‘Not a racist bone in his body’: The origins of the default defense against racismRoundup
tags: Ronald Reagan, racism, Martin Luther King Jr., Trump, colorblind
Christopher Petrella teaches in the critical race, gender, and culture studies collaborative at American University. He serves as the director of advocacy & strategic partnerships for the Antiracist Research & Policy Center, also at American University.
Justin Gomer is assistant professor of American studies at California State University, Long Beach and working on a book entitled, "Colorblindness, A Life: The Political and Cultural Biography of An Ideology."
Every few weeks, it seems, a public figure accused of practicing or condoning racism invokes the “racist bone” defense. “I don’t have a racist bone in my body,” they say. And if they do not say it, they have a friend say it for them.
In February, for example, a former high school teacher defended Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam after the revelation that a photo appearing on Northam’s 1984 medical school yearbook page depicted someone dressed in blackface posing alongside another person clad in Ku Klux Klan robes. The teacher declared that “from everything I’ve observed, there’s not a racist bone in his body.”
A month later, when a 2012 video resurfaced of Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) noting that he wanted to send Barack Obama back to “Kenya or wherever,” Meadows defended himself by saying, “There is not a racial bone in my body.”
And, of course, in 2017, after President Trump was publicly lambasted for describing a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville as a protest with “very fine people, on both sides,” then-Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) offered up a similar defense, saying in an interview: “I know Donald Trump. I don’t think there’s a racist bone in his body.”
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