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Racism Fails: Bananas, Birthers, Beck, and Barack

12 August 2009 4 Comments

Racism fascinates me because as much as we’d like to believe that anyone who fervently hates another group is simply stupid, that’s far from the case. The thinking racist knows that it’s useless to be blatantly prejudiced because to successfully push a racist agenda one must be sophisticated, sly, and have a tidy answer for every argument that proves they aren’t really racist. For example, it was just a bit tougher to untangle the subtly racist election cycle claim that Barack Obama was “an elitist” than it’s been to see that the Birthers movement, with its lack of evidence, just doesn’t like black people (or foreigners). Idiot racists don’t quite know how to navigate social taboos and instead try to fool everyone with code words and other racism fails, and in recent weeks I’ve been half-expecting an efficient racist to come forward Bill Cosby style and say “Come on people. We’ve got to do better,” and give us something substantive to debate so that we can at least pretend that race isn’t a factor.

For example, Justin Barrett, the Boston cop who referred to Skip Gates as a “banana-eating jungle monkey,” committed a huge racism fail. He claims that his word choice may have been poor, but he never intended to refer to Gates as a jungle monkey, just that he was acting like one. A banana eating one. As if there’s a certain way that monkeys – who remember, eat bananas – behave on a consistent basis, and that specific type of behavior is so distinctive that a jungle monkey is just what Gates must be. Arguments like these make me wish I were born yesterday and “jungle monkey” were a hot new term for black folks. That way, my blood pressure would rise, I’d feel all offended, and I’d crusade against the kind of bigotry that Barrett has obviously displayed. Instead, Barrett’s racism fail – use of an archaic term that doesn’t even sting anymore – just makes me roll my eyes. I mean really – jungle monkey? Isn’t that the same played out racial slur from like five hundred years ago? The only thing older than racism is like, I dunno dirt, so why hasn’t there been one drop of innovation in racial slurs or even in the machinery of racism? The United States is 223 years old and has redesigned the flag dozens of times. Coca-Cola has only been around for 123 years but has managed to come along with Cherry Coke and Coke Zero. In 1992 rappers used to call women “skeezers,” and that somehow went out of style. So how has hip-hop come farther in thirty years than racism has in three hundred? Step the game up and stop wasting our time.


Glenn Beck has been ready to drop the n-word during every broadcast, but only since he’s called our president a “racist” with a “deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture,” have advertisers taken notice and pulled their support (because no thinking racist or non-racist wants to be associated with such nonsense). Meanwhile, his viewership has grown, probably because the idiot racists who follow him are happy not to have to fill in so many blanks. What’s glaring about this racism fail of lobbing an unsupported charge at the man who leads our country, is that Barack Obama was raised by white people. His mother was white, his Vice-President is white, and the bulk of his Cabinet and advisers are white. I’d also like to know just what “white culture,” is. I recognize Italian and Irish-American culture, and American culture itself, but white culture? What does that consist of, NASCAR and According to Jim re-runs? By even creating an imaginary term like “white culture,” this clown is implying that white people have something going on that is separate from the America of which we are all a part. Beck is like the ugly girl at the club who gets no play and concludes that men are dogs – his bitterness is palpable and his anger is all he has to stand on. Next time he should just call Obama a “doo-doo head,” a charge that carries just as much merit, and maybe he’ll keep his advertisers and the thinking person’s mind will be just as swayed (i.e. not at all). Most of us are not impressed.

The worst racism fail yet is the racial subtext in the health care debate. There is almost nothing more innocuos than the idea that all Americans should have access to health coverage, but the talking heads on the right have done a great job of mongering myths about death panels (“he wants to kill us!”), forced reparations, and a term that most people don’t understand, “socialism.” There is nothing inherently offensive about organizing a system that will keep us all healthier, yet every town hall meeting on the subject is filled with calls for a return to “the America we know,” coming from frenzied flat-pocketed working class Americans who need health care provisions more than anyone. This particular racism fail – acting against one’s own self-interest – is so disastrously transparent that it’s annoying. To idiot racists, whatever Barack Obama does, because he is in power and because he is black, is a big old scary mark of Cain mess. He’s not white and he’s not poor so he’s coming for everyone who is (and their sickly grandmothers), so idiotic people fitting that description are shaking in their boots. The belief itself is idiotic because it’s the rich white elite – not black folks – who have more than they’ve earned, but it’s way easier to push political agendas when there’s a brown bogeyman to blame instead of actually thinking about it. While the myths persist more children needlessly die and seniors go without medicine – is that the familiar America these folks are trying to preserve? It’s one of the weakest political distractions in history and a pathetic, unimpressive racism fail.

Well done racism is not supposed to be annoying or obvious in 2009. Please idiots, try to dazzle us.


  • Malcolm said:

    Excellent post Thembi! It kills me when members of the right refuse to say that the health care “debate” has elements of racism. These same people will insist that the death threats and hate mail that Congressman David Scott of Georgia received is all a hoax. Oh, and don’t get me started on the “I want my country back” code speak. I might have more respect for them if they came out and said that they want to return to the days when whites ruled and minorities knew their place.

    By the way, don’t hate on “According To Jim”. :-) That’s one of my many guilty pleasures.

  • Guillermo said:

    Well said. Ditto. On the money.

    And I concur with Malcolm: you better leave “According to Jim” out of this.

  • Moira said:

    Nice post Thembi.

    “but white culture? What does that consist of, NASCAR and According to Jim re-runs?” Actually made me throw up a little bit in my mouth — count me out please!

  • Janet said:

    I’m sending this out to everyone I know. Thembi, you speak the truth. Brown boogeyman, lol.

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