The Racist Bone
In a recent interview, the sad little husk of a man known as Eric Trump cleared up confusion regarding his father’s ideas about race by assuring the interviewer, “There is no racist bone in my father’s body. He is the greatest guy in the world.”
Now I would never be arrogant enough to challenge Eric’s characterization of his father as “the greatest guy in the world.” Obviously that’s true or Eric wouldn’t have said it. I do, however, find it fascinating that when defending his father against clearly correct charges of racism, Eric insisted that there wasn’t a racist bone in his withered old man's fleshy, decaying body.
When someone is caught red-handed doing horribly racist or homophobic or sexist shit, that public humiliation is frequently followed by a flurry of strident testimonials from both the person accused of bigotry, and that person’s friends and family, about how not only is the guilty party most assuredly not guilty but also that they are, unique among us, completely untainted by racism or bigotry or societal conditioning to the point where there’s isn’t a racist bone in their body and also, actually, they’re the least racist person in the world.
Trump loves to play these ridiculous rhetorical games of comic hyperbole. Sure, Trump was accused of sexual harassment by no less than 13 women, and was taped bragging about grabbing women by the genitalia, but by his own estimation no one alive (and there are about seven billion people on earth) has more respect for women than he does. This, presumably includes Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Gloria Steinem. Sorry, ladies, you don’t have as much respect for women as President “Grab ‘Em By The Pussy.”
To claim that you are wholly innocent of the universal sin of racism (or sexism, or homophobia, or anti-Semitism) is a form of insanity. It’s also a way of denying the complexity of racism, its insidiousness, its pervasiveness and its institutional nature. The ridiculous fiction that there are people out there without a racist bone in their body is similarly a reductive way of removing the infinite grays of race and racism and dividing the world into two camps: racist and non-racist.
With the exception of out and proud hate-mongers, nobody wants to be considered racist in our society, particularly people who clearly are racist. So friends and family members of racists go to ridiculous lengths to depict their loved ones not just as innocent and misunderstood but also as pious, almost Christ-like exemplars of radical tolerance.
I have a confession to make. I am racist. I’m also misogynistic and a bunch of awful qualities I wish I didn’t possess in even trace amounts. That’s because everyone is at least a little bit racist, and everyone is at least a little bit sexist and everyone is at least a little bit anti-Semitic. That’s who we are as human beings. We are inevitably and invariably damaged by the ugliness we see in movies and TV shows and all around us. Nobody gets through life in America absolutely clean. Nobody.
We’re all cursed to live in a deeply racist country in a delusional, pathological state of denial about who we are. Part of that denial involves the ridiculous fiction that our culture is filled with people whom racism has never touched or corrupted in any way, who see straight through to people’s immortal souls rather than lingering on the superficial.
Here’s the thing: I know I’m as tainted by racism as everyone else, both individually and as a white man in America. But I also know that I strive every day to be less racist and less sexist and less of a self-loathing Jew. I'm trying because I'm fucking flawed and broken. I think that acknowledging that everyone is at least a racist would be a terrific starting point for a real, substantive conversation about race and racism in our society but that’s never going to happen in a world where we delude ourselves into thinking we’re truly color-blind. We all have a whole bunch of racist bones in our bodies, and we’d be better off acknowledging that painful truth and our own internal ugliness rather than living in a delusional, Eric Trump-like state of complete denial.
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