Racism So Profound It Is Invisible

Yasser LouatiI suspect that I am too lose with my definition of racism. By it, pretty much everyone — very much including myself — is a racist. And that makes the word useless. My interest in this has been to allow people to see their own blind spots. But perhaps that time is over. Still, I’m really not that interested in the Mississippi Burning form of racism, because it is something that is largely dead. And I want to avoid the situation where we define racism as some old man using the term “negro” — which doesn’t mean much in itself other than the speaker being out of it.

This bothered me last year with Cliven Bundy. He famously said, “I want to tell you one more thing I know about the negro.” I’m afraid that what most offended people was his use of the word “negro.” But that was more a function of him being in his late 60s than anything else. Yet I don’t think there would have been nearly as much of an uproar if he had said, “I want to tell you one more thing I know about the African American.” But it should have! Because in that statement is the most clear example of racism that you will find: African Americans aren’t some arbitrarily defined group; they are this one monolithic thing.

But at least when it comes to African Americans, we have a chance of seeing it. Someone like Bundy might say that, but you wouldn’t have anchors on CNN saying something like that. Yet when it comes to Muslims, you see this without a hint of realization. Treating members of a religion that is over a billion and a half strong as a monolith is perfectly fine. Here are John Vause and Isha Sesay interrogating civil rights leader Yasser Louati. Louati even starts by noting that there were Muslim victims of the attack. But the anchors aren’t interested in that. Vause follows this by asking him, “Why is it that no one within the Muslim community there in France knew what these guys were up to?” It’s almost unbelievable:

What’s also interesting in this segment is the discussion of why it is that the Muslim community is not denouncing these attacks. This is something I hear from conservatives all the time. It doesn’t matter how quickly and forcefully and loudly Muslims denounce such attacks. The fact is that it isn’t presented much on MSNBC, much less on Fox News. Therefore, it doesn’t exist. There might have a been a billion Muslims mourning the 9/11 attacks, but it was video of two dozen of “those people” dancing that got rerun over and over again on the television.

But in this case, we aren’t talking about some ignorant television viewers. We are talking educated, intelligent news presenters who are at the top of their fields. They aren’t being told to present Muslims in this totally bigoted way. It just comes naturally. Yasser Louati is a Mulsim! In France! Why didn’t he stop the attack?!

Can you imagine two CNN anchors asking Obama why no one in the “black community” didn’t stop some crime committed by an African American? Of course not! It would be outrageous. In fact, it would be silly — as if all African Americans had a secret handshake and a special Facebook Black where they communicated.

This, my friends, is the face of racism at its most pure. In a form that will make people look back in two decades with horror. How could they not have seen it? But they don’t. This form of racism is so common that people haven’t even learned to spot it.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

12 thoughts on “Racism So Profound It Is Invisible

  1. Honestly it is like people think that X group always has a hive mind. Like they cannot conceive that people who are not them are different individuals who do not all read each other’s thoughts.

    But it is something that the PC brigade is doing yeoman’s work on though-my Facebook feed was filled with friends sharing articles of people saying “STOP THINKING LIKE THIS ASSHOLES, IT IS RACIST.” Of course my Facebook feed is mostly only people who agree with me to keep me from getting into pointless fights with friends who don’t spend most of their time trying to not be that way.

  2. Well …. yeah … I see your point and you’re right …. but ….

    Just imagine a world in which after every G*******d mass shooting, newspapers in London and Toronto and Marseilles and Bonn and Moscow and Osaka and Perth ran headlines saying “WHITE CHRISTIAN AMERICANS KILL AGAIN!” and people in Bogota would stop Mormon missionaries before they could start their spiel because they didn’t want to be seen associating with Americans and people in Nairobi and Jo’burg, white and black and brown, would accost American tourists and ask “What’s WRONG with you Christians?” Maybe a Chinese Vice President could be taped wondering if American Christians ought to be kept away from Great Wall and other sites precious to Chinese. Etc.

    You think, after a couple of years of that sort of thing, people in this country might start to learn a lesson?

    • You make a great case for doing it! Mormons out of Bogota!

      Actually, there are places where you go and have to make clear, “Yes, I’m an American, but I’m not one of those kinds of Americans.” Ten years ago, most Americans started conversations outside the country with, “I didn’t vote for Bush…”

  3. I would argue that “racist” is a useless term as a noun, but still useful as an adjective. Saying “you are a racist” is a rather meaningless statement- everyone has some degree of racism, and there’s no agreed upon critical mass at which someone becomes “a racist.” However, saying actions are racist is useful. It sometimes leads to introspection from someone who doesn’t overtly hate people but may not realize their own thoughts. “I’m not a bad person, so I can’t be a racist” is not helpful, but “I don’t want to be racist, so I should be more careful” is something we can work with.

    • Yeah, that’s pretty much where I stand. It doesn’t much help to call people racists, even though I do. But if you focus on on a racist act or statement, then people can make changes. If they simply are racist, then it is hopeless. And your point about us all being racist is a point I’ve been pushing for years — more for my own personal education than anything else. The worst thing we can do is assume we aren’t tainted by the society we live in.

  4. ” In a form that will make people look back in two decades with horror.”
    So we’ll be past this in twenty years? I wish I shared your optimism.

    • Yeah, I thought about that when I was writing it. It’s not that I think we will be past the bigotry. But I do think by then it won’t be invisible. What happened on CNN will not happen. But I could be wrong. Maybe it will get worse.

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