John Scalzi, a blogger you really should be reading, has a post on his blog that is both amusing and appalling. It’s about the appearance of a racist on his site in the comments, but even more about his ham-handed backtracking he tried to do. It began with this post, wherein he critiques an anti-immigration book. In that post, he included a picture of his adorable daughter Athena, who is partially hispanic, with the caption, “Behold! The Unassimilated Hispanic Menace!”. The Drudge Report put up a link to the post and along comes an asshole named Mike, who leaves the following comment:
“Cute little wetback girl. I wonder if she’ll grow up to do donkey shows like her whore mother.”
To which John Scalzi replied:
“Probably not, Mark. She’s not your sister.
Further note to the folks who wish to display their flagrant and abject racist stupidity: Try to have a little more creativity about it, please? If you’re going to be a flagrant racist asshole, you need to stand out from all the other flagrant racist assholes out there. Try to exhibit a little style. I know, it’ll be difficult, given the general inability of your neurons to fire on a regular pattern. But do make the effort, why don’t you.”
At which point the asshole in question tried to backtrack:
“Sorry. Didn’t realize she was your daughter. My apologies.
I’m outta here! Best wishes!”
But of course, it goes without saying that when his obviously ridiculous apology was not accepted, he was not in fact “outta there”, but stuck around to display his racism and stupidity over and over again. All of which reminded me of a story that took place some 17 or 18 years ago, when I was in college with another backpeddling racist.
I was in college and working for a summer at a butcher shop in the back of a large grocery store. One night I’m working with a guy that I didn’t know well at all, he was pretty new. He was your basic frat guy/yuppie larvae type, but he seemed okay up to this point. I don’t recall his name, so let’s call him Flip (in college I used to joke that every frat guy was either Rip, Skip, Flip, Kip or Chip). It was a slow night and we were kind of standing around making small talk, talking about the basketball team and whatnot, when this couple rounds the corner of the first aisle and walks past the meat counter. The man was black and the woman was white, which caused Flip to, well, flip. When the couple got past the meat counter and turned up another aisle, Flip turns to me and says, “Man, that burns me up.”
Rather dumbfounded, I said, “What burns you up?”
“That”, he said while gesturing toward the aisle the couple had gone down, “Salt and pepper.”
Pausing for a moment, I said, “Why does that burn you up?”
He said, “It’s just wrong. They’re gonna have mutt kids.”
At this point, I decided to drop a little bomb on him. I said, “You know, I have a sister who is married to a black man and I have a niece and nephew who are ‘mutts’. And they aren’t worth any less just because some racist asshole who looks like Hitler’s wet dream says so.”
At which point, he starts to say, “Oh, I didn’t mean….”
I cut him off immediately, saying, “Oh, yes you did. You did mean it. You just didn’t know that I wasn’t ‘safe’ to spew your hatred too because I’m a white guy like you and we’re all supposed to think alike. In the future, you might want to leave me out of your racist games. I don’t play by the rules.”
I’m torn on this one. Like Scalzi’s racist interloper, mine was just your everyday type of racist. Not a virulent racist who joins the KKK, just the run of the mill kind of racist who thinks that everyone thinks like them. On the one hand, it’s amusing to watch them try and backpeddle when they get caught, because this kind of racist is also a social coward. For them, racism is a way of fitting in, a way of bonding with “their people”, so when it backfires they backpeddle like an NFL defensive back. On the other hand, the fact that they CAN safely say such things in most cases without running into trouble suggests that they may well be right in their assumption that most people who look like them probably think like them too.