I’m not racist': Common claim after racial slurs

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Goff says it depends on the individual – but that the rush to brand people as racist obscures the bigger issue of the harm caused by their statements.

“Let’s have a conversation about why (Garcia) said it in the first place, and why these moments seem to come up so much,” Goff said. “We should be able to say, ‘You know what, that was one of those implicit bias moments.'”

Whatever they are called, such moments come up every day for Logan Smith, a journalist who runs the Twitter feed YesYoureRacist. He started about eight months ago, after noticing a plethora of tweets starting with “I’m not racist, but.”

Some of his favorite examples: “I’m not racist but having a black president is just not smart,” “I’m not racist but black people scare me,” and “I’m not racist but I can see where Hitler was coming from.”

He said most of the tweets seem to come from teenagers: “They didn’t grow up seeing ‘coloreds only’ water fountains, or civil rights marches in the papers, or apartheid on TV, and as a result, many of them simply don’t understand what racism means,” Smith said via email.

“They think that unless they’re actually lynching a black person or something, they’re not racist,” Smith said, “because they don’t understand things like institutionalized racism or inferiorization, and the historical context of their statement.”

Many might not know the ugly history of chicken and black stereotypes.

In the early 1900s, periodicals and postcards commonly displayed images of black people as grotesque, simple-minded “coons” obsessed with chicken and watermelon. From the 1920s to the 1950s, a three-restaurant chain of Coon Chicken Inns was popular around Salt Lake City, Seattle and Portland.

So when people associate black folks with chicken, the past often rushes into the present – as in a famous routine by the black comedian Dave Chappelle.

“A lot of black people can relate to this. Have you ever had something happen that was so racist, that you didn’t even get mad?” Chappelle said.

He then tells a story about walking into a restaurant, contemplating his order with the counterman, and “before I even finish my sentence he says, ‘The chicken!'”

“All these years I thought I liked chicken ’cause it was delicious,” Chappelle said. “Turns out I’m genetically predisposed to liking chicken!”

Jesse Washington covers race and ethnicity for The Associated Press. He can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jessewashington or jwashington@ap.org.

 

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