Help me out with something, please:
What are white people thinking and feeling when they say, as white people so often say, "I'm not racist, but . . . "? And what are they thinking and feeling when they then go on and say something that is racist, and that they know is racist, which is why they began with that almost reflexive prefix in the first place?
The kinds of people who say racist things knowingly are the kinds of people that most of us would quickly label racists.
So, why do so many seemingly goodhearted white people -- people who definitely do not want to be labeled a "racist" -- say things that they clearly know are racist? And why do they feel that they have to announce that they're not racists, even though they're about to say something that they know is racist?
This is such a common phrase that it's the title of a book -- I’m Not Racist, But. . ., by Anita Heiss. (Has anyone here read it?)
In my copy of Racism without Racists (which is falling apart because I use it so much), Eduardo Bonilla-Silva labels this common phrase and others "discursive buffers." They often appear "before or after someone states something that is or could be interpreted as racist." People use them, Bonilla-Silva says, in part because "post-Civil Rights norms disallow the open expression of racial views."
In other words, whites often know that they're not supposed to say anything racist, but they still just have to say this thing, so they use such discursive buffers to identify themselves, bizarrely enough, as the kind of person who would definitely not say the thing that they're about to go ahead and say.
"Some of my best friends are black" is another classic example, and the kind of distancing laughter that David Arquette demonstrates in yesterday's post seems like another (it may be debatable whether laughter should be considered "discourse," but I think it should).
Finally, since it's Friday, here's a brief video on the topic -- seems to me that Lincoln Trudeau pretty much gets it right here. Is he missing anything?