Tina Dupuy Tina Dupuy, 5/22/2014 [Archive]

Casual Racism vs Institutionalized Racism

By Tina Dupuy

We as a nation have become really good at punishing casual racism. You know, using the N-word or saying overtly cruel things about black people in the presence of a recording device.

Robert Copeland, an 82-year-old town police commissioner in New Hampshire, resigned this week after he unapologetically described President Barack Obama as the N-word. There's not an equivalent thing to call a white leader of the free world. There's just not. After Copeland's resignation, Board of Selectmen Chair Linda Murray told reporters, "The town is pleased. This gives us the opportunity to move on."

And public land grifter Cliven Bundy blew his chance to be a mainstream right-wing militia star when he uttered the sentence, "I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro..." He went from hero to "who?" in the right-wing echosphere in about two seconds.

When Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was caught on tape telling his mistress not to take black people to his games or have her picture taken with them, he was banned from the NBA for life and ordered to sell his team (at a profit).

So we've grown adept at being disgusted when hearing racist things. Our corporate images are those of diversity. Sponsors flee from a hint of casual racism. Dr. Laura Schlessinger dropped a couple of n-bombs and was booted out of terrestrial radio, landing at XM Sirius.

We've gotten really good at denouncing the n-word.

We're less willing to talk about, or even acknowledge, that institutionalized racism as a real thing. A word is easy to rally and tweet against: the long-term systematic subjugation of a people based on their skin color is...well...not as easy to solve with a catchy hashtag.

It's like global warming: If we admit it's real, suddenly there are a bunch of uncomfortable realities to face. Instead, we opt to teach the controversy and stall.

The Sterling example in particular illustrates my point: The Justice Department sued Sterling's company in 2003 for refusing to rent to African Americans in Beverly Hills. That's institutional racism and the billionaire had to shell out a measly $3 million because of it, but took no hit to his reputation. What hurt him was his casual racism played back for all to hear.

Ta-Nehisi Coates' seminal piece in The Atlantic, "The Case for Reparations" (one of the few magazine articles you'll ever read with chapters) paints a vivid picture of institutionalized racism: Race-based government policies conspiring with private interests, what Coates describes as pirates with their plunder.

"Having been enslaved for 250 years, black people were not left to their own devices. They were terrorized. In the Deep South, a second slavery ruled. In the North, legislatures, mayors, civic associations, banks, and citizens all colluded to pin black people into ghettos, where they were overcrowded, overcharged, and undereducated." He writes, "Businesses discriminated against them, awarding them the worst jobs and the worst wages. Police brutalized them in the streets. And the notion that black lives, black bodies, and black wealth were rightful targets remained deeply rooted in the broader society."

And strangely, "12 Years a Slave" winning Best Picture doesn't change that. And electing Barack Obama doesn't change that. And banning Sterling from the NBA doesn't change that. Coates writes, "In 2012, the Manhattan Institute cheerily noted that segregation had declined since the 1960s. And yet African Americans still remained—by far—the most segregated ethnic group in the country."

Look, I'm not belittling the ease with which we organize against casual racism (I am a little). I think if we have agreed that using a word as ugly and dehumanizing as the infamous N-word means you lose credibility in public discourse then we can also see the policies which have contributed to continued inequality in the same way.

To quote Coates: "To celebrate freedom and democracy while forgetting America's origins in a slavery economy is patriotism a la carte."

-----

©Copyright 2014 TinaDupuy.com, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Tina Dupuy is a nationally syndicated op-ed columnist, investigative journalist, award-winning writer, stand-up comic, on-air commentator and wedge issue fan. Tina can be reached at tinadupuy@yahoo.com.

This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.


Download Tina Dupuy's color photo - Download Tina Dupuy's black and white mug shot photo
Why not run a cartoon with the column? We recommend the cartoons below as a good compliment to Tina Dupuy's topic.
Click on the thumbnail images to preview and download the cartoons.

Related Cartoons

Racist Comments in the News COLOR
By: Daryl Cagle
Slate.com
May 5, 2014

Racist Comments in the News
By: Daryl Cagle
Slate.com
May 5, 2014

Racist Republicans
By: Pat Bagley

April 28, 2014

Racist Republicans COLOR
By: Pat Bagley

April 28, 2014

Racist Worm
By: Nate Beeler

May 12, 2014

Courtside Seats COLOR
By: Nate Beeler

April 30, 2014

Racist Worm COLOR
By: Nate Beeler

May 12, 2014

Courtside Seats
By: Nate Beeler

April 30, 2014

Racism is Over
By: John Darkow

April 30, 2014

Don Sterling talks BW
By: John Cole

May 16, 2014

Don Sterling talks COLOR
By: John Cole

May 16, 2014

Racism is Dead
By: Milt Priggee

May 6, 2014
   

We do not accept and will not review unsolicited submissions from cartoonists.
Sales & Information: (805) 969-2829 sales@cagle.com
Billing Information: (805) 969-2829billing@cagle.com
Technical Support: support@cagle.com

FREE cartoons for your website if you're already a paying print subscriber!
Artwork and columns are copyrighted by each creator. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited. [Privacy Policy]