We’ve seen a bit of this lately:
- Mel Gibson launches anti-Semitic tirade, then says “Please know from my heart that I am not an anti-Semite. I am not a bigot.”
- Michael Richards executes carpet N-bombing run on black hecklers, then says “I’m not a racist. That’s what’s so insane about this.”
- Ajax striker Kenneth Perez racially abuses a linesman during a Dutch Eredivisie match against Twente Enschede, then says “I regret what I said…Everyone who knows me, knows I am not a racist.” (No, Virginia, America didn’t invent racism.)
Okay, let’s engage in a moment of willing suspension of disbelief. Let’s take these good people at their word. They’re not racists. Which proves that perfectly non-racist people are capable of appalling attacks that are indistinguishable from actual racist tirades.
Q: If it isn’t racism, what is it?
Is it as simple as the possibility that we want to hurt somebody so badly that we’re willing to say things we know they’re sensitive to even though we don’t really think them? If you’re arguing with your SO and you’re really mad, would you call him/her fat because you know he/she has a weight complex, even though you think he/she looks perfectly slim? (Is this a fair analogy?)
I have to admit, I’ve wanted to get under people’s skin pretty badly at times. But so far I haven’t resorted to going racialist on them. I don’t really recall getting close to doing so, either, even though sometimes I get very frustrated with people of other ethic groups. But could it happen? Could I get so mad that in a fit on insensate rage I say things I don’t believe just to hurt somebody?
Well, I obviously don’t think so. But maybe anything is possible. I guess we all have to evaluate instances like these in light of our own experience and beliefs. I’m personally a bit suspicious of post-meltdown apologies, and wonder if any would be forthcoming in these cases in the absence of significant public condemnation (and the attendant threat it poses to the culprit’s wallet).
To this point, I’ve been dismissing the very idea that racist attacks could issue from people who were not, in fact, racist, but maybe I’m overlooking something. Please, tell me if I’m wrong…