Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Backpeddling Racists

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.

Comments

  1. #1 Marisa
    April 25, 2004

    very amusing anecdotes. its interesting how white people think they have an unspoken understanding with each other that racism is acceptable.

  2. #2 flatlander100
    April 25, 2004

    A not wholly unrelated point: about ten years or so ago, David Duke managed to get himself into the runoff race for Governor of Louisiana against Edwin Edwards. Duke was running of course as the Republican nominee. It was the memorable race in which liberals [or what passed for them in Louisiana] had bumper stickers saying “Vote for the Crook! It’s important!” Anyway, Edwards won. But post election analysis showed that a majority… a substantial majority… of white male voters voted for Duke. I wondered then what it must be like to be a black man or woman in Louisiana, walking toward me on the street or in a mall, knowing that the odds were that I — that any white man they saw — had voted for Duke. [For the record, I hadn't. I voted for the crook.]
    A majority of white males. For Duke for Gov. Just a comment I guess on how widespread “it” was then and still may be.
    I take some comfort that both of the gubernatorial candidates in that race are now guests of the public in federal prisons.

  3. #3 PZ Myers
    April 25, 2004

    The place where I constantly ran into this kind of thing was Salt Lake City. My wife and I were young, clean cut, with two kids and another on the way, so every one mistook us for fellow Mormons on first meeting — and we’d get an earful about “those” Jews or Catholics or Indians or whatever ethnic group had triggered their outburst.

    We never quite managed the cutting reply. We’d be simply stunned, and back away with our mouths open.

  4. #4 Ed Brayton
    April 25, 2004

    very amusing anecdotes. its interesting how white people think they have an unspoken understanding with each other that racism is acceptable.

    I think you need to narrow that down. It’s interesting (and shameful, in my view) how some white people think they have an unspoken understanding with each that racism is acceptable. Obviously if it was true of all white people, the story would never have been told.

  5. #5 Mark
    April 27, 2004

    Just admit it, you’re a nigger lover suffering from white guilt.

  6. #6 Ed Brayton
    April 28, 2004

    Just admit it, you’re a nigger lover suffering from white guilt.

    Awww, it’s the dickhead under discussion, stopping by to – predictably – duck into the punch. You’ll be as unlikely to find an audience for your moronic bullshit here as you were on Scalzi’s page, Skippy. I recommend 500mg of Thorazine and some motivational cassettes. Oh, and when your IQ hits 8, sell.

  7. #7 Luke Lea
    April 28, 2004

    Ed Brayton: Did you really say to his face (rather than think):”because some racist asshole who looks like Hitler’s wet dream. . .” ? Because I think you might have had more luck turning him around if you had treated him a little more kindly. Even bigots are human beings, after all, and respond to being treated as such.

    I might add that even private expressions of racism are, mercifully, extremely rare in the part of the country where I live (Tennessee) compared to the way it was 50 years ago, when I was a child. On the other hand, what someonedubbed “bigot bating” is getting out of hand in certain places that ought to know better — most recently at the Claremont campuses in the suburbs of L.A.

    The devil has a way of sneaking up on us in the most unsuspecting ways, it seems. . .

  8. #8 Ed Brayton
    April 28, 2004

    Did you really say to his face (rather than think):”because some racist asshole who looks like Hitler’s wet dream. . .” ? Because I think you might have had more luck turning him around if you had treated him a little more kindly. Even bigots are human beings, after all, and respond to being treated as such.

    Yes, I did. And I wasn’t the least bit interested at the time in “turning him”. I treated him exactly as he deserved to be treated, as the racist asshole that he was and in all likelihood still is.

    I might add that even private expressions of racism are, mercifully, extremely rare in the part of the country where I live (Tennessee) compared to the way it was 50 years ago, when I was a child. On the other hand, what someonedubbed “bigot bating” is getting out of hand in certain places that ought to know better — most recently at the Claremont campuses in the suburbs of L.A.

    I presume you are referring to the woman who faked an assault? Or perhaps to something else. If that’s the case, I would say that if you really think that private (or public for that matter) expressions of racism are “extremely rare” while faking assaults to foment racial hatred are “getting out of hand”, you not only inhabit a different nation than I do, you must inhabit a different universe. I will certainly agree that it happens a lot less now than it did 50 years ago. We have made progress. But if you think “bigot baiting” is more common than bigotry, I would strongly recommend cleaning your glasses and perhaps attending an Hallucinogenics Anonymous meeting.

    The devil has a way of sneaking up on us in the most unsuspecting ways, it seems. . .

    To my knowledge, no such creature has ever snuck up on me, in unsuspecting ways or otherwise.

  9. #9 Andrew Wade
    April 29, 2004

    I treated him exactly as he deserved to be treated, as the racist asshole that he was and in all likelihood still is.

    Yup. Hopefully a more circumspect racist asshole. Which will make his racism less contageous.

  10. #10 Lilly Origami
    April 29, 2004

    There would be no racism in America if Blacks acted normal.

  11. #11 Ed Brayton
    April 29, 2004

    There would be no racism in America if Blacks acted normal.

    Oh good, another racist piece of shit. You guys aren’t breeding are you?

  12. #12 Lilly Origami
    April 29, 2004

    I’m not a racist! You are just saying that because I’m Oriental.

    And I think you meant “Backpedaling” not “Backpeddling” you moron! Learn to spell.

  13. #13 Ed Brayton
    April 29, 2004

    I have zero patience for trolls. Fuck off and go away.

  14. #14 Nigger On A Firey Cross
    April 29, 2004

    Oh, so anyone who disagrees with your ignorant ass, they are a troll? Maybe you’re just too stupid to realize that you are stupid, stupid.

  15. #15 Ed Brayton
    April 29, 2004

    I think it’s time for all the little juvenile trolls to say goodbye. All the IPs have been banned. Go bother someone else.

  16. #16 Jillian
    May 4, 2004

    My aunt is an attorney with the Justice Department out on the west coast, and her work seems to have created some crazy amounts of prejudice against Native Americans in her thinking. She tried spewing that nonsense to me one day, and I had to put the smackdown on her.

    My mum, my uncle and I were having a little Saturday morning nosh at my aunt’s house a few years back. It was one of those picture perfect moments of nice family togetherness, until my aunt started off on some screed about how *all* Native Americans are drunks who live on welfare and bleed the system dry. My mum and my uncle, being the good liberal Jews they are (and like they thought my aunt was), immediately called her on it, saying “How can you say things like that? You’re being racist!”.

    I was upset, too, but I remember thinking that my aunt is an attorney, and so precision in language use and rational thinking are her bread and butter. I was sure a good argument would appeal to her better side and get her to modify her view. So I asked her if perhaps she wasn’t painting with too broad a brush there – sure, maybe *some* Native Americans are alcholics, but certainly not all of them are.

    She was indignant and insistent. She said *all* because she meant *all*, she told me. At this point I realized I was dealing with a bigoted view, and where reason fails, ridicule was my next best option. My mum and my uncle continued to harangue her for a bit, until I interrupted and said “Now, maybe Aunt Ruth has a point. It’s obvious that Indians aren’t very bright. After all, look at the way they let the Dutch jew them out of Manhattan.”

    My uncle got what I was up to right away and started laughing. My aunt, on the other hand, had this look on her face like I had just dropped my drawers and whizzed on her kitchen floor. Despite my best efforts to explain to her that her unaffected bigotry toward an ethnic group was no more attractive than my affected bigotry toward an ethnic group (which she took very personally), I don’t think she ever got it. But I still think of it as a blow I struck against cognitive dissonance. Maybe she’ll get it some day.

  17. #17 Lynnie
    May 4, 2004

    Great story Jillian.
    Too bad we can’t pick our relatives the way we can pick our friends.
    I love the way you discribed your aunt’s face when you said, “Now, maybe Aunt Ruth has a point. It’s obvious that Indians aren’t very bright. After all, look at the way they let the Dutch jew them out of Manhattan.”
    LOL