• author
    • Kelvin Wade

    • August 1, 2019 in Columnists

    The racism of racism denial

    When the UN voted to seat a Beijing delegation in 1971, members of the Tanzanian delegation danced in the aisles. Then-Governor Ronald Reagan, angry over African countries voting to seat the delegation, called President Richard Nixon the next day and said, “Last night, I tell you, to watch that thing on television as I did…To see those, those monkeys from those African countries— damn them, they’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes!” Nixon chuckled.

    The audio of that call was just released by the National Archives. I’m sure Reagan defenders will give us chapter and verse about how and why Ronald Reagan was not a racist. They’ll try to convince us that the man who gave a speech mentioning “states’ rights” at the Neshoba County Fair in 1980 just miles from the site of the murders of civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney, didn’t have a racially insensitive bone in his body. They’ll say the Great Communicator didn’t mean anything racist in his oft told tales of Chicago “welfare queens” or the “strapping young buck” in line at the grocery store ahead of you buying a T-bone steak with food stamps.

    Likewise, we must listen to the truly stupid defend the absolutely incorrigible when we hear people defend the racist behavior and words of Donald Trump, saying he’s not a racist. Some say he just uses “racial language.” And an arsonist is just experimenting with combustion.

    This deliberate denial of bigotry has consequences. Last week, a white woman, Nancy Goodman from Raleigh, North Carolina, went viral on video when she confronted a couple of black women in a restaurant she felt were being too loud. When one of the black women protested saying she had a right to be there, that her money was as green as hers, Goodman responds, “Why are you so stupid, niggers?”

    Goodman later told a reporter that she would say it again and…wait for it…added that she’s not racist. This is what you get in the new culture of prejudice permissiveness. The denial is just another tightening of the noose.

    Of course, we can’t lay it all at the cloven hoofs of Donald Trump. As seen by the beginning of this column, Trump isn’t the first president to use racist language. Unfortunately the United States has had many racist and bigoted leaders. What history shows is that many of those leaders wrestled with questions of race. And while some were outright bigots, our closeted bigots knew at least that they had to try to govern a diverse country and outright bigotry would make that task harder. I’m not at all absolving the GOP’s “Southern Strategy” and dog whistle politics they’ve employed to gain the support of America’s bigot class, but what we’re seeing today is more damaging.

    What Trumpism does so brazenly is it makes it okay to indulge one’s darkest impulses publicly under the guise of not being politically correct. It gives license to discriminate, a permission slip for bigotry. And those who do it think they’re absolving each other of racist implications.

    They’re not.

    They’re not ‘telling it like it is.’ They’re not being politically incorrect. They’re not just saying what other people are thinking. They’re making racist statements. And whether or not the bigot believes they’re a racist in their heart doesn’t matter at all. Did it matter to Jews what their Nazi tormentors thought in their heart of hearts? Did it matter to Native Americans what Europeans truly thought of them? Did African slaves lose sleep wondering what was in the hearts of their masters? Does it matter to a member of the LGBTQ community if the person discriminating against them has gay friends? Is it a matter of concern to a woman being sexually harassed whether the person doing it is a misogynist?

    Fuck the labels. It’s the actions that matter. It’s the behavior, stupid.

    This overt racism will have long lasting implications on our society. This hate is being taught to children. The most insidious part is they’re being taught that it’s not hate. Racists used to at least embrace their racism. Now people use bigoted words while denying they’re bigoted. It’s a gas-lit delusional fantasy world that no minority or right-thinking white is taking part in.

    We shouldn’t be in the business of excusing racism in 2019. I get it. We sometimes have bigoted elderly relatives whom we excuse and absolve saying, “That’s just the way they were raised.” We do the same with historical figures when we say they’re just “a product of their time.” But we have to admit to ourselves that that’s ready-made bullshit just to ease our minds. Because there were other people who lived in those times who didn’t share those sentiments.

    Those who love Ronald Reagan don’t want to believe he was a bigot. The tendency to rationalize and explain is strong. Run from the ugly truth to the sweet soothing pablum of fantasy. But even if you tell yourself that Reagan and Trump and whomever else you wish to excuse aren’t racists, it’s undeniable that they’re using racist language. How do you explain that?

    It’s sad that the Republican Party has gone from being the enlightened anti-slavery “Party of Lincoln” to the anti-intellectual, racism-denying Party of Trump. Make no mistake that the denial of racism is akin to Holocaust-denial. It’s not a science. It’s not a measured opinion. It’s a twisted article of faith.  To be a member of the party of Trump in good standing you must deny bigotry right before your eyes.

    This denial of racism is just more racism. And as I stated before, the majority of people aren’t indulging this fantasy. They see what’s going on.  And we will hold your ass accountable.

      • Maya Stiles Parsons Spier

      • August 1, 2019 at 9:32 pm
      • Reply

      Most perfect line of modern times: “…we can’t lay it all at the cloven hoofs of Donald Trump.” He has enabled the worst of the worst to feel brazenly empowered and it’s rubbing off everywhere. The newly infected kids are the most heart-breaking to me. It takes so little to corrupt them but it takes a lifetime to eradicate it — if they ever do. And in the meantime, their targets are harmed irreparably. 🙁

      • Terri Connett

      • August 2, 2019 at 7:24 am
      • Reply

      Beautifully, cleverly, and thoughtfully written. It was shocking to hear Reagan’s words. You’re absolutely right, racism deniers are akin to those who denied the Holocaust

      • JL Nash

      • August 16, 2019 at 10:35 pm
      • Reply

      Excellent article, well written and of a sentiment I concur. Here in Australia we have our own version of racism deniers but sadly, our general attitudes are akin to those of the 1950’s. It may take some time for change.

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