“But I’m Not Racist!”

Many of you probably saw the news reports–or the video–of the man on a Ryanair flight who engaged in a rant during which he called a black woman seated next to him an “ugly black bastard.”

You may have missed reports of his subsequent apology, which included his assertion that he “is not a racist.”

A man who subjected a fellow passenger on a Ryanair flight to a racist tirade has apologised publicly for the first time a week after the incident, claiming that he is not a racist and lost his temper “a bit”.

Then there was the fine fellow who tried to enter a black church in Kentucky, was unable to gain access, and settled for shooting two African-Americans he’d never met who were shopping in a nearby Kroger store. 

A white man with a history of violence fatally shot two African American customers at a grocery store in Kentucky and was swiftly arrested as he tried to flee, police said Thursday. They said it was too soon to say what prompted Wednesday’s shooting, responding to an earlier account from a witness that when confronted with another white man during the incident, the suspect said: “Whites don’t shoot whites.”

It’s always comforting to attribute these senseless, horrific acts to “disturbed” individuals, and obviously, these are people with significant mental/emotional problems. But if we ignore the impetus for these acts, we risk even more civil disorder and tragedy. In the wake of the recent rash of pipe-bomb deliveries to people that Trump has identified as “enemies,”and the horrific shooting attack on Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue, we need to heed the recent warning by a columnist for the Guardian:

Political violence in the United States has tended to come in two forms. The first consists of simply unhinged acts, like John Hinckley Jr shooting Ronald Reagan in the hope of impressing the actress Jodie Foster, or Timothy McVeigh hoping to bring down the government with a bomb. The second is more systematic and sinister: the violence used to keep down groups who threaten the social and political order. This is the violence of strike breakers and the KKK. It is the violence that killed Emmett Till, an African-American teenager who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955 after allegedly wolf-whistling at a white woman.

A key feature of the second type of violence is that it has often been perpetrated by private individuals while serving the interests of public authorities. This is why the authorities encourage it. Till’s killers walked free because Mississippi’s court system would not convict them, understanding that their act reinforced white supremacy at a time when it was under threat from desegregation. This was violence of the people, by the people, for the government.

As the writer noted, America currently has a president who “frequently and vividly” talks to enthusiastic supporters about the desirability of a violent response to those who oppose him.

As Paul Krugman recently reminded us, this use of invective and demonization didn’t start with Trump. It’s a strategy the right has been using for decades. By promoting culture war issues, and religious and (especially) racial antagonisms, they’ve been able to distract working-class voters from policies that hurt them. Trump is simply the blunt instrument of a strategy that has been cynically pursued for many years.

That doesn’t make him any less dangerous, however. Nor does it excuse the shameful efforts currently being made to excuse his proud embrace of Nationalism–to pretend that the omission of the word “White” somehow modified the clear meaning of that embrace.

Former GOP strategist Steve Schmidt cut through the lame efforts to soften and dismiss Trump’s message: 

While discussing the racial politics of the Florida gubernatorial election, ex-Republican strategist Steve Schmidt argued Thursday that the whole party has been dragged down into a dangerous association with racists because of President Donald Trump’s rhetoric and policies.

Schmidt asserted during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Deadline: White House” that Trump’s recent declaration of himself as a “nationalist” was a direct message to some of the most pernicious parts of the far right.

“When Donald Trump declares himself a ‘nationalist,’ the nationalists understand exactly what he means,” said Schmidt. “By the way, let’s stop calling them ‘white nationalists’ and call them by their names, which are ‘neo-Nazis’ and ‘Klansmen.'”

Whatever the motives of people who voted for Donald Trump in 2016, I agree with my youngest son that there are two, and only two, categories of people who continue to support him: those in full agreement with his overt and virulent racism, misogyny and anti-Semitism, and those for whom his bigotry–and his incitement of violence against the targets of that bigotry –doesn’t matter.

Those in the second category may deny being racist. Those denials are about as persuasive as the protestations of the bigot who demeaned his seat mate on Ryanair.

30 thoughts on ““But I’m Not Racist!”

  1. Sheila, thanks for this brilliant piece that is SO on target! For me, this behavior of motivating his avid and fanatical supporters to into a frenzy (much like Hitler with his Brown shirts) is truly frightening. Our nation is founded on the basis of acceptance and tolerance for different political and religious views. As President, I believe you should be working to unite America and bring factions together. Instead this administration has polarized our nation. Screaming statements at his rallies like “Like her up.” and “Get him out of here.” (when someone was recording what he was saying) is a clear indication to me that this administration views tolerance of alternate views as a threat and weakness.

  2. Sorry Steve Schmidt, you’re close but no cigar.
    The Republican Party is not “being dragged down into a dangerous association with racists because of Donald Trumps rhetoric and policies”, it already has been in that relationship and for decades. The Nixon Republican Party with its “southern strategy” opened the door to that relationship in the 1970s, and they have courted those voters ever since with code words and dog whistles. With Trump there are no code words and dog whistles, just hatred, intolerance, and violence. Country club Republicans may feign shock and voice a “tisk tisk”, but the truth is that they will continue to quietly support and vote for the party that keeps them in the gravy.

  3. All true with no end in sight. Written soft words (by others) followed by hard actions and hard words emanating from the broken mind of our fake president.

  4. Of course, Trump supporters will place themselves in a third nonexistent category of so-called patriots who put America first. I’m guessing they mean during the days of the Confederacy.

    Farmers voted him along with rural America because Trump’s goal was to make foreign countries pay for our trade imbalances. His only act the first two years was enacting tariffs which were not only reciprocated, but countries like China went to other countries and bought their soybeans. Now we have a glut of soybeans, and the federal government (we the people) had to bail out the farmers.

    So, will they vote for those who support his policies?

    As I watched this coming to fruition as the Koch brothers took over the GOP and transitioned from the blatant racists of the Tea Party to the repackaged racism of Trump and #MAGA, I wondered how they would handle the racism once again. Now we know…they hugged and kissed it.

    The problem is none of the GOP’s policies are benefiting his supporters. He’s using racism and America’s ancient character defect to win elections without crafting a single plan to help those who reward the GOP with a vote.

    However, I have witnessed a few efforts on Twitter of Trump trying to depict hordes of people of color rallying for the GOP. Why?

    I call it the Italian WW2 flip-flop. The Democratic National Party has done nothing for people of color. Their national support of drug wars and private prisons has crippled many black communities, especially in the South.

    Once again, they are being tricked into believing that Trump is for the little guy. Trump has done nothing except talk like a fifth-grade graduate to make them think this. He’s not a polished politician, but he and Congress have done nothing for the little guys and gals.

    Hood-winked is the word.

    But the Democratic Party’s reaction to Trump is, “But we’re polished politicians who aren’t racists.”

    #Resistance

    It’s embarrassing to watch.

    A great example of their strategy backfiring was Trump telling supporters at one of his rallies that he supported a 10% tax for low to middle-income folks (we little guys/gals didn’t feel the “excellent” tax giveaway this year). The media and the GOP have quickly tuned that out. It was played for less than a day on Twitter and disappeared.

    Both Donor-centered parties have slogans. #MAGA and #Resistance

    Neither of them has clear-cut platforms to address income and wealth inequality, our current health, education, and global climate crises.

    Slogans are symbols of propaganda. 😉

    #Losing, Not #Winning

  5. I’m curious about one thing regarding the white man in Kentucky who shot two black men in the back of the head as they shopped at a Kroger store. It was reported he had been denied entry to a black church but WHY was he trying to enter that church? I believe his intention was the same as Bowers’ who unfortunately was allowed to enter the Synagogue in Pittsburgh; and neither of them wanted to pray with congregants. I am also curious as to why he was (LUCKILY) denied entry to the black church; we seem to be getting only part of this story, or did I miss something?

    We all have some level of racism, however small it may be, instilled in our thought processes from childhood…and I do include ALL because racism is a 2-way street. Having been married to black men and living in primarily black neighborhoods I saw and heard it first-hand. Have also experienced the bigotry from Catholics who refused to allow their children to play with “us” believing “our” evil would somehow rub off on their sainted sons and daughters.

    “Whatever the motives of people who voted for Donald Trump in 2016, I agree with my youngest son that there are two, and only two, categories of people who continue to support him: those in full agreement with his overt and virulent racism, misogyny and anti-Semitism, and those for whom his bigotry–and his incitement of violence against the targets of that bigotry –doesn’t matter.”

    We have experienced atrocities that boggle the minds of thinking Americans during the past two weeks ; all of which has escalated the downfall of the United States of American as a world leader…we are no longer considered acceptable as a leader in anything but hatred, bigotry and violence. We all, pro and con, understood what Trump means when declaring himself to be a “Nationalist” and we don’t care what his hair looks like. His complaints that the “bomb stuff” distracted attention from the election actually means it distracted from his appearance at the rallies. This all fits with those supporters in full agreement with “his overt and virulent racism, misogyny and anti-Semitism” and to those to whom it doesn’t matter.

    Another question; can a person be racist against members of their own race? Because to tell the truth; I sure as hell am sick of looking at those white people who are tearing our country apart.

    VOTE BLUE!

  6. Thank you Sheila,

    We’re clearly off the rails and the person in the position, the unique position, to put us back on track is clearly out to lunch and the main instigator of the train wreck we are experiencing. We currently lack a lever in any constitutional position to read in a positive way and stand up for what is right in this country. Theodore Roosevelt’s beloved “bully pulpit” is now being used as a mechanism to spread the most vile messaging that is so corrosively divisive that it is crippling this country war and more every day.

    We have a maniac in the Oval Office pure and simple, served by other maniacs that reinforce his vile and divisive messaging that infest both the White House but also the Congress. This all amounts to a meltdown both of our governmental leadership at the national level but also of our society as a whole. Personally, I don’t see a change in this even if the democrats do have their blue wave next week since the man at the top, and I use that term very loosely, is incapable of changing his ways and being a national leader that anyone that thinks of the safety and security of the country as a whole could never look up to.

    Meanwhile, as the old expression from the 1960s and a Vietnam War period goes – the whole world is watching while we have a national reckoning with what we are becoming in spite of all the good intentions and good people that are not white nationalists, racists and anti-Semites. Those people are being drowned out by the efforts of an American President that through his rhetoric and his actions is ripping the social fabric of this country to pieces.

  7. I note that there is a difference between racism and prejudice. We all have the latter and many of us have the former. I speak with racists every day who believe that they are not racists. They tell me they have friends who are black, so they could not possibly be racists. Just like alcoholics, they can’t begin to resolve this issue until they admit that it is an issue.

    Now we are presented with a “leader” who uses their fears against us all. What can we do about it? We have been given one tool by our founding fathers. We must use it now, before it is too late. We must repudiate hate with a blue tsunami. We have eight more days to get family and friends and ourselves out to vote. Dems may not be perfect, but they are a lot better than what we have.

    VOTE BLUE!

  8. Marie Ippolito began, “Our nation is founded on the basis of acceptance and tolerance for different political and religious views.” Would it was so. Puritans burned witches. Indigenous practices, political and religious, were deemed inferior, were neither accepted or tolerated. Our history has been an ongoing battle between acceptance and confrontation, tolerance and intolerance. What we are experiencing is just another chapter of racism and intolerance. It must be purged. May acceptance and tolerance regain power for a generation or two. Yes, vote blue, and if blue wins hold those winners feet to the cleansing fire of acceptance and toleration.

  9. Tom,

    [from an ex-blogger]

    “Those who have only empty space above them are almost inevitably lost in it, if no force restrains them.”
    ~Emile Durkheim, Suicide

    Intellectualizing about a sociopath like Trump is a terrible waste of valuable time. The problem was outlined as far back as 1956, in “THE NINTH WAVE” by Eugene Burdick, co-author of “The Ugly American” and “Fail Safe.” You have to understand the formula:

    FEAR + HATE = POWER. That was the, protagonist,Mike Freesmith’s formula for success, just like it is for Donald Trump.

  10. There is not one person I know of or know personally that if you drill deep enough – you will find a form of ‘racist’. That is just human nature as it exists today. NOT ONE. Myself included. I try to dig out such things in myself, because I am aware of things that were ingrained in me by my parents and others when I was very very young. Children don’t lose those words you speak in their memories you know! But it is the personal drive and awareness that makes the difference. You either stay that way or you change. I used to really piss my parents off – because I wasn’t one who wanted to live the way they did – I wanted to live away from people. I was entirely happy not to be around other people – I never knew why other people treated me different. I never wanted to believe it was due to bigotry – what did I do to them? At the age of 22 I gave up denying that it was them being bigots. However, I determined – I didn’t want to react back to them the way they acted to me. People cannot hide their bigotry – most just do not know it. To me bigotry, fear and Hate are forms of ignorance. And I cannot stand ignorance – especially in my self! So can you imagine how it bothers me now as an adult of 66 years to see such ignorance flaunting itself in front of our faces every day? It is so pervasive as to make one ask if it is even worth trying to change that tide. However: I do not tire so easily – I have been worked on by experts! The sad part is having to quite literally ‘arm’ oneself against it. (and for any that say, ‘Well you are a person of faith, why do you carry a pistol?’ To that I can only say, ‘Yes, I am. BUT I was given a brain – I do try to use it.’) Such is the condition of the world. Only we who claim to want better – can make it better! VOTE dammit!!! And vote for a restoration of Sanity.

  11. I hope and pray that the democrats win the majority in the house. We need a strong check on this president.

  12. Yes, all of us have a phobia of “the other”, because that’s how humans evolved. It took a major intellectual leap to go from overt hostile tribalism to something resembling a society, or as Desmond Morris once labeled it, a super tribe. O.K. Now, we have to make yet another major intellectual leap as a species to overcome the use of those ancient instincts as weapons, political weapons.

    In Donald Trump we have a true madman who is projecting and transferring his pathology to everyone who opposes him. He cares not a whit about anyone or anything but himself and is clearly displaying a textbook of psychological diseases in order to enflame the fools and the ignorant…as mentioned by others above.

    I hope it is just a temporary condition and will motivate enough rational people to make the leap, and vote the Republican party into extinction. Republicans are no longer patriots or really citizens. They are the mostly the product of the reversal of civilization into a primitive, neolithic cult.

  13. JoAnn > “I am also curious as to why he was (LUCKILY) denied entry to the black church; we seem to be getting only part of this story, or did I miss something?” Church doors were locked per a report a read. “To think that an hour and a half earlier, we had 70 people in the church,” church administrator Billy Williams told the affiliate. “But by the time he came through, all doors were locked, and there were probably eight or 10 still in the building.”
    *****************************************************

    We have to face the facts, there are many racists, etc., in our society and a few will “hear the call” and resort to violence. We can try to change their thought process, but that effort has failed. Many excuses are offered.

    The one big variable in all these mass shootings is the availability of firearms in the USA vs countries in Western Europe, Japan and Australia. The NRA here in USA is the tail that wags the dog.

    Mass shootings in schools, churches, malls, concerts, movie theaters, etc., are subject to the analysis paralysis of motive. Motive, means and opportunity are key ingredients of any crime. The “Means” of the mass shootings and the horrific gun violence in our cities are firearms.

    What the Republicans and some cowardly Democrats have decided is rather than oppose the NRA types – We are expendable – Collateral Damage.

  14. I do not agree that all is lost, but I do agree that it could be unless we rise to the task and defeat this Trump contagion of what was once a creeping fascism but is now, having little resistance, a raging river on an international scale giving us the likes of Pittsburgh, Istanbul, and now Brazil.

    Our ace in the hole is winning the House (and thus the purse strings) where we can impede or even end Trump’s open-wallet tariff and wall games, among others, and lest we forget, it is the House that has the impeachment (legislative indictment) powers. So the Senate will not convict on the House’s finding of guilt? So? Let them (finally) be called upon to publicly explain why they have done nothing (even though they now have their tax cuts and judges) to prevent this budding dictator from pulling his Bannon-inspired fascist coup here which, if successful, would remove both Democrats and Republicans from their Madisonian tri-partite positions of constitutional power, inasmuch as there will be no Constitution in the new order of things.

    What to do? Elect a Democratic House next week and if at all possible a Democratic Senate as well. Personal note > I have resisted Marv’s description of fascism as having already arrived with the argument that we are only en route. Pittsburgh has persuaded me that I was wrong and he is right. It’s here, so now what are we going to do about it? Bunker Hill or Munich?

  15. Monotonous; thank you so much for that information.

    Regarding Trump’s foolish remark about having armed guards in the Synagogue; to paraphrase a post on Facebook this morning, “If you need armed guards to protect your freedom of religion, you don’t have freedom of religion.” This bit of wisdom is something he and the evangelicals will never understand due to their religious support of the 2nd Amendment.

  16. I’ve said it before and find this a good time to say it again: I do not like dogs. I am biased against dogs. I don’t want to be around dogs. I am certain that dogs are inferior to cats. I am afraid of dogs. You might think that I am prejudiced against dogs. The fact that I like my son’s two dogs, am good buddies with both of them, and know how to say good things about dogs does not nullify the fact that I am prejudiced against dogs. So much for those who say they are not prejudiced against blacks because they say they have a friend who is black and can say something nice about a black person once in a while.

  17. Rev. Hernandaz, I asked you a question on Saturday about your promise that you posted on Sarurday. Did you not seethe question? Irvin

  18. We must abandon and stamp out Republican style racism and replace it with Democratic Party sanctioned racism!

  19. McVeigh’s terrorist attack in OKC was not simply an “unhinged act” as you suggest, but a well planned attack by at minimum a group of three conspirators against the US government. I followed the news reports very closely for at 9:01 AM Central Time April 19, 1995 I looked out my classroom window to see the column of smoke rising from downtown OKC. Please correct this column accordingly.

  20. When I think back over my 76 years, and my travels around, I would have to say there is less overt racism here now then used to be. Also considering another flavor of prejudice, men treated women with maybe even too much respectful difference then compared to now.

    So culture changes due to many forces and that what’s dysfunctional today. There have always been jerks like Agent Orange and racists and misogynists but as I recall my earlier years none would have ever stood even the smallest chance of being elected for President.

    People who play with statistics find the concept of a “normal distribution” as close enough to being accurate to be useful. Of course what one looks like is the back of a one hump camel and what it implies is that for many traits of humans there are extremes among a few but most are near the mean or average of the trait. Take height for instance. There are the unnaturally short, and the unnaturally tall but most are near average. However if one looks closer women on the average are shorter than men are on the average so the distribution curve for height for all humans is not a “normal curve” but a “dipolar curve”. A two hump camel.

    My observation is that our society has gone politically from a normal distribution of beliefs to a dipolar distribution of beliefs and that fact alone put us into a cliff hanger position. We are no longer one, united, all for each other. We are two widely diverse tribes warring with each other. Remember “united we stand, divided we fall”?

    Everyone who knows me knows that my personal opinion is that the cause of our collective dementia is pervasive entertainment media and the business behind it driven by one motivation: make more money regardless of the impact on any others. Loyal audiences are the source of making money in entertainment and creating tribes leads to loyal audiences if done right.

    Given that observation the path forward can take two possible directions. One is to continue down to completely dysfunctional while the other is that a cultural force more powerful than entertainment will restore our unity.

    While it’s easy to come up with a list of possibilities comparing them to the power of entertainment media in our lives reveals that it would be an uphill battle for any of them to overcome the combination of how pervasive in our lives entertainment media is, and how fundamental make more money regardless of the impact on any others is to who we are.

  21. Marv,
    Welcome back! I value your comments. You keep them short and on point. We’ve really needed you, especially now.

  22. Betty,

    I’m not back. But I am available only if needed, especially, if things don’t turn out the way most of you on this blog are counting on. I hope it’s a “Blue Victory,” but I’m coming from a much different direction from most all of you, since I don’t put any of my “chips” on partisan politics to protect my future.

  23. Thanks Marv! Sometimes my anger over all this gets to me. Thanks for the good advice and mid-course correction!

  24. Trumps new t.v. show, hate America! sponsored by FOX news,and brietbart.. with rob mercer directing.,all commercials by companies who support the demise of the constotution for self profit. tonight, the MAGAbomber….
    now a word from reality t.v. keep watching to see who gets it next!

  25. trump wants to visit pittsburg for his so called condolences,(campaign)
    35,000 people petitioned,to stay away..NPR…

  26. Jack Smith; thank you, and the Mayor of Pittsburgh would rather the Trumps stay away till the end of this week and let them get through all of these funerals. They will be adding confusion and need added security and traffic control which is necessary for ELEVEN funerals. Another rally and photo-op for Trump, distraction and confusion for thousands of mourners.

Comments are closed.