Friday, July 4, 2008

I'm Not Racist, I have Black Friends

I cannot believe that there is one sentient being in existence who could reasonably question the fact that burning a cross on the lawn of a POC is a hate crime.  I came across the story at the black lunatic and I simply had to write a post about it..

According to The Morning News, "A rental home where a mother with three biracial sons lived burned to the ground only days after she says people set a wooden cross ablaze in her yard."

"Deputies arrested Jacob Wingo, 19, on charges of terroristic threatening and aggravated assault over the cross burning. Jailers said Wingo posted bond shortly after his arrest Thursday."

Yvette Briggs, Wingo's mother, said he turned himself in to authorities earlier and "told the truth."
"It was all a joke," Briggs told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "He's got mixed friends. He's got black friends - he does not hate people. If he knew it was considered a hate crime, he would never have done anything like that."

So let me get this straight, your son should be rewarded for telling the truth, and he really doesn't hate blacks, because he supposedly has a black friend. You would think that maybe, just possibly, one or two of those black friends that you claim he socializes with, would have told him that it might not be a good idea to burn a cross as a sign of love, respect or camaraderie.  When most people want to be friendly to new people in the neighbourhood, they stop by with a cake, or a pie even.
Call me crazy but  burning a cross just doesn't seem to say welcome to the neighbourhood.  Perhaps all of the images popularized in the media of men in white sheets burning crosses just looked like some kind of weird celebration of Halloween. Maybe he believed that when they were screaming, "white power" as the crosses burned they were making a statement about how wonderful bleach is at keeping whites, white and not actually pushing a racial agenda. Come on, not even the fictional Forest Gump is that dumb.

How much longer do white people believe they can use the I have a "black friend" card to cover their clearly racist behaviour? I would like to know the name of the black kid that goes around befriending racists so that I can smack him.  Really though, I think I have finally figured out the mystery of the black friend...he/she is imaginary aren't they? ...Yep, your "pretend buddy" that you can whip out every time the word racist is thrown your way.  Here is a little tip, next time you go to pull the "black friend" out of your defence arsenal, please be aware that this excuse has worn thin, and we (anti-racists) are on to your sorry, lying asses.


Sandalstraps said...


Excellent post.

Two observations:

1. Parents are often willing to say and even believe just about anything to keep themselves in denial about the problems their children are having. What the mother said, thus, doesn't surprise me in the least.

2. Studies have demonstrated that white people in any given social setting are much more willing to claim to have black friends than black people are to claim white friends. Part of this seems to stem from a difference in the way that they use the term "friend." Whites would claim any black acquiantance as a friend, while blacks generally meant something more intimate by the word "friend."

I suspect this is due to something other than semantics. Whites - as you note - often use black "friends" as a cover for racism. If addressing your own racism only requires that you "befriend" (that is, acquiant yourself with) a few black people, then racism is in fact quite easy to expunge. So that, rather than getting to the bottom of and rooting out white privilege and the evil ideology of white supremecy, becomes the moral task for white people of good conscience.

I have even fallen victim to this lazy form of morality, using the fact that one of my best friends in high school was black to keep me from addressing the ways in which I benefited from my standing as a southern white male.

Hagar's Daughter said...

I so enjoyed reading your womanist musing on this topic. My favorite is: "No offense to you." This is usually said before or after some stereotype is verbalized about a minority group while in the presence of a person who is in that particular minority group.

How could anyone think setting fire to someone's home is a *joke* no matter who lived there?

Anonymous said...

Great response. When I first saw the title of the blog, I thought: Oh no!! Here we go... When ever someone says some of my friends are black, it gives me pause." Your artcle hit the point.

Roxie said...

I am so happy I followed here through feministe! Love it here.

As sandalstraps said, these black "friends" aren't actually FRIENDS. They don't hang out, they don't talk on the phone, they aren't confidants.

These are people they may see in passing, know from some forced integrated institution, chatted with before, and wave to on site.

Not a friend, an acquaintance.

Roxie said...

dear lord, SIGHT not "site".

Kevin Andre Elliott said...

I would like to know the name of the black kid that goes around befriending racists so that I can smack him.

His name is Shelby Steele.

Anonymous said...

I would like to know the name of the black kid that goes around befriending racists so that I can smack him.

His name is Shelby Steele.

Lol - so true...

AAW said...

Great post!

I've always said just because you're familiar with someone doesn't make the said person your friend. I believe that's what prejudiced white folks feel when they are called out on their racism - name a black person you're familiar with and call him/her a friend.

Larry said...

I make no apologies for the hatred symbols mentioned, but I think you should know that the lopsided "E" you have in the right-hand corner looks a lot like the "Enron" "E", which is pretty much hated in these parts and does not symbolize "Excellence" att all for us. Rather, it symbolizes financial rape, pillage, and ruin.

Donna B. said...

I used to have a black friend, but we went in two different directions after high school. She and I delighted in upsetting all the white people (and probably a few of the blacks) by publicly appearing together in social situations in the early 70s. In the small-town South.

We did sleepovers and I went to church with her, but left my church when I realized she wouldn't be welcomed there.

The reason she was my friend? She was the only person who spoke to me on my first day at a new school. I don't forget kindnesses like that.

Plus, we were both sarcastic rebels and had a heck of a good time together.

There was another woman I met as a co-worker and we almost became friends, but racism got in our way, on both sides. I truly regret that and still often think of her.

I guess the point of my post is that not all white people think acquaintances are friends.

Renee said...

@ Donna I am well aware that not all relationships between whites and blacks are superficial, the point of the post is that the "black friend" routine is often invoked as a cover for racism and so such declarations must be met with caution.

@Larry while you may associate Enron with that badge it is readily recognizable as an award of excellence in the blogosphere and was given to me by a blogger that I respect.

Kevin said...

Being sentient, I don't believe in hate crimes at all. I think they are a terrible idea that punishes thoughts rather than deeds. I am not at all interested in why people do things, I am interested in what they do.

CronusKiller said...


*amused* Were you mistaken? I don't see how that way of thinking can be attributed to being 'sentient'. All lifeforms are concerned with 'what happens' and not 'how'. The questions of whys, hows, and wherefores can be solely attributed to those who have higher levels of thought.

Lindsay said...

I often find that when someone says, "I'm not racist," they're just attempting to explain away whatever racist behavior they just displayed. Same goes for "I'm not gay" or "I'm not homophobic."

I just wish people would admit that everyone's racist or sexist or homophobic or classist, at least to some extent. It's just if we acknowledge those feelings/thoughts as not appropriate and wrong or if we allow them to fester and get worse.

UneFemmePlusCourageuse said...

I would have to agree that the majority of people who use the "black friends" card as a way to excuse their racism probably do mean, "I talked to a black person once and it wasn't deadly."

Because the thing is, if you actually try to befriend a person, if you get to know them well, then it becomes pretty damn difficult to generalize about their 'group' anymore. If you grow up hearing "all black people are [bad thing]" and then get to know a black person who this certainly doesn't apply to, the next time you hear it, won't you be thinking, "what? I know this doesn't apply." You certainly wouldn't be burning crosses.

It's not to say that getting to know a person of another race automatically makes one non-racist. But I do think it can lead people to seriously examining and questioning their biases. Which is why people who yell out, "I have a black friend" after saying or doing something racist are...full of shit.

Kevin said...

All lifeforms are concerned with 'what happens' and not 'how'. The questions of whys, hows, and wherefores can be solely attributed to those who have higher levels of thought.

At the risk of feeding something silly, this is a moronic reply. Not that you are a moron, but this idea is moronic.

The idea of hate crimes makes the reason for doing something worse depending on who is the victim and why the crime was committed. That way madness lies. It gives prosecutors another reason to put people in jail (something I am four square against) and is already on the way to being abused. People should be vigorously punished for what they do, not the thoughts they hold. One can be proven, the other can't. And things that can't be proven have no place in a courtroom. Or is that thought of too high a level?

My main objection to original post is that anyone who disagrees is somehow less than sentient, a position with which you seem to agree. I typically associate that belief system with the Republicans, but it seems that the Left has its zealots as well. It's this kind of group-think that makes me despair for my party.

neocatholic3000 said...

>The idea of hate crimes makes the reason for doing something worse depending on who is the victim and why the crime was committed.

Kevin - not true. A "hate crime" is not about thoughts, but the actions and severity and meaning behind actions. After all, a racist can walk down the street and think anything they want at me and mine, but their right to harass me ends in their brain, and their right to swing their fist ends at my nose (or any other body part).

Picture this: a disturbed dude walking down the street decides that he doesn't like the color green, and pushes a woman with a green coat into the street. She is hit by a car and he is arrested for assault, attempted murder, whatever. Society does not have biases against the color green. There is not a historical, legal, societal, educational bias against the color green. People who wear green are not harassed, denied fair housing and hiring practices, treated differently by doctors and government, and so on and so on. Therefore, anyone else wearing the color green is not going to feel threatened.

Now, instead of the green coat, insert a Sikh's turban, a yarmulke, or headscarf; skin color or facial features; or insert the wrong gender, or the wrong sexual orientation (actual or perceived). Because of the history of our society, because of the still-existing prejudices and biases and hate, society has decided that offenses towards disadvantaged groups should get ADDITIONAL prosecution or punishment. Why? Because an attack on an individual of a vulnerable group in society threatens anyone of that group.

Does the investigator/prosecutor always know why people commit a crime? Of course not - which is why every crime is not considered a hate crime. Under our legal system, you still have to PROVE it.

But some actions are accepted as symbols of hate, as actions targeting specific groups.
Certain actions have been used (and sometimes still are) to control entire communities with the THREAT of further violence - the idea that if it can happen to THEM, it can happen to YOU, and noone will help you because those in power in that society are in on it. Cross-burning is one such action, and our legal system adds extra penalities as a deterrant.

Painting a swastika on a synagogue is not just random graffiti - it's a hate crime intended to evoke Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. I don't have to be a mindreader to know it, I just have to have an inkling of history and human nature.

Lighting a cross on the lawn of an interracial family is also not just a random prank akin to setting dogdoo on fire. It's linked to racial harassment, lynching, and death.

And so on and so on.

"Anyone who says otherwise is selling something." - TPB

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