The “I never thought it was racist” argument is not an excuse for racism

This is the type of thinking Orange County, Calif. Republican Party member Marilyn Davenport displayd in her explanation of why she sent an e-mail with this attachment in it:

The e-mail was in reference to the Birthers’ claims that President Barack Obama can’t produce a birth certificate. The image justifies why Obama, according to the Birthes, isn’t an American.
Outraged and possibly not wanting the Orange County Republicans to appear tolerant of blatant racism, county GOP chairman Scott Baugh has called for Davenport to resign her elected position of the party’s central committee. Baugh, who said he received the e-mail from Davenport, told the Los Angeles Times in its April 17 story he replied to the e-mail and said it was “dripping with racism and is in very poor taste.”
More from the story:

According to an email Baugh sent to committee members Saturday, Davenport described the Obama photo as a “joke” and wanted to know who had leaked the email to the OC Weekly’s R. Scott Moxley, who broke the story. She called the leak “cowardly” and wrote, “Anyone brave enough to come forward?”

Reached at her home in Fullerton on Saturday, Davenport declined to comment. In an email to central committee colleagues, however, she described the controversy as “much to do about nothing” and vowed that she would not resign.

I’m sorry if my email offended anyone, I simply found it amusing regarding the character of Obama and all the questions surrounding his origin of birth,” she wrote. “In no way did I even consider the fact he’s half black when I sent out the email. In fact, the thought never entered my mind until one or two other people tried to make this about raceWe all know a double standard applies regarding this president. I received plenty of emails about George Bush that I didn’t particularly like, yet there was no ‘cry’ in the media about them.”

Talking Points Memo has the additional statements she made after her reference to Bush

One only has to go to Youtube or Google Images to see a plethora or lampooning videos and pictures of Obama, Bush and other politicians. That being said, I will NOT resign my central committee position over this matter that the average person knows and agrees is much to do about nothing. Again, for those select few who might be truly offended by viewing a copy of an email I sent to a select list of friends and acquaintances, unlike the liberal left when they do the same, I offer my sincere apologies to you–the email was not meant for you. For any of my friends or acquaintances who were the recipients of my email and were truly offended, please call me so I may offer a sincere verbal apology to you.

I should make this post a how not to apologize for one’s racist behavior, but that would be too easy. This woman clearly is indignant about her behavior and clearly refuses to see the light. Me thinks I should break it down for her.

First, Davenport isn’t sorry at all. She’s sorry if the e-mail offended anyone, NOT sorry for using poor, racist judgment. The “I’m sorry if [insert offense] offended anyone” is not an apology for the offender’s actions. It’s an apology to those they view as too sensitive to understand their joke or action, or in this case, too sensitive about race to understand the humor behind the e-mail. Her “much to do about nothing” comment is another red flag for her insistence that she did nothing wrong by sending the racist e-mail.

Davenport simply found the e-mail with the racist image “amusing.” Furthermore, she hides behind the fact that she did not even “consider” the president’s race when she sent the image.

This type of excuse and deflection is typical among those who like to use racist imagery in criticizing the president. These people, who mainly subscribe to the Tea Party ideology, like to excuse their behavior as not racist because race never crossed their mind. Since they didn’t think or know a racist photo or remark is racist, then it can’t be racist because they were ignorant to that notion.

I hate to break it to these poor, racist souls, but ignorance of racism is not an excuse or defense for racist behavior. It is not up to you, the racist offender, to decide what is or isn’t racist. It’s not up to you to say that just because you didn’t think about race, then it can’t be racist. The decision on whether your action is racist is not determined by you, the offender; it’s determined by the person or group you set out to offend and humiliate.

Davenport is well aware that photo is racist. Davenport was well aware that photo would cause a stir because of its racism. Davenport would like to feign ignorance of the monkey as a historically racist image used against African-Americans, but her use of the phrase “if my email offended anyone” is a dead giveaway to her knowledge about the image’s racist connotation.

This notion that there’s a double standard between this president and former president Bush is nothing short of the frustration Davenport and others like her feel because of their inability to use racist imagery without the media and activists calling them out on their behavior. They note these same images were used against Bush in the previous presidency, so using monkeys to emulate a black man should be fair game.

They would like to believe their racist images aren’t racist because: 1) their intent isn’t inherently racist; and 2) they can’t be racist because a majority white country elected a black president. White privilege allows these people the ability to turn the race card on or off whenever it’s convenient to them. White privilege allows these people the authority of throwing race bombs while hiding behind feigned ignorance of what they said, did, wrote or drew was indeed racist.

It’s high time these activists who desperately want to use racist imagery in place of Obama come to grips with their actions and behaviors as indeed racist and offensive. It’s time those who come to the defense of these images and e-mails take a step back and analyze why they may feel a sense of solidarity with these images and slogans. It’s time for people like Davenport who support the use of these images to come to grips with and own up to their own racism.

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