This one has been bugging me for a while. The latest case example seems to come from Ron Paul.
It seems that post OJ-trial, people have been quick to accuse others of playing "the race card" whenever they try to bring up the fact that, yes, racism really does still occur in this country. Basically, all you need to do to avoid being called a racist is to insist that you aren't one. The phrase, "I'm not a racist, but _______" is supposed to magically excuse any comment that follows, no matter how racist it may be. Ron Paul, Don Imus, Michael Richards, etc., will all claim that they aren't racist, regardless of what they actually say.
In the Ron Paul example, you have a history of him saying blatantly racist things, like insisting that only 5% of black people have "sensible" politics (re: extreme libertarian politics), and that the other 95% are criminals. And then you have a libertarian supporters who are wiling to excuse this, because it seems "out of character" for him, and because they don't usually see him come off as very racist in normal circumstance. Which simply begs the question: How does
an racist person come accross in normal circumstances, especially considering that most racism isn't overt, and overt racism is highly unpopular? Even the KKK can come accross as being non-racist if you interview them at the right time of day. It seems like basically what people are saying is, "Yes, he might have said something racist back then. But I've never seen him personally lynch black people or light any crosses on fire, so he doesn't strike me as a racist person."
I also dealt with another libertarian physics major recently who claimed that there was actually no such thing as discrimination against black people in America these days, and that any gaps and social standing was the result of the fact that white people simply had more evolved brain capacity. Not surprisingly, this person took great offense when I accused him of being racist. After all, it's not like he hated
black people for being black. That would be racist! He just thought that black people were genetically inferior and therefore less likely to be qualified for work. What's so racist about that?
My thoughts are that racism is still a problem in this country, to the extent that it can be measured with emprical data. But people are too quick to find excuses to deny it. I can post a study showing that white people who served in prison for selling cocaine had a better chance of finding a job than black people with similar resumes but no criminal record, and the response I get is, "Gee, maybe the employer went to the same school as the white kid, or disliked the school the black kid went to." I post studies from linguistic experts showing that "black" sounding voices are told that there are no apartments available and "white" sounding voices get responses from the same landlord immeadiately, even when identical grammar is used, and the response I get is that it must be some oversight. Basically, anything to skid around the most obvious answer of, "Well, maybe it really is
because the guy is black." Moreover, when you try to point out that such discrimination happens, the conservative response always seems to be, "Well gee, you're the REAL racist, for insisting that black people need an extra hand in order to compete." Which I never understood at all.
Does this bother anyone else? It seems that (mostly white) conservatives have tried to take the control of the term racism, in order to further an agenda that hurts minorities, rather than helping them. For instance, Ron Paul tries to the left by saying that "Their obsession with racial group identity is inherently racist." In other words, by allowing black people to have their own sense of culture, you are being a racist. The non-racists should uphold the status quo culture, which just so happens to predominantly benefit WASPs. How convenient.