are monsters, even though they have said monstrous things. The people who trafficked and owned slaves, the guards who manned the towers at Dachau, the suicide bomber in Palestine – they aren't monsters either. They weren't that much different than you or me. But as Burke said; ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph [of evil] is for good men to do nothing.’

    So we shouldn't be so self satisfied with ourselves or our churches since we detect no overt forms of racism. We delude ourselves into thinking that it is not hiding behind closed doors.

  • Jules

    I might be considered outcast for saying this, but I do believe there is a double standard as to what is accepted. I feel as though had a white pastor got up and said anything using the term "blacks" negatively, exaggerated due to culteral differences or most likely not because of being white, He would be under far more scrutiny because of it.

    Do you remember when Halle Berry was on a late night show and there was a faux picture of her offspring or something with a big nose? She said.. "looks like my Jewish uncle" in a joking manner and she had to formally apologize. Had the picture depicted thick eyebrows and she had an italian uncle she made a comparison to, it would have been all for sh*ts and giggles and everybody would have moved on. Maybe I'm simple.. but in order to move on, we really do need to forget. Germany erased WWII from their history books. I don't believe so much to "forget" but to move on and stop stirring the pot. Could we benefit from erasing the Civil War and the 60's from ours? I don't believe in forgetting that people were oppressed, but you need to realize that the more you pick a scab, the chances of it healing are crappy.

  • Ever see the movie,"Remember the Titans"? That took place just 40 miles from my home, while I was in high school. It's not just about the 6 years of the Civil War or the period of unrest during the Civil Rights Movement. It's about 200 years of slavery, then another 100 years of official John Crow and then what's been going on under the covers since then (see, I didn't say 'under the sheets' – too inflammatory).

    I always hear this; "My family never owned any slaves. I'm not responsible for any of this." This applies to my family as well. But we (all of us who are of European descent, particularly the men) have benefited from a system that has been founded upon and fueled by injustice. The stone may have sunk to the bottom of the pond but the ripples; they just keep passing on by.

  • Dan Cartwright

    I understand the ripples, but does that mean that I need to have a sense of guilt for something far removed from me personally, just because I am white?

  • Nope – no guilt. Guilty of what?

    But maybe some empathy. Maybe some understanding that not all of our accomplishments are due to our hard work, skills and abilities. That even though we all may be running in the same race most of us (in the US anyway) got a good head start.

  • Shell

    Christian, nicely put. That's what I wanted to say! (Comments #25 and #27.)

  • Hjordes


    I agree with most of the posters above, and they make their points well. These questions are not indicative of racism. It makes me wonder if John – funny, brilliant John – is tossing something out here to watch the response as a preamble to another blog.

    Except for #4, which is a little hard to imagine someone asking, as a previous poster said, it's good that people ask these questions. Even better if they care enough to research the answers to them.

  • Back in February I wrote a poem for Black History Month Unsettling Fear. In response, an African-American friend sent me this email note: I would call you but I am so filled with emotion that I am crying as I type this email. At first I didn’t think I would get through it because I was so moved by it. It generated so many emotions in me. It took me back to the 60s and how I longed to be white because it was so terrible to be black. It took me back to the cross being burned on our lawn because we were the first black family to move into a white neighborhood.

    I, like Christian, realized some time ago that I have lived a very privileged life.

  • i dated a man a few years ago who was very free with what he thought of certain segments of the population. Most of the people he hung out with felt the same. They bandied the "N" word about in casual conversation with both blacks and whites and none of them batted an eye! Personally, I was offended, and I'm white!

    Now, had I done that with my friends, I'd be called a racist. The man I dated and his friends didn't always have the same advantages I did growing up. I had both parents until well after I moved out on my own (my mother is still living, my father died 9 years ago), but this man lost both parents before he was 10 years of age, then was placed alternatively with a much older sibling and in foster care.

    I don't know if that has anything to do with the attitudes towards race that we have. I'd never use any of the words I heard my ex boyfriend say in conversation, regardless of color. So, does that make me a snob or a racist?

    BTW, I don't believe I'm racist. Someone else may think differently. Are there any truly non racist people (regardless of what race they are) out there? I don't think there is, IMHO.

  • Hjordes

    Stef asks, "Are there any truly non racist people…?

    Yes, Stef. You bet. Dictionary definition of racism:

    ". a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others."

    "hatred or intolerance of another race or other races."

    I know more people who do NOT subscribe to either above definition than I know that do. Yes there is widespread racism, worldwide, in all cultures. Being in a mixed family, I've experienced some nasty forms of it. Every incident hits hard, gutwise. Because of that one can suspect that racism lurks behind the nicest smiles. But that's a false trap that can alienate you from humanity; it simple isn't true.

    Saying that you don't "believe" you are a racist is like saying that you "think" you have character. You either are or aren't. You do or you don't. Decide your principles and live by them. It's not hard. And if someone wants to label you something that you are/are not that's their right; it has nothing to do with you, if you know yourself.

  • Hjordes: Excellent. Thank you.

  • Rae

    I don't get upset over slavery but I do get uspet over whites who treat me with discrimination just because I am Black. God help those who thinks there is a "Whites Only" heaven some where….They are living in LaLa Land.

  • Rae: No, they're not. They're living in Phoenix.


  • wow john, sounds like you and chris really got off on the wrong foot.

    I think racism is still very much alive today- and getting pretty good at camoflage. I agree with reverse racism, and with most of the top 5. I think to a certian point a lot of america finds themselves thinking something rascist at some point. I think its more important on how we act on those thoughts, or if we continue those thoughts.

  • Nah, Chris and I aren't fighting. We agree! He just didn't read the title of the post. If he did, he'd know, of course, that I'm on his side.

  • Chris

    What a douchbag. It’s sad that I even have to tell you what’s wrong with your list. You are the worst kind of racist: someone who doesn’t think he’s a racist.

    5. We should never forget about our slave-holding past and how wrong it was for our ancestors to practice such a terrible thing. It obviously makes you uncomfortable to be reminded. Get over it.

    4. Even during the era of slavery there were successful black people. Eveyone knows about Frederick Douglass. It’s just ignorant to say that a few successful people show that everyone else is doing fine. You would have liked Saddam’s Iraq.

    3. Good question. Maybe it’s because there is still a great deal of institutional racism against blacks. Ever think of that, genius?

    2. God forbid you should ever reflect on your half-baked, unoriginal thoughts.

    1. What a liar you are. You are OBVIOULSY hung up on race. Especially hung up on blacks. You need to get over yourself.

    Bonus: Yeah, there’s discrimination against white people. You think that that would make you more sympathetic. But, no, you’re a douchebag.

  • Chris: You forgot to read the TITLE of the post.

  • color will not hurt anyone it is the character wraped up inside that color that will determine how the real person is. if someone does me wrong, depending on the wrong that was done then i treat them accordingly.there is ultimate forgiveness in Jesus, but limited forgiveness in us.thats just the way we are.

  • (chuckling) I could use a scarf for next winter. Black.

  • Julie


  • See, the thing is, you didn’t read the TITLE of the piece, see.


    Maybe I should take up knitting, or gardening …

  • futhermucker

  • Why does it have to be a BLACK scarf? Huh Ric? I just hate tokenism.

  • Mindy

    Chris???? Try again. Read the title. John thinks anyone who has said ANY of those things is, in fact, racist. Even though many will never admit it.

    Now, let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that you were correct and John did, in fact, think all those things are true. While I would wholeheartedly agree with you that this would make him a racist, I have to question your approach. If you really were trying to change his mind, trying to educate him, how is calling him ‘douchebag’ and ‘sarcastic genius’ and ‘half-baked and unoriginal’ any way to get him to listen???

    Just because you thought for a minute there that he was writing like a douchebag (and I’d agree, if you weren’t wrong), name-calling has never really been a call to listen.

    When I want to change someone’s thinking, the first thing I do is look for common ground, THEN proceed to tell him nicely (at least at first) how wrong he is. I mean, to each his own, as far as style goes, but I’m thinking all you’d have accomplished is the raising of someone’s defenses, which is a pretty direct way to shut down anything resembling listening.

    And, of course, since you were wrong and attacked for no reason at all, you actually are the one who ended up sounding like the douchebag.

    Not that I’d ever call you that, of course.

  • Mindy

    I would very much like people to understand the difference between race and culture. Many do not. Many assume that cultural traits are inherent by race, which, of course, is not true.

    I would also very much like people to understand that the systemic racism that has plagued blacks in the US as long as they’ve been here grew directly out of slavery and out of the fact that the vast majority of black people here are descendants of those who were forced here against their will. They have no history of a great migration or pilgrimage across the sea. A culture that grows out of being stolen from your homeland and becoming property is vastly different from a culture grown from voluntarily emigrating to a better life. Being forbidden to read or learn or own anything or vote or appear freely in public or freely associate creates a culture that makes up for all of that in different ways. Staying connected, storytelling, gathering, celebrating, mourning – all the human activities that create community and culture – had to take place in secret, in creative ways that kept slaves from being flogged or worse and families from being separated. Women were regularly raped, and their men were helpless to stop it. What do you think grows in a culture like that?

    Now racists blatantly discriminate against Hispanics by assuming that anyone with a Latino name is here illegally and probably part of a drug cartel. They are not given credit for coming here to create better lives for their families or for doing the low-wage jobs that none of the rest of us will do – even though many who ARE here legally are doing just that.

    None of my family owned slaves. So what? We also grew up immersed in white privilege without every having to think about it, and as such, have no concept what what it might be like to have people make assumptions about us due to the shape of our faces.

    My daughters have assumptions made about them all the time, simply because they are Asian. They are assumed to be intelligent, because people aren’t smart enough to understand the difference between race and culture. Most Asian cultures value education above all else, and THAT is why Asians are successful in school. My girls aren’t growing up in an Asian household, so whether they succeed in school or not will not be because of their Asian-ness. They are assumed to have accents or not speak English or be bilingual – none of which is true. They are assumed to be “exotic,” sought after by some men, even though they are as American as any other person raised in this country.

    The thing about racism is that we ALL stereotype and make assumptions based on how people look – race, clothing styles, weight, etc. We do that because we are human, and our brains seek understanding through patterns and sorting. Stereotyping is a normal, natural behavior, part of how we make sense of the world around us. And stereotypes happen because they contain truth.

    Racism is what happens when we mishandle stereotypes. When we take a stereotype and remove our own empathy filter, racism rears up and takes over.

    Here’s a basic example: When I see, on the news every night, that the vast majority of arrests made in my city are of black males, a stereotype forms. “Black males are committing crimes at the highest rate of any ethnicity.” This true fact, in my city, leads to the stereotype that black men are more likely to commit crimes than white men. Which may or may not be true – IF ALL ELSE WAS EQUAL. Because all else, in the city, is most definitely not equal.

    Now, I can either seek to understand what is behind this inequity – poverty, discrimination, poor education, drugs, lack of parenting skills in poor communities, etc. – and help look for solutions for those problems, OR I can close my mind to anything deeper than the obvious, and become a racist. Label all black men as potential criminals, blame their criminal behavior on the color of their skin alone. Because it sure is easier that way – I can recognize those darned criminals from blocks away, steer clear of where they live and hang out, and not worry myself with trying to find solutions because they are hopeless, you know. They’re black, so why bother?

    OR I can acknowledge that while the statistic may be true, the problem is cultural, not racial, and until the systemic problems and institutions that maintain the poverty and the poor educational options and the lack of parenting skills are dealt with, it isn’t going to change. AND that if whites were living in the same circumstances or were plagued with the same history, we’d be just as likely have those same statistics plaguing our own reputations.

    Thoughts are just thoughts. I can’t help, living in the city, the fear that creeps up my neck if a large group of black teen males comes around the corner when I’m walking my dog. What I CAN help is how I handle that fear. I take hold of it and forbid it from showing. I don’t cross to the other side of the street. I smile, I make eye contact, I say hello. I show them the respect I hope they’ll show me, and so far, they always have. Because they are just kids out walking after school, not gangs out to attack the first middle-aged white woman they see.

    We can make assumptions, but we can also use our senses of tact and restraint and empathy and remind ourselves not to judge any individual by standards we ascribe to a group. And we can try to understand which cultural differences need to be overcome by all of us (like uneven poverty), and which should be appreciated as part of the wonderful diversity this country holds dear.

  • DR

    So many victims.

  • A.D. King

    John, I’ve been a dedicated reader of your blog for over a year now. I saw that you linked to this post from your blog on the movie “Hop.” Upon further reflection, I’d be remiss if I didn’t attempt to explain to you, in good faith, how misguided I believe several of the statements included in this list are—and why.

    I’ll forego any preliminary comments and just jump right in.

    “Why don’t blacks just get over it already, and quit being so sensitive? Nobody who’s alive today had anything to do with slavery. When are African-Americans going to stop living in the past, and start taking care of the present?”

    You wrap several sentences with different meanings into one convoluted statement here. The first sentence is crass and coarse. The third is hardly reasonable, but considering the diatribes and blatant racism of “leaders” such as Al Sharpton—who care for racial justice up until the point that white individuals are falsely accused of a race-related crime, such as the Duke hockey players accused in 2004 of raping a black stripper—perhaps it sounds slightly more so. The second sentence is where my main concern lies: how is this claim untrue? And if it is true, are we going to take a “sins-of-the-fathers” approach to every issue in which someone has been wronged? I’m part Irish, and it’s been almost a century since Britain annexed my native country’s northeastern corner. I don’t hold British citizens today accountable for this, or act as if this still tangibly disenfranchises me—although it affects my understanding of my history, it impacts me much less than it did my ancestors when it happened.

    “If making it as a black person in America is so hard, how do you explain people like Colin Powell, Clarence Thomas, and Barack Obama?”

    Again, this is a confluence of a valid idea with a crude and brutish phraseology. This question can be stated in a snarky way, which is the manner in which I assume you are caricaturizing it. However, without any specific tone, it is also a legitimate question: if a black man can be President but blacks at large still experience tangible discrimination, then what does this say about the racial complexities of America’s sociology? It injures both the privileged and the disenfranchised to relegate racism to such a black-and-white, monolithic sensibility, one that implies that even asking such a question can earn you the label of “racist.”

    “All kinds of foreigners, of every color, come to this country and make it. Why do so many blacks fail, when so many Asians succeed?”

    I’m not quite sure how this statement can be perceived as much more than stupidly overgeneralized, rather than racist. If you mean to imply that Asians have not endured the same level of difficulty in attaining racial autonomy as blacks, several miles’ worth of documents and testimony regarding the treatment of Chinese immigrants to California in the Gold Rush era beg to differ. Regardless, such a debate over whose suffering is greater is pointless, and is not what either of us is trying to pursue, I hope. But the underlying observation of this question—that there exists a discrepancy between the achievements of generalized racial groups—has been a concern on the sociological level for quite some time now. It seems counterproductive and primitive to deem a layperson racist for asking it.

    “God forbid we should ever do or say anything that’s not ‘politically correct.’”

    There is quite a huge space between what is not politically correct and what is simply crude, or an ethnic slur. The latter exist in reference to historically created contexts, i.e., the n-word derives its weight from being used in the past as a direct apparatus of hate and murder. The politically correct, however, differs greatly from so clearly a distasteful lineage. Unlike ethnic slurs, which directly demean, some words become politically correct simply on the basis of their patent inoffensiveness—their inability to divide. But in a society where we cannot or do not say what we mean, where we cannot separate a thing from what it is not, communication is futile. I remember once hearing journalist Charles Wiley give a lecture in which he outlined the concept of political correctness as the foremost danger to journalism in the modern age. He recalled the genesis of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, and the atmosphere of political correctness that he believes prevented him and other well-meaning journalists from publishing information about the ailment that could have saved potentially millions of lives. The inability to speak frankly and without euphemisms about issues as pressing as race relations seems a mortal wound to any hope for improvement.

    “When I look at a person, I don’t see the color of their skin: I just see a person. Why do we have to be so hung up on color all the time?”

    Is such a sentiment not the ultimate goal of all proponents of equality?

    “What about reverse discrimination against white people?”

    What about it? This question at face value takes on no inherent meaning, good or bad. The only context in which I can even remotely find reason for you to object to it is if you have somehow managed to assign ulterior meanings to it—such as “white privilege,” or another equally ill-defined term. But these ulterior meanings are your projections onto the asker of the question, and as such are not representative enough of the speaker to warrant your judgment of him or her. Also, consider that from 1995-2002, the FBI concluded that whites were the second most targeted group for hate crimes in New York City: http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/1/2/6/3/7/p126377_index.html

    What bothers me most, though—more than any singular statement you have designated as racist—is the fact that a majority of your characterizations of racist thought or speech are questions. This indicates to me that, on a fundamental level, you are unwilling to even have a conversation with those who do not share your views before judging them; the mere presence of heretical thought brands an individual as an opponent. I cannot imagine an indictment more contradictory to the type of dialogue you encourage in your posts about the social issues Christianity faces today.

    You offer judgment without demonstrating how and why these questions are patently racist—only that our hypersensitive and made-to-feel guilty consciences have been trained to feel, intrinsically, as if these things truly are racist when we hear them. This is a reliance on emotional and intuitional response, not intellectual. The consequences of shaming even the most ignorant questions is a chilling effect, and I don’t think that’s what you want.

    And yes, there is a difference between ignorance (harmful actions without the intent to harm behind them) and racism (something I’d define as an active antagonism against a particular ethnic group). Although they may look the same, one is not the other. To conflate them both is to do damage to the conversation about racism at large, and to make enemies out of people with the potential for goodwill.

    It is also to do damage to the past, which in turn damages the present and future. The reason I take issue with the word “racist” being thrown around so wantonly is because I believe our society quickly dilutes the potential of the word to represent true evil. Someone who asks one of the above questions is not “racist;” the Ku Klux Klan is racist. I similarly object to calling people Nazis for the same reason: the unfathomably concentrated horror and evil of the Holocaust, of the extermination of Jews, disabled, and other parties, merits a term that represents one thing and one thing only. Every time “Nazi” or “racist” is used outside of its most horrific and concrete context, the words are deprived of their power—and of their potential to teach us, to be meaningful.

    I have great respect for you and your “judge not, lest you yourself be judged” approach to some of Christianity’s conundrums. And yet this post just seems to miss that mark entirely. Therefore, I’d appreciate your response. In fact, I invite it. I’m not interested in ad hominem attacks, but real discussion.

  • A.D. King

    Correction: the Duke lacrosse case occurred in 2006, not 2004.