But I’m Not a Racist…

Chris Harris, a member of the board of the Hooks Independent School District in Texas, is in hot water for a “seasonal” message he posted on social media: the text reads “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas” across a photo of–wait for it– a KKK member in full regalia.

When criticism erupted, he responded by saying that he realizes what he posted “was inappropriate and offended people.” He went on to say he’s deeply sorry and to insist that he’s “not a racist.”

What do people like Harris think it takes to be a racist? A burning cross? Maybe a lynching or two?

Let me offer a couple of clues to the clueless.

If you refer to the members of any group–blacks, Jews, Muslims, gays–as “them” or “those people”–thus inferring that members of that group share certain (generally negative) behavioral characteristics–you’re racist.

If you think demeaning jokes–comparisons of black folks with monkeys, for example– are funny, and “no big deal,” yeah, you’re a racist. Big time. (If you listen to race-based jokes and don’t protest to the “comedian”, you are at least a fellow-traveler; if you forward tasteless emails you’ve received, you are definitely a racist.)

If you thought Mitt Romney’s healthcare plan for Massachusetts was an innovative, business-friendly approach to health care, but the Affordable Care Act–aka “Obamacare”– is UnAmerican socialism, you’re a racist. (And a twit.)

If you are surprised and offended by people protesting the Grand Jury decisions not to indict the police officers who killed Garner and Brown–if you just can’t understand why people might react with anger over those decisions–you are either racist or intentionally clueless (same difference).

If you are a public official who thinks posting a picture of a Klansman is just another way of saying “Happy Holidays” you aren’t only racist, you’re too f**king dumb to hold public office. Or, probably, to get out of bed most mornings.


  1. Jay Smooth has a really great YouTube video on “How to Tell People they are Acting Racist” that applies here – he talks about the difference between telling people what they *are* and telling people how they are acting. It’s hard for me to say definitively what you *are* as a person – but there’s no question about what your behavior is.

    This fellow can deny he’s a racist up and down. But he can’t deny that his actions are racist, because that’s up to us to interpret, not him.

  2. Information now being released about Timothy Loehmann, the Cleveland police officer who shot and killed 12 year old Tamir Rice holding his toy gun, shows questionable past behavior in his previous employment as a police officer. When he resigned from another Ohio police department, he was in the process of being terminated due to a lack of maturity required to be a police officer. He shot and killed Tamir within seconds of exiting his patrol car and yelling for Tamir to raise his hands. I believe Tamir, being a 12 year old child with a toy gun, was in the process of raising his hands as ordered by Loehmann when he was murdered – with the toy gun still in his hand. We cannot know if he was pointing his toy gun because he is behind the patrol car. Loehmann reported the victim appeared to be around 20 years of age and aiming the gun at him. Racism!

    The caller who dialed 911 reported a young child with what was probably a toy gun in the park. Why the hell would any thinking person make a 911 call to report that? Racism!

    The operator who relayed the 911 call did NOT include the information that the person in the park with a gun was a child and the gun was probably a toy. Racism!

    The racist accusations regarding Mr. Garner’s death are obvious in the video; he did not appear to be resisting nor was he attacking the officers. He was selling loose cigarettes on the street; hardly a death sentence crime. Racism!

    Michael Brown did take cigars from that store and did shove the clerk; this was plain to see in the secutiry video released a few days after his murder. Michael and his friend were jaywalking and probably did mouth off to Wilson. Other “witness” reports accepted by that grand jury are questionable at best. The pictures released a few weeks later of Wilson’s “injuries” after being attacked by Brown show a reddened area on his face. Michael WAS 6 ft. 4 in. tall, weighed around 300 pounds. Wilson IS 6 ft. 2 in. tall and weighs around 220 pounds and was armed with his police weapon. He also has questionable past history regarding his ability to do police work efficiently. He was “skeered” of that big demon who came at him so he filled Michael full of bullets and his body lay in the street for more than four hours. Racism!

    Are police officers also being killed in the line of duty. Yes, yes and yes; they are killed while doing their jobs and their killers, often black, are either shot and killed by other officers or brought to justice, often questionable and usually swift, through the legal system. Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Mr. Garner deserved the same legal consideration for arrest and prosecution as any lawbreaker. Although the 12 year old in the park with his toy gun broke no laws. In all honesty, the legal system at all levels across this country is filled with racism. They also are filled with incompetent employees and even the hint of justice is gone in most cases. The Bisard case and the Richmond Hills deaths and destruction here show a lack of justice in cases involving white people; but to a much lesser degree and at a much slower rate.

  3. We all know people who have distinguished themselves. In my experience that always come from an extraordinary investment of time and talent focused on a specific field. That’s what makes accomplishment noteworthy. Dedication.

    Given that we all labor under time constraints issued by life, such dedication also has a cost. Being distinguished in one field can leave less time for other fields not to mention that talent is also selective. More here may well be relative. Less there.

    So, given that life is in part what we invest in, and in part what it demands, those distinguished in this field must be at least slightly more dependent on others in other fields that might be required.

    I’d have to say that most distinguished accomplished people in my experience seem quite humble in that regard. They accept their self imposed limitations and give what they’re good at and rely on others for help as needed, comfortably and easily.

    But what about others of more modest talents and discipline and dedication. Some are just comfortable being average and general. After all life is the gift, not necessarily talent, so living a satisfying life despite no particularly outstanding accomplishments is also admirable.

    Then there are those who compensate for their ordinariness by defining others as even more so then they. A desperate but unfortunately not uncommon reaction to average or less.

    My observation also is that it’s rarely one dimensional like racism. Once the mindset takes hold it’s widely applied. I’m superior not only to those of different skin color but also different religion, education, language, culture, gender, sexual preference, etc.

    Unfortunately this culture is both sad and dysfunctional. In fact many of the extrodinary failures of humanity can be traced to it.

    I’m not a psychologist so will spare us wandering through fields by guessing what might be true but I suppose that our ego’s demand sometimes more from us than we deliver. And also see that we can deliver more but don’t because it’s hard work. Kind of depressing.

    So, I vote for replacing the common use of the word “racism” with more accurate “assumed cultural superiority”, and recognize that typically the cultures assumed to be inferior are those we understand the least. They.

    I think that our downfall began with the phrase ” I’m not comfortable with ……”. It implies that every opinion is equal and worth noting and accepting. Personally I’m going to continue to dole out credibility based on demonstrated accomplishment, not cultural rumor. Pardon me if I seem less interested in your comfort than in your accomplishments but I view life as challenging and want mine to be based on the most reliable insights that I can get from others. And often those come from people quite different in terms of “X” than I.

    So, Ferguson, what is it like to have to be fearful of the law?

  4. A slew of examples does not constitute a definition. You have added more heat than light to the controversy over racism.

  5. Whoo-wee! Chris Harris and Rep. Stephen Fincher’s aide who insulted the Obama daughters in a big, big way (and has since resigned/been fired). . .caught with their white sheets down!

  6. Racism is widespread and occurs in all races. I suspect that Harris was just appealing to his base. I also expect he will be re-elected by that base.

  7. Why are the Americans the only ones that cannot and will not identify that they are probably the most racists culture on the planet? Oh wait, I think I know. It is because the USains live in a Christian nation, right? Surely their love of God is higher than their racism on the scale of 0-10. Am I Right?

  8. ALG: I don’t know if I agree that we are “probably the most racists culture on the planet”. We’re certainly competitive but the leader? I don’t know. It’s pretty much an Olympic caliber race out there.

    If I use my secret decoder ring and change “racist” to “assumed cultural superiority” we’re probably only in the top 3 or 4 nations. Consider the Middle East for instance. ISIS and Taliban and Israeli. Perhaps religion was born there for a reason.

  9. @JoAnn Green,

    Actually there is also video of Michael Brown paying at the cashier. The alleged robbery video does NOT show definitively that he was committing strong-armed robbery. All that it actually shows is that he got into a physical altercation while he had the box in his hands. The alleged video isolated by itself is not proof of anything but a physical altercation. This is why people are supposed to be allowed the privilege of a trial before being convicted of a crime. There was no trial to sort this it all out, but people have already convicted Michael Brown in their minds. Bits and pieces of video taken out of context can be really misleading, and we actually don’t know what was happing in the alleged video. He could be guilty or not guilty.

    This is also pure speculation of events, and I don’t know what really happened, but I am stringing this along to make a point, and sadly this is plausible as anything else. What if Michael Brown started out having a bad day? Then the owner of a store starts picking on him as he goes to buy something from said store, treating him as if he was a thug, owner and/or store employee doesn’t want him in the store, he feels he has a right to be there just as much anyone else, he has had enough of being treated less than a human, and then while losing his temper, gets in a physical altercation with the someone in the store, he still manages to get what he went if for, pays at the cashier, and leaves the store still really super upset.

    Then it seems immediately after, a cop pulls up and wants to speak to him as he is still recovering from losing his temper, he has been there and done that with local cops harassing people that look like him, he is not in a mood for any more harassment, the cop is using bad language toward him that a professional should not be using toward anyone. (I have several cop friends that have told me off the record, that they recognized from the testimonies that the cop was using bullying tactics that are not part of official police training, but are unfortunately still passed around from cop to cop.) Still super upset from the previous physical altercation, Michael Brown had had enough of being disrespected, and from his perspective, tries to stand his ground and stick up for himself. Then the cop pulls out the gun and he realizes too late what he had gotten himself into.

    What upsets me in this so-called information age, is that anything now can be released in a rush by the media under the excuse that we report it all so you can decide. Us consumers don’t have the wherewithal and resources to sort out the mostly trash from the real information, so we can’t decide on our own. We are prey to be told what we want to hear, or already believe, and this is why racism thrives today.

  10. I believe that “assumed cultural superiority”, or maybe “assumed cultural supremacy” is at the root of all extremism. And the reason for decades of strife in the Middle East stems from extremism. Perhaps worsened by the concentration of it there.

  11. So the big question is: How can you be and act like a racist without getting the label? or How can you act and be an idiot without people believing you are one?

  12. Sheila, you forgot this one:

    • If you think the Washington Redskins shouldn’t change its name because of “tradition,” you’re a racist.

  13. The blatant and obvious racism is bad. Yup. It’s horrible. It’s intolerable. And it’s that intentional racism we call out for what it is with hope to stop it dead from taking root. However, I dare to say, it’s our unintentional racist thinking that permeates our society. Many of us are unaware that we practice daily unintentional racism and it does its harm because it goes unchecked. When it comes to black and brown, often our individual default is set to: fault the black or brown. Too often we deny our unintentional racism because we’re also tired of being accused of participating in racism (or sexism.)
    If your default is set to unintentional racist thinking, the habit only gets worse.

  14. Well Sheila by your wide ranging description of what makes one a racist, I am a racist.
    It seems that just because I’m white I’m a racist. Tell me, are black people racist?

  15. Have any of you, as a white person, ever taught school in an inner-city high school in Indianapolis in the last 40 years?

  16. I just found this quote on Facebook:

    “The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression.” W.E.B. Du Bois

    We will pay dearly – again – as a country for the loss of liberty imposed on minorities with these senseless killings of a race and the killings are only part of the racism in this country. The terrible cost in lives during the Civil War should have provided freedom for African-Americans and brought that ugly debate to a close. Instead it went underground in some areas and was continued with Jim Crowe laws in others; all the while remaining and continuing to divide us as Americans. The “payback” in the form of rioting, looting and violence will not even the score; this is a score that can never come out even. We are all losing in this battle.

    We are also in another racist battle regardin immigration; a racist battle on two fronts for the target of the GOP is President Obama, our first black president, more than it is against the immigrants. Legal or illegal, they are in the crosshairs of the GOP and some of “us” are standing between all of them.

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