Stuff White People Say

November 22, 2008

What “x” said is stupid… ignorant… but not racist.

Filed under: Uncategorized — nquest2xl @ 4:38 am

No, anything but that. (*big, long, looping eye roll*)

Macon D has a new thread where the expression, the trial in denial, appears.  But this isn’t a thread about the many assorted ways Macon gets things screwed up.  All you have to do is Google the words “stupid+but+not+racist” and, in the first page alone, you get references to comments made by Sen. Hillary Clinton and VP-Elect Joe Biden framed in such blatant denial.  It’s blatant because there’s is little about stupid — something “stupid” said or done in a racial context — that makes it independent of racist (though, I guess, I’d make “stupid racists” a different category than just plain ole, run-of-the-mill racists).

Me, I’m one of those people who views racism as something that exists in varying degrees.  You know, like pretty much every other ‘ism.  I mean, we just witnessed a presidential campaign that tried to make the argument that socialism varies quite a bit, so much that the idea was stretched out of proportion.   Progressive tax system that’s been in existence for decades + Barack Obama?  SOCIALISM.

But I digress…

I do have a pet-peeve when it comes to people trying to pawn racism off on ignorance.  The idea not only flies right in the face of the other conventional wisdom that “THEY” (you know who “they” are; that “they”) want “US” to fight against each other instead of coming together — the old “divide and rule/conquer” notion which, by definition, means the “real” racists or exploiters know all too well what they are doing and are doing it on purpose.  BUT it suggests that, after all this time, people who do/say something racist:

  1. Incapable of understanding rather basic stuff (and must be living in caves); and
  2. Aren’t responsible for what they say.

Ultimately, that’s what happens.  And, frankly, I can see no reason for the almost knee-jerk rush to declare non-pc comments as “not racist” (see the commentary in Macon’s thread and from those responding to it) other than providing blanket immunity — excuses for why the person isn’t responsible for what they said.

Now contrast that to the outside-of-the-job-description responsibilities added on top of POC’s plate…  Seriously, think about the “race relations” division-of-labor and the often unstated but, no doubt, very present and unequal expectations…  No, I said seriously.  Seriously consider the kind of extra-added burdens the status quo represents for POC.  I’m talking about everything people talk about when they mention the “Black tax”, e.g., and everything people forget for lack of time, space and sanity.

In other news, this is a recurring theme — a reflexive fallback narrative for wrong goings on the U.S. commits as a nation.  The war in Iraq was a “strategic blunder”  instead of racist “fight THEM over there” bloodlust or restyled Manifest Destiny resource grab/control for the new millennium.  It’s “we goofed” — an attitude that we merely made a “mistake”… said with no references to the grave “killing innocent people” consequences.

The implicit assumption, indeed, the very idea people want to project about Whites who “slip up” including the US-American nation-state (which, according to our nearly departed president and many others, is a White country) is that they are good, “well-meaning” people who never intend to do wrong.  I guess that explains what I always found curious:  how Whites tend to equate racism/racists to “evil.”

I just have a problem with the premature assessments.  IMO, we can determine whether someone is “well-meaning”, etc. once all the facts are in and once all the questions about what drove them to say or do what they did (what was the war really about? did we think the world was/would be better off killing tens and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis?) are answered.  More specifically, it’s wrong to declare something as “stupid but not racist” or “ignorant but not racist” until the latter has been determined.  And, allow me to reiterate: that something done/said was “stupid” or “ignorant” doesn’t eliminate it from also being racist.

Matter of fact, a lot of what people rush to dismiss as “stupid” or “ignorant” are often “stupid” or “ignorant” because of how obvious the racism is.  To go beyond the abstract, in the Lindsey Lohan situation highlighted on Macon’s blog, the fact that Lohan or the commenter on YouTube “didn’t know” that “coloured” was a racist, pejorative term is racist itself.

As the saying goes, “ignorance of the law is no defense.”  And, me myself, I don’t think White people are that damn dumb.


  1. I agree with most of what you said, and the first time I’ve seen a bunch of POC collect together and use that excuse was on SWPD.

    However what I don’t agree with is that you think white people aren’t that dumb. They are, but they are responsible for it. If white people think that POC are inferior because they didn’t learn otherwise, that’s still their fault.

    If a mother leaves her baby in the car with the windows rolled up on a hot summer day and the baby dies, it’s the mother’s fault for being ignorant. “Well, it’s not her fault, because she didn’t know,” is not a valid defense.

    Comment by Restructure! — November 23, 2008 @ 1:25 am | Reply

  2. However what I don’t agree with is that you think white people aren’t that dumb.

    You’ll get no argument or armchair anthropology out of me. lol

    Comment by nquest2xl — November 23, 2008 @ 1:37 am | Reply

  3. And by “dumb”, I mean honestly ignorant versus pretending to be naive.

    And I don’t mean all white people, of course, just the ones that do this kind of stuff.

    Comment by Restructure! — November 23, 2008 @ 2:46 am | Reply

  4. Well, since you’re trying to get an argument out of me (lol)… I don’t care whether they are “honestly ignorant” or not. The last thing someone who chooses to comment on something regarding race should ever be his that damn dumb or that f-ckin’ ignorant.

    But I guess that’s a product of the segregation that continues in this country. Obviously Lohan hasn’t been involved in that many discussions with “coloured” people… Her and the person on YouTube.

    Comment by nquest2xl — November 23, 2008 @ 2:55 am | Reply

  5. Yeah, I don’t think it matters whether they’re honestly ignorant or not when it comes to whether or not something is or isn’t racist. The two are not mutually exclusive.

    Comment by Restructure! — November 23, 2008 @ 2:59 am | Reply

  6. I think Siddity’s comments on Macon’s blog are pretty typical. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the term “ignorant” used in a manner to mean racist, even ignorantly racist (i.e. honestly uninformed ignorant + racist). Typically it’s used for the category of racist remarks you “don’t get worked up about.”

    I’m all for the fluid use of language but it was obvious that the commenters on Macon’s blog were treating the ideas racism and ignorance as if they are mutually exclusive.

    What I forgot to add to my commentary is the conventional wisdom that racism is about ignorance.

    Comment by nquest2xl — November 23, 2008 @ 3:36 am | Reply

  7. I dunno, I think racism *is* about ignorance a lot of the time, or at least misinformation.

    Comment by Restructure! — November 23, 2008 @ 5:07 am | Reply

  8. Well, I actually question why people accept the misinformation. To me, I believe people, at least on an intuitive, perhaps even near subconscious, level know that the misinformation they accept is, in fact, misinformation; it’s just justifies their feelings or behaviors the world around them.

    For example, American anti-immigrant sentiments. I’m inclined to believe that, intuitively, people don’t believe “they” are taking “our” jobs. The notion, however, that American citizens should have a secure job market with good paying jobs that’s not undermined by outsourcing or low wage ‘undocumented’ workers becomes reason enough to subscribe even the most ridiculous anti-immigrant propaganda.

    I say that because people inclined to believe or express anti-immigrant sentiments will continue to do so no matter what the facts are. I think even during the first incident of racism, whatever it was, the person holding the uninformed racist belief did so because they were heavily invested in some idea about themselves, their “race” and/or the world as they know it that misinformation about the “other” functions to justify things or help them make sense of things.

    Also, I think the anti-immigrant sentiments has classic signs of historic racism which, at least to me, always seemed to have resources (who will control them or benefit most from them) at the core. Then, too, I guess you have that bit of human nature (which, IMO, has both good and ‘bad’) where there are some people who have to put somebody else down to feel better about themselves.

    So, back to the “our” jobs sentiment… For poor and working class Whites who express those sentiments, it seems to me that it’s easier to blame somebody else, the racial “other”, instead of questioning racial solidarity they’ve invested in with their ruling class brethren.

    Comment by Nquest — November 23, 2008 @ 2:13 pm | Reply

  9. […] something out there because it’s on my mind.  Maybe, if you consider this a sequel to the “What X said is stupid… ignorant… but not racist” thread, my comments will be in-keeping with the overall thrust of this […]

    Pingback by [Stuff non-white people say about stuff white people say] « Stuff White People Say — November 24, 2008 @ 2:48 am | Reply

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