If You Have to Tell People You’re Not Racist, You’re Probably Racist.


Here, just write this down and keep it in your wallet or something: If you ever find yourself fervently insisting that you, sir, are not a racist, NO INDEED, it probably means that you said something racist and you should apologize. Right now. Come on, we’ve been over this. So why are there three separate news stories in my feed today about indignant white dummies doubling down on racist bullshit?

The first comes to us from sunny(?) Belgium, where progressive newspaper De Morgen printed two “satirical” racist memes about Barack and Michelle Obama—one casting the president as a drug dealer and the other caricaturing the first couple as apes. The piece was satirical, the paper argued, because it was framed as a submission from Vladimir Putin: “the premise of their ‘admittedly tasteless joke’ was that the Russian president had been asked to submit an article about Mr. Obama but sent instead two racist caricatures.” So, you see, it wasn’t the paper itself making racist jokes about Obama, it was the imaginary Putin character that they created.

Writer Chika Unigwe has been criticizing the paper fiercely.

Now, I’d posit that it’s possible to skewer Putin without disseminating patently damaging imagery that’s been used to dehumanize and oppress black people (particularly black Americans) for centuries. I mean, I know it’s tough—what could you possibly find to criticize about Vladimir Fucking Putin without throwing black people under the bus?

De Morgen has since apologized, kind of (they’re sorry if you were offended because you took their brilliant anti-racist satire out of context, and also they are not so familiar with this whole racism thing but they know they hate it very much):

When “you consider the fragment apart from its context, which is a properly worked out satirical section, then you don’t see the joke but just a picture evoking sheer racism,” the editors wrote. “That was a risk we didn’t consider enough beforehand.”
“We wrongly assumed,” they added, “that racism is no longer acceptable, and that in this way it could be the subject of a joke.” The editors went on to suggest that they had overlooked the fact that the racist trope of comparing Africans and their descendants to apes is still common.
Absolving themselves of the charge of harboring racist intentions, the editors concluded with an apology to anyone who was offended. “In this case, we plead guilty of bad taste,” they said. “We continue to be on the side of those that are battling any form of racism.”

But the artist who composed the piece remains “shocked” by the backlash—because “satire” is an ironclad, impermeable, zero-sum art form that can never be misdirected, damaging, poorly executed, or held up to criticism of any kind.

Here’s Unigwe again, on Twitter:

De Morgen apologizes but Van Springel (the satirist) thinks that satire ought not to offend. He is shocked by the outrage.
When DeMorgen published that racist satire, they didn’t expect a backlash because they didn’t consider a black reading population #Belgium

Meanwhile, back in racially enlightened America, Donald Rumsfeld compared President Obama unfavorably to “a trained ape.”

Former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Monday attacked the Obama administration for failing to secure a status of forces agreement with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai.
Rumsfeld, speaking on Fox News, said even a “trained ape” could do better.
“A trained ape could get a status of forces agreement,” Rumsfeld said. “It does not take a genius. And we have so mismanaged that relationship.”

Again: Language does not exist in a vacuum. You cannot compare the first black president of the United States to an ape without taking into account the fact that stereotyping black people as subhuman was built into the very foundations of this country, and is still used to subjugate and oppress them 150 years after the “end” of slavery. In fact, the wealth and prosperity of white Americans, like Donald Rumsfeld, can be directly linked to the centuries of free labor that white people justified via the dehumanization of black people.

In short, Rumsfeld, NO.

But Republicans in general, it seems, just can’t get enough of racist jokes. Here’s more, courtesy of Florida governor Rick Scott:

Billionaire healthcare mogul Mike Fernandez was Rick Scott’s top fundraiser until last week, when he abruptly quit. The Miami Herald offered some detail on what led up to the decision:
“Despite the praise, Fernandez has been unhappy for weeks with the struggling campaign’s direction and and the attitude of some of its workers.
Fernandez began expressing his frustrations at least a month ago when he sent an email to top Scott allies and complained about two campaign aides who had joked around in a cartoon-style Mexican accent en route to a Mexican restaurant in Fernandez’s home town of Coral Gables.”
The Scott campaign can assure you that it was not that bad:
“‘Mike was not in the van,’ Scott’s campaign manager, Melissa Sellers, said in an email to the Herald.”

Oh, well bygones, then. I forgot about Florida’s famous It’s Not Racist If There’s No Mexican Guy in the Van Clause. (Knowing Florida, POSSIBLY A REAL CLAUSE.)

These incidents of individual stupidity might seem small in the face of the widespread campaigns of disenfranchisement, enforced poverty, mass incarceration, and the legalized killing of black children that conservatives support in official government policy. But such casual racism is symptomatic of a larger refusal to even pretend to take the issue seriously.

Look. Conservatives. And, um, certain Belgians. It’s very simple. If you genuinely want me to believe that you’re “not racist,” stop telling me that you’re not racist and start NOT DOING RACIST SHIT. Because right now, you’re not convincing anybody.

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