Since the George Zimmerman acquittal there has been a lot of discussion on this blog an elsewhere on the topic of race. Given the tragic nature of this event these discussions about race and racism in the US offer a silver lining to a particularly stormy cloud.
Unfortunately rather than having a dialogue that leads to greater understanding many double down on their previously held bias. For example even though Republicans are two and a half times more likely to exhibit explicit racism such as portraying blacks as being more criminal with stats like 50% of all murders are committed by African Americans. While this statistic is true its use is inherently racist since multiple studies have shown that the disproportionality in murder rates are “entirely accounted for by differences in socioeconomic status” – meaning the color of one’s skin has a correlation but not causation.
The problem is that most people don’t recognize their own racism so while a majority of Americans harbor some racist views only one in eight is willing to admit they are racist. Of course it should come as no surprise that rather than accepting and addressing their own failures people are much more likely deflect and blame others. A recent example of this can be found in the comments made by Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn. Mr. Arnn believes the Michigan Department of Education sent representatives to his campus to count the number of black students. The MDE says such claims are untrue. Regardless in a hearing in Lansing Larry Arnn used the term “dark ones” to describe African Americans.
Even though he later apologized he used the term multiple times which suggests he is unaware of how anyone might take offense to such a term. Additionally the apology issued on Larry Arnn’s behalf suggests that the school – termed the “citadel of American conservatism” by the National Review – has fully embraced the belief that racism is a liberal media fallacy by stating “No offense was intended by the use of that term except to the offending bureaucrats. Dr. Arnn is sorry if such offense was honestly taken.”
So Larry Arnn assumed he was being targeted for racism and then made insensitive comments to defend against these perceived claims of racism and topped it off by having the school issue his apology just in case anyone was possibly “honestly” offended by being referred to as “dark ones”.
Fortunately very few people are willing to defend racist terms like the one Dr. Arnn used however they are more than happy to deflect attention by suggesting the only people who really care about racism are those who profit from perpetuating it. In conservative circles this means Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and the liberal media. Of course if these people were being truly honest in their criticism they would point out the Fox News and other conservative media outlets benefit from race pimping just as often. Cases like that of George Zimmerman, Shirley Sherrod, ACORN, the Black Panthers, and Reverend Wright were staples of the conservative media over the past few years. These examples are offered to enrage not engage by supplying examples of supposedly racist blacks all for the sake of ratings.
Another example of this pseudo concern is the “N” word. Some people whine that it is unfair that blacks can use this term while whites cannot. The reality is that there is no law against the “N” word. Feel free to use it as often as you like. But be prepared for the consequences because regardless of your skin color there are a number of people who will be offended when you use the “N” word in most settings. Does anyone seriously think the President could step to the podium and drop a few “N” bombs without any repercussions? The truth is that contrary to the popular narrative very few people – black or white – make the “N” word a common part of their vernacular. Of course it should be noted that people of all colors and creeds refer to their friends using words and phrases that they would consider offensive coming from strangers or in a professional setting.
Having said that, I imagine nearly every African American person in the US would happily trade in the use of the “N” word for equal treatment in every other area of society.
But that’s where the problem comes from. We have a conservative media that asks “why does everything always have to be about race” and then they hypocritically devote their entire program to discussing race. The people on the right doing the race pimping don’t get that they are race pimping. They truly believe that they are just defending themselves.
In the end if legitimate concerns are always dismissed as race baiting and the echo chamber justifies your racism instead of questioning how these words could be perceived as offensive we will be doomed to repeat this divisive pattern for years to come.