Everyone thinks they have a great sense of humor and no one thinks they’re racist — even when they engage in plainly racist behavior.
That’s never been more apparent than in the weeks since retailers, broadcasters and government officials have disassociated themselves from the Confederate flag after a white supremacist gunned down nine worshipers at a historically black South Carolina church.
In many cases, it’s hard to imagine what some of these obvious racists might possibly imagine could be considered to be genuine racism.
Let’s take as our first example Kyle Rogers, who catalogs black-on-white crime for the Council of Conservative Citizens website — which Charleston gunman Dylann Roof cited as an inspiration for the white supremacist views that motivated his mass killing. “I am not a racist — racist is a slander term,” Rogers said.
Then there’s Karen Fitzgibbons, a Texas woman who lost her teaching job after defending a white police officer who violently broke up some black teenagers’ pool party in suburban Dallas. “I’m going to just go ahead and say it,” Fitzgibbons posted on Facebook. “The blacks are the ones causing the problems and this ‘racial tension.'” She said the incident had pushed her “almost to the point of wanting them all segregated on one side of town.” Of course, she appended the post with the hashtag “not racist.”
A Santa Fe man, Christian Englander, denied any racial motivation for throwing a banana at comedian Dave Chappelle — even though he threw a second banana at another black man who stood up to complain. “The irony of this situation is too much to pass up, and I probably should’ve just let it be,” Englander said.
Richard Dillman, a white Indiana man, parked his Confederate flag-festooned pickup outside a convenience store in a mostly black South Bend neighborhood and went inside — only to be chased out while waving a machete and yelling racial slurs. The military veteran was shot in the face and back but survived, and his friends insist he did not intend to provoke a racial incident. “I’ve never known him to use any racial slurs,” said friend Cally Baker. “Unless someone (provoked) him, I can’t imagine him just blurting out the N-word.”
An Oregon woman, Eva Chapin, was charged earlier this year with harassment and intimidation after repeatedly calling her neighbor a racial slur in a parking dispute — and she led off her clearly racist messages with an implausible denial. “I’m not a racist but I can see how someone can become hating n****rs,” read one note, written on yellow adhesive paper. “You did this. There were no n****rs in (West Linn) until u came.”
Mary Ann Twitty lost her job as court clerk in Ferguson, Missouri, after a white police officer gunned down unarmed black teenager Michael Brown — touching off months of protests and a U.S. Department of Justice investigation. That probe found Twitty and two police officers exchanged racist emails, including images comparing President Barack Obama to a monkey. “Sure, they look racist,” Twitty admitted. “Even when I looked at them, I was thinking, ‘God, that is racist’ – but they were jokes.”
Remember Dr. David McKalip, the Florida neurosurgeon who shared an image with his Tea Party friends depicting Obama as a loincloth-wearing witch doctor with a bone through his nose? He insisted that the image was simply intended as a humorous expression of his concerns over the Affordable Care Act. “I am not a racist,” McKalip said, pointing out that he organized career day counseling for black Boy Scouts.
Carl Paladino, a Buffalo school board member and former Republican candidate for New York governor, denied being racist despite complaints of racial harassment by four black colleagues and sending emails containing racial slurs and comparing Obama to an African tribesman. “They slander me, okay, consistently by calling me a racist,” Paladino said of his critics, who, as he frequently reminds reporters, are African-American.
Another official from Buffalo, Joseph Mascia, lost his job as resident commissioner of the housing authority after he was recorded using the N-word eight times in a minute to describe black community leaders. “The f*cking n*****s, man,” he says on the recording. “Once they get in power, forget about it. Forget it. They want it all.” Mascia apologized for losing his cool and using racial slurs, but he insisted he’s no racist. “The statement was totally out of character,” he said.
Chris Harris, an elected member in Texas, posted a viral image of a Ku Klux Klan member last year with the caption, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.” He apologized — but of course, he insisted he’s no racist.
Donald Trump, the current Republican presidential frontrunner, issued a blanket denial last year that the GOP was racist, after then-Attorney General Eric Holder argued that Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) had treated him disrespectfully due to his race. “A lot of, frankly, Republicans voted for the black president, and (Democracts) go and they play the race card — and it’s really a terrible thing,” Trump told Fox News. The real estate tycoon and reality TV star has repeatedly denied that his doubts about Obama’s birthplace are racially motivated. “I am the least racist person there is,” Trump said. “I think most people who know me would tell you that. I am the least racist, I’ve had great relationships.”