I was listening to a little of The Young Turks while cooking the other night. I like the show, but as I’ve noted in the past, other than Cenk Uygur, it is intellectually weak. And that was well on display in a segment, WWE Fires Hulk Hogan Over Racist Rant. It seems that the wrestler was fired because he was recorded privately saying the n-word repeatedly. I don’t especially care. Are we supposed to be shocked that a profession that has long used the most vile racist stereotypes would not create a nice liberal culture? I’m not saying that WWE shouldn’t have fired him; it is just that it doesn’t matter.
There is one aspect of the tape that I find interesting. As far as I could tell, Hogan was upset because his daughter had abandoned him for some other mentor who was black. And so Hogan was using the worst word that he could think of. In general, my problem with private use of the n-word is that it breeds a broader callous attitude. It is a sign that the person using it is letting (in this case) his racist thoughts become unchecked. And that is a very dangerous thing because it is empathy destroying.
Another thing that Hogan repeated was the phrase, “I guess we’re all a little racist.” I’m not sure what to make of that. It seems like it indicates that Hogan knew what he was saying was wrong, but he had all this anger toward this African American and it was manifesting in some very ugly ways. Certainly, it was self-justification. But I think it shows more self-awareness than I would have expected. If this is Hulk Hogan’s nadir, then I think he’s okay. If this is a typical moment for him, then I’m afraid he is lost to the civilized world. I like to think the best.
But the gang on The Young Turks did not want to think the best. And that’s fine. But all they did was pile on. They provided no insight. It’s the easiest thing in the world to say that Hulk Hogan is a racist and that’s that. But that could have been done in 30 seconds. The gang spent nine minutes on it. And those were nine very self-important minutes where they, the good non-racist people, looked down on the bad racist, Hulk Hogan, who used the n-word.
The worst part was the focus on the line, “I guess we’re all a little racist.” Now I understand that it is being used by Hogan to justify his anger and language. But Jimmy Dore pushed the idea, “No, we’re not all a little racist.” Well, the last hundred years of cognitive science would beg to differ. Certainly many of us manage to get through our whole lives without using the n-word — or any other racial slurs. But whenever I hear someone tell me that they aren’t racist, I know that they are either a complete bigot or deeply misinformed about how racism works.
Most of us have the best of intentions. And on a rational level, we are often very good. But we are more than our rational selves. And our subconscious, gut, reactions poison us. Dore discussed growing up in a fairly racist subculture, and how he grew past that. Great! I’m the same way. But I still have that background. I have still lived these five decades in a racist society where the underclass is primarily black and brown. And I cannot allow myself to think that I am “past” racism.
None of this means that Jimmy Dore is the real racist and Hulk Hogan is some paragon of honesty. Nor is it to put myself on a higher level. All three of us — and everyone else for that matter — are just a jumble of good and bad contradictions. I would expect that we could all agree that race is a social construct and we are all racist to one extent or another. And hopefully, we can all do better. But thinking of racism as some kind of on-off switch is the game that conservatives play to delegitimize the complaints of those who our racism still oppresses.