The Media-Savvy Racist

By Daisy Hernandez Apr 13, 2010

The day has finally arrived. It’s not enough to hear the N-word screamed at you in public and to report it. You must have a YouTube video to prove it and preferably the audio transcript—all of which goes to remind us that this country still thinks racism is just saying something, well, racist. As you’ll recall, last month in the health care debate, three Black congressmen said that tea partiers outside of the Capitol screamed the N-word at them. One of the Black Congressmen was spit on, and in a separate incident, a gay congressman told reporters that he was called the F-Word. But conservatives claim that videos like the one posted above show that no racial slur was ever uttered. Furthermore, conservatives insist, they wouldn’t be so stupid as to say something racist: “This is 2010. Even a racist is media-savvy enough not to yell the N-word.” Those choice words are from none other than Andrew Breitbart, who if he is a racist is, indeed, a media-savvy one. Breitbart released the now infamous video which conservatives edited to give the impression that ACORN staff were counseling actors passing as a pimp and prostitute on tax evasion. The Brooklyn DA’s staff analyzed the video and found it had been so tampered with as to discredit the allegations. Now Breitbart has posted YouTube videos showing the three Black congressmen walking past tea party protestors, but alas, no racial slurs are heard. According to Jesse Washington at the AP, that might be because the video was taken an hour after the incident actually took place. We are, my dear gente, in the age of the media-savvy racist, and I’m not just talking about Breitbart and his tea party people. I’m referring to a whole culture that thinks racism is what the white guy said about the Black guy last month in DC or last night at the local bar, rather than the policies that government and schools and police departments put in place every day. It’s a culture where we’re looking for the Next Top Racist while letting entire groups of people off the hook because, hey, they didn’t actually use the N-word. So the white guy who yelled the N-word at Rep. John Lewis—he’s racist. But the hundreds of white people who desperately tried to stop legislation that expands health care access to millions of people of color? Not so racist in the age of the media-savvy racist. It’s a culture where racism is seen as a private matter, as the work and the words of one lone crazy white man in the crowd on a YouTube video. It also defines racism as hateful words directed at people of color rather than as the actions and policies that make living in this country bad for everyone, even the white folks. Case in point: the FBI arrested a man in Washington state for threatening to kill a senator over her vote for the health care bill. Sen. Patty Murray is white but in the health care bill she sided with the wrong color. The media-savvy racists know better than to call her a N-lover, at least on YouTube.