White people really don’t like being called racists

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In his defense of Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani declares, “To call anyone a racist is outrageous.”

Comedian Louis CK has a bit about white privilege that includes a riff on the lack of effective racial slurs against white people. “Ruined my day,” he mockingly complains after being called a cracker. It’s an interesting observation, but CK overlooked one word that does cause white people to become uppity: the word “racist” itself. For many white people, it has become a slur in its own right.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, accusations of racism were made against Donald Trump and many of his top surrogates, including Rudy Giuliani, Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions. The allegations were well-founded: Giuliani supports stop-and-frisk policing and has been an aggressive critic of Black Lives Matter; Bannon’s fascist-lite Breitbart served as a propaganda arm for Trump and a platform for the white nationalist alt-right; and Sessions was deemed too racist for a federal judgeship even in the 1980s.

Trump’s racism has been well-documented for decades. He first attained national publicity with a housing discrimination case in 1973. In 1989 he bought ad space in New York newspapers to attack a group of black and Hispanic teenagers falsely convicted of rape, and maintains their guilt even after DNA evidence cleared them. His political career began in earnest when he peddled the racist birther conspiracy and he launched his presidential campaign by demonizing Mexican immigrants as drug dealers, criminals and rapists.

In 2016 Giuliani defended Trump, saying, “To say that Donald Trump is a racist is outrageous, and to call anyone a racist is outrageous.” The second part of the statement is the real kicker – Giuliani believes that “to call anyone a racist is outrageous.” Apparently it’s outrageous, then, when Giuliani himself characterizes Black Lives Matter as “inherently racist.”

Allegations of racism cause white people great offense. Racist has become their ‘r’-word. It triggers immediate defensiveness and hostility. Even neo-Nazi Richard Spencer, who coined “alt-right” as a code term for white nationalism and calls for a “white ethno-state” and “peaceful ethnic cleansing,” denies he’s a racist. “It’s a pejorative word,” Spencer said. “It is the equivalent of saying, ‘I don’t like you.’ ‘Racist’ is just a slur word.”

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Proud that a black man attended one of his rallies, Trump proclaimed the man “My African-American.”

Being called a racist reminds white people of slavery, lynch mobs, and wars of imperialism. They reject these as crimes from the past that they had nothing to do with. What they don’t realize is that slavery still exists; it’s just moved to the penal system. Lynch mobs now wear badges and the wars of imperialism have merely shifted from the Far East to the Middle East. Racist policies continue, but to call them racist is now politically incorrect.

During congressional review of Jeff Sessions’s appointment as attorney general, Elizabeth Warren attempted to read from a 1986 letter written by Coretta Scott King protesting Sessions’s then-nomination for a federal judgeship. In the letter, King accused Sessions, then a US Attorney in Alabama, of using his office to “intimidate and frighten elderly black voters.” Before Warren could read the letter, she was censured by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said Warren “impugned the motives and conduct of our colleague from Alabama.”

Since then, Sessions has been confirmed as attorney general. He has promised an escalation of the War on Drugs, a fundamentally racist policy that has imprisoned generations of people of color and ravaged their communities. The Trump Administration has also signaled its intention to further suppress the vote, particularly in poor and minority districts. But to label these actions and the people carrying them out as racist is, for many whites, a bridge too far.

White people’s desire to not be labeled racist is intense. On one hand, this reflects a growing recognition that racism is evil. But the effect has been white people pretending racism doesn’t exist, exemplified by Trump’s ridiculous declaration, “I am the least racist person that you have ever met.” Gripes about political correctness also stem from whites’ insistence that they not be labeled racist. The irony is that blacklisting the word “racist” is the most sinister form of political correctness yet devised.

There are degrees of racism. Many racist attitudes happen on a subconscious level, reinforced by media and cultural narratives that seem benign, and they occur in the minds of people with no active ill intent. But those attitudes, if not rooted out and honestly confronted, lead to white complacency. They lead white people to, for instance, sympathize with and exonerate a man who murdered a black teenager over his suspicious hoodie.

Above all else, white people need to learn from people of color. The best reaction to an accusation of racism is an effort to understand the charge and consider an attitude adjustment. Defensiveness minimizes the allegation and, therefore, can itself be a racist act. The essence of white privilege is obliviousness to the systemic racial oppression that touches every corner of American life. By treating “racist” as an unfair slur, white people conveniently maintain that system while removing themselves from any complicity in it.

The problem of cop-on-citizen crime is cultural

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Police use violence to contain a crowd in Anaheim protesting police violence in 2012.

Whenever a black, brown or Muslim person commits a crime, pundits spend the next news cycle trying to diagnose what it is about those communities that produces such violence. White Americans are so convinced the problem is with the groups themselves, and not individuals or social forces, that they elected a president who wants to ban all Muslims, build a wall to keep out immigrants, and instill law and order in black neighborhoods.

Yet when a police officer kills an unarmed citizen, media presents the officer’s side of the story; digs into the victim’s past for any evidence of wrongdoing, no matter how petty; and urges the public not to turn against law enforcement. When the officer is truly indefensible, he’s cast as a bad apple. But if there’s any group in America whose violence needs to be examined on a systemic level, it’s the police. Continue reading

Violence at Berkeley is less about free speech than it is white nationalism

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Gavin McInnes, founder of the political street gang Proud Boys, reads what would have been Ann Coulter’s speech at Berkeley.

On April 27, far-right polemicist Ann Coulter was scheduled to give a speech at the University of California at Berkeley. After a lot of back-and-forth, during which Coulter was disinvited, re-invited and rescheduled, the group that sponsored her ultimately backed out. Security concerns, including a near-guarantee of violence, prompted both Coulter and the Young America’s Foundation to decide that her appearance would jeopardize people’s well-being. In a statement, Coulter said, “It’s a sad day for free speech.” Continue reading

For Yiannopoulos, age of consent controversy is a wasted opportunity

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In multiple podcast interviews, Yiannopoulos attempted to defend certain kinds of pedophilia.

When a professional internet troll has to backpedal or apologize, it means he fucked up bad. Milo Yiannopoulos’s living is built largely on characterizing marginalized groups – women, immigrants, Muslims, black people, fat people, the poor – as bullies trying to oppress good, honest, white men. He’s been canceled by event organizers, banned from Twitter, and violently protested against, all of which propped up his brand as a First Amendment provocateur.

Now his provocations have alienated him from this base. During several podcast interviews, Yiannopoulos attempted to minimize and normalize pedophilia. After the remarks were publicized, a planned appearance at CPAC was canceled and a book deal with Simon & Schuster fell through. Yiannopoulos knows he’s in trouble this time, and he’s acting precisely as the free speech crusader he is – by backpedaling and worming out of his own words. Continue reading

Bill Maher grants professional alt-right troll a mainstream platform

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Among the people Yiannopoulos makes a career out of hating are poor immigrants.

A micro-controversy is bubbling in the world of liberal infotainment. Milo Yiannopoulos, the Breitbart editor and self-described internet supervillain, was booked as a guest on Friday’s Real Time with Bill Maher. In protest, Jeremy Scahill, a founding editor for The Intercept, canceled his own scheduled appearance on the show. Maher responded by saying, in part, “Liberals will continue to lose elections as long as they follow the example of people like Mr. Scahill.”

Maher further explained, “If Mr. Yiannopoulos is indeed the monster Scahill claims – and he might be – nothing could serve the liberal cause better than having him exposed on Friday night.” But Maher is missing the point. Exposure is precisely what Yiannopoulos craves. It doesn’t matter if he’s revealed as a full-throated Nazi and booed out of the building; he has already won. Continue reading

This is how it begins

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Arsonists set fire to a mosque in Victoria, Texas after President Trump announced a travel ban on select Muslim nations.

According to early reports from Reuters, President Trump plans to refocus a US program called Countering Violent Extremism. The CVE, which combats dangerous ideologies of all stripes, will be repurposed to solely target Islamic fascism and jihad. But as anyone who’s looked at crime data knows, the risk of Islamic terror in the US is infrequent. Trump’s decision to focus on it is not about protecting Americans, it’s about demonizing human beings based on religion and ethnicity. Continue reading

For the love of God, Trump supporters, don’t worship the man

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A popular sub-Reddit devoted to Trump refers to him as a “God Emperor.” It certainly matches Trump’s view of himself.

Countless alarms, both at home and abroad, have been raised by the election of Donald Trump. Not everyone is worried, though. Many of Trump’s supporters are eager to defend his every lie, his every unconstitutional policy, and his every whining tweet. This part of his support base is drawn to him like a cult to its guru and feels he can do no wrong. That’s a dangerous attitude to have about any elected official, and about Trump in particular. Continue reading

America was not ready for a black president

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President Obama convened his controversial beer summit in 2009, after the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates.

During Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, pundits spent a great deal of time on the question, “Is America ready for a black president?” The question seemed both deeply racist – as though black people had to wait for white America to be ready for them – and insulting to all Americans’ intelligence. But after two terms of President Obama and the rise of Donald Trump, the answer in hindsight seems to have been a decisive “No.” Continue reading

Trump and the far right: America’s real PC bullies

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to supporters through a bullhorn during a campaign stop at the Canfield County Fair in Canfield

The last thing the world needs: Trump with a bullhorn. REUTERS/Mike Segar

If you haven’t been offended by Donald Trump yet, chances are you just haven’t listened to him enough. He’s insinuated that Mexican immigrants are criminals and rapists, that American Muslims protect terrorists in their neighborhoods, and that a female journalist who challenged him over sexist remarks was on her period. Even groups he hasn’t explicitly attacked are subject to profoundly thoughtless remarks – in response to the murder of Nykea Aldridge, a black mother in Chicago, Trump tweeted, “African-Americans will VOTE TRUMP!”

For his supporters, this is just the kind of no-nonsense tough talk the country needs. Flying in the face of political correctness is regularly cited as one of the Trump’s greatest qualities, as though giving offense was a virtue in and of itself. But the reality is that Trump, and his legions of supporters, are among the most strident PC thugs in the country. Continue reading

How religion determines if a mass shooter is a terrorist

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A vigil in Thailand shows solidarity with the victims in Orlando.

In the wee hours of June 12, during a period of festivity and camaraderie, 49 people were killed and more than 50 others were injured by bullets fired from a military-grade assault weapon legally purchased by a man who had been a suspected terrorist. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history, perpetrated by a US-born Muslim who pledged allegiance to ISIS. But if the killer had been anything other than Muslim, the national conversation in the tragedy’s wake might be much different.

GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump took the tragedy as an opportunity to pat himself on the back for “being right on radical Islamic terrorism.” Since that widely criticized tweet, most pundits and politicians have characterized shooter Omar Mateen as a terrorist. They did the same for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and San Bernardino killers Tashfeen Malik and Syed Farook. But not all mass shooters are called terrorists. Those with names like James Holmes, Adam Lanza and Jared Loughner, for instance, usually aren’t. Continue reading