Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Giving Validity to Racism

This article, on Joe Wilson's outburst, and Jimmy Carter's claim that the outburst was "based on racism," and Wilson's son's defense of his father ("There is not a racist bone in my dad's body"), brings up an interesting point. And it's one that bears repeating. It may well be true that Carter is right, and that the words were racially motivated. It may also be true that Wilson's son is right. But the fact remains that, regardless of motive, behaving like this feeds racism. And if you're truly not a racist person, then you have an obligation to consider the impact your words will have regardless of what your motives are in the moment. That's just the way it works. As Dick Harpootlian (South Carolina's former Democratic Party chairman) notes:

"I think Joe's conduct was asinine, but I think it would be asinine no matter what the color of the president," said Dick Harpootlian, who has known Wilson for decades. "I don't think Joe's outburst was caused by President Obama being African-American. I think it was caused by no filter being between his brain and his mouth."
Harpootlian said he received scores of racial e-mails from outside South Carolina after he talked about the vote on Fox News.
"You have a bunch of folks out there looking for some comfort in their racial issues. They have a problem with an African-American president," he said. "But was he motivated by that? I don't think so. I respectfully disagree with President Carter, though it gives validity to racism." (Emphasis added)

And lending validity to racist views is something for which you do have to take responsibility. You just do.


  1. I tend to agree with Carter here, but either way, I wouldn't expect someone like Wilson to consider the consequences and implications of his outburst at all. Even asking him to be polite and respectful is too much, so how can we expect him to grasp or care about the subtleties of tapping into these cultural scripts and undercurrents?

  2. Bailey9/17/2009