Racism. It’s still here, and sadly, it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. From kids in the schoolyard to adults in the workplace, racist comments can pop up in a conversation about virtually anything, slamming into some of us like a sledgehammer. When it happens in a private conversation amongst private people, it’s bad enough.
But what about those in the public eye? Celebrities, athletes, politicians. They’re subject to greater scrutiny, which may or may not be unfair, but they should also know better than to say something that could even be considered borderline racist. And yet, it happens all the time. We hear about it damn near constantly. They say it, and either backpedal immediately and apologize, or even worse they defend what they said when questioned about it (Donald Trump, I’m looking at you).
There are dozens – hundreds – of examples. This list could have been “9999 Most Racist Things Said by Public Figures”, and that’s a tragic statement.
As open-minded and tolerant individuals, it’s up to us to call our public figures (and private associates, too) to task when they use racial slurs or other inflammatory language. There’s no place for it.
See Also: Top 10 Most Racist Marketing Campaigns
1. Donald Trump
Oh, the Donald. Leading in the polls (how’s that for a sad, tragic statement?!) amongst the Republican presidential candidates, he’s no stranger to saying – and then defending – stupid, sexist, and racist things. But he outdid even himself last month when he had this to say about Mexicans:
When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best… They’re sending people who have lots of problems… They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.
So most, though not all, Mexicans (because saying all Mexicans are rapists and criminals would be going too far) coming to the United States are the scum of that country. The human waste that Mexico can’t and doesn’t want to deal with.
Even worse, when he was given the chance to retract the statement or apologize for it, he did the one thing no one saw coming: he defended it. Boldly. On national television. During a follow-up interview on CNN, he reiterated all of it with Don Lemmon, saying: “Well, somebody’s doing the raping, Don! I mean, somebody’s doing it. Who’s doing the raping?”
Stay classy, Mr. Trump.
2. Ben Carson
Another Republican presidential hopeful – currently second in the polls – who is playing his racial-baiting and fear-mongering cards early in the game. Ben Carson, a former neurosurgeon, stated his belief that a Muslim should not be allowed into the White House (presumably as the President, and not just a visitor) in a recent interview, saying:
I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.
Carson went on to say that the President should be “sworn in on a stack of bibles, not a Koran.”
While he is absolutely entitled to his own opinion, the US Constitution explicitly states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States” (Article VI, paragraph 3).
Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, Jew, Hindu, atheist, or otherwise, an individual’s religious affiliation is supposed to have about as much to do with their ability to govern or lead as their jam preference (for the record, I prefer blackberry). Singling out one religion as being unfit to govern is racism – plain and simple.
3. Michael Richards
Remember Kramer from the classic television TV sitcom Seinfeld? Remember what a lovable goofball he was, and how much the world enjoyed his antics? It’s hard to associate that Michael Richards with the one that had a massive meltdown during a standup act at The Laugh Factory in 2006. He was apparently shaken by a few hecklers in the audience, saying:
Fifty years ago they’d have you hanging upside down with a fucking fork up your ass. Throw his ass out! He’s a n****r!
Richards went on to use the N-word a number of times during the rant. The fallout was quick and his career has never really recovered. He apologized on David Letterman and several other radio and television programs, but the damage was already done.
There are some things that you just don’t – and don’t deserve to – recover from.
4. Mel Gibson
Once considered one of the world’s sexiest men and bankable Hollywood stars, the past few years have not been kind to Gibson… chiefly because he has revealed himself – time and time again – as a racist bigot and an anti-Semite. He was arrested for drunk driving in 2006, when he went on an epic tirade against the Jews:
My life is f*cked… I’m not going to get in your car… You mother*cker. I’m going to f*ck you… F*cking Jews… The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world. Are you a Jew?
Pretty bad, but he apologized, sought help for his alcoholism, and many people were willing to forgive and forget… that is until a voicemail he left for his ex-wife surfaced in 2010 in which he screamed and yelled expletives at her, including a wish that she be “gang-raped by a pack of n*****s”.
As you can imagine – and rightly so – most people weren’t willing to forgive him yet again. He has since been in trouble multiple times for his racist and/or anti-Semitic comments.
5. Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States, serving two terms from 1945 to 1953. He was actually elected Vice President under Franklin D. Roosevelt, but when he died in office only 82 days into his term, he was elevated into the most powerful position on the planet, leading the United States through the end of World War II and the recovery years.
Unfortunately, Truman has a string of bad word choices and/or outright racist comments in his legacy. He once referred to the White House serving staff as “a bunch of coons” and he mentioned a “n****r picnic day” in his correspondence.
If that’s not bad enough, Truman said the following in a letter to his (future) wife Bess in 1911:
I think one man is just as good as another so long as he’s honest and decent and not a n****r or a Chinaman. Uncle Wills says that the Lord made a white man from dust, a n**** from mud, and then threw what was left and it came down a Chinaman. He does hate Chinese and Japs. So do I.
Wow. Just wow. There’s really no coming back from a statement like that.
6. Richard Nixon
There are lots of reasons to hate Nixon, and many people do. He’s the only President in US history to resign from office (in order to avoid being impeached), and he’s most (in)famous for his involvement in the Watergate scandal.
But he’s also got some rather racist comments on his record, too. Nixon recorded hundreds of hours of conversation between himself and White House staff in the Oval Office, and the tapes have him refer to Jews in less-than-flattering terms, amongst other things (he refers to then Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau as an “a**hole”, a “pompous egghead”, and “that son of a b*tch”).
Another cringe-worthy comment picked up by the surveillance equipment revealed Nixon’s personal opinion of the abortion debate:
There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white... or a rape.
So Nixon, the President of the United States, defender of the American people, believed that interracial couples should either: a) be allowed to abort their mixed baby, or b) should be forced to abort their mixed baby… it’s unclear exactly what he meant on the tapes.
But it doesn’t matter. Either way, it’s a terribly racist comment.
See Also: 5 Examples of Racism in the Workplace
Racism sucks. When you see it, speak up and let the perpetrator understand that it is not okay.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ~ Edmund Burke
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis." ~ Dante Alighieri
The fight against racism is the responsibility of us all. So fight the good fight.
Have you ever spoken out against it? Have you ever held your tongue but regretted it later? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.