Members of the tea parties and Governor quitter Sarah Palin complained about the NAACP calling out the Tea party people for being racist. As pointed out by Melissa Harris-Lacewell, associate professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University, being racist isn’t just about using racist language or simply being in a majority white group.
Professor Harris-Lacewell was on MSNBC’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” and she said something profound that will help me explain in the future how you can be racist and not use the N-word or join the Klan and why many white people claim not to see racism, or claim it doesn’t exist, unless it is overt like that.
[I]f you regularly support public policy which will have a disparate impact, creating greater inequality for people of color, that that is racially biased.
Transcript of specific segment:
OLBERMANN: I was going to ask you about this sincerity of misperception. I`ve always wondered if we`re dealing with the kind of mental euphemism that in previous — when there have been previous backlashes against advances in relations between races, they were still in a time when it was OK to come out and campaign on the “we`ve done enough for them” platform, which was essentially done in 1966 by the Republicans. They won a boat load of seats in the House running on those platforms after the Civil Rights Acts. You can`t say something like that anymore in almost any aspect of society. The fringes, obviously, but not anywhere in the mainstream. Is this inability to see racism and to need to provide a euphemism for it internal? They need to believe there`s no racism, and therefore they don`t see it?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Maybe, but it could also be simply that we`ve done a really bad job in this country talking about what racism is. So many may feel that if they don`t use the ” N” word or if they don`t actively keep a black person from getting a job or spit on a black person when they see them, then they`re not racist. And we haven`t done a very good job of talking about the fact that if you regularly support public policy which will have a disparate impact, creating greater inequality for people of color, that that is racially biased. And we haven`t talked about, for example, privilege, or we haven`t talked very well in the public about privilege. So that many white Americans feel like, well, I have a difficult circumstance; I`m losing my job; bad things are happening to me. So why should we be talking about race and racism? And we haven`t talking about, for example, how white privilege operates in the context of even, you know, an economic downturn. So it could be, in part, just sort of our fault in terms of a collective incapacity to talk about what racism really is.