"I'm not a racist."

At left is a video via The Smoking Gun of a group of white Louisiana college students who have used mud to deck themselves out in blackface so they can "hilariously" reenact the Jena 6 assault.

[The video and photos] were posted to the Facebook page of Kristy Smith, a freshman nursing student. The album of images was entitled "The Jena 6 on the River." In the video, three students with mud smeared across their bodies stomp on a fourth student, while two of the participants are heard to say, "Jena 6." One man can also be heard saying, "Niggers put the noose on."

After the video and photos on Smith's page were discovered by fellow students, she removed the material and made her Facebook page private. Smith, who did not respond to a TSG e-mail sent to her school address, apologized for the images in several recent Facebook postings. "We were just playin n the mud and it got out of hand. I promise i'm not racist. i have just as many black friends as i do white. And i love them to death," she wrote.
Yeah, I'll bet. That she can say she loves her black friends "to death" without a trace of irony in the midst of defending her participation in a reenactment of violent racism is just astounding.

Naturally, when her moving testament to diversity failed to convince people that she isn't a racist, Smith later added a message noting that they'd been drinking and things "got a lil out of hand," that's all. She subsequently removed the video and photos from her Facebook profile, but not before another student had grabbed them.

Pam, who gets the hat tip, makes a very important point about Smith's (very familiar) reaction to this incident being made public.

The bottom line is that the first order of business was for Smith to declare she's not racist. That label is clearly radioactive to most people, so much so that they can simply cannot own the fact that they engaged in racist behavior. In their minds they rationalize away such incidents because a real racist burns a cross on someone's lawn, or ties a black man to the back of a truck and drags him until his limbs fall off.

...[W]e can't get very far if people cannot even admit that racism is still part of our culture, and that one can engage in negative race-based thinking or behavior without putting a Klan hood on.
Spot on. Sometimes it's as subtle (but nefarious) as telling a mysteriously uninteresting anecdote that would have no purpose if the person at its center wasn't of another race. And sometimes it's as obvious (and pernicious) as writing a very public slavery apologia. Back to Pam:

Look at Michael Richards. One of the striking things about his unhinged apology on Letterman last year, after appearing onstate at a comedy club and going on an unhinged rant because of black heckler in the audience was that he felt compelled to say he wasn't racist.

"I'm not a racist. That's what's so insane about this," Richards said, his tone becoming angry and frustrated as he defended himself.
How is this not racist:

"Shut up! Fifty years ago we'd have you upside down with a f------ fork up your a--...Throw his ass out. He's a nigger! He's a nigger! He's a nigger! A nigger, look, there's a nigger!"
Those comments obviously indicate that Richards either must have been possessed by a racist demon or he was just "playing one" onstage that night, right?

The real problem is that Richards was more concerned about being labeled racist because contemporary society has deemed that label the sign of a fringe element, a social pariah.

Had he been more self-reflective he might have something more sane, such as "I realize that I am a product of a culture steeped in a toxic history regarding race, and my outburst -- and the response to it -- is a teachable moment. It's important to think about how we feel about race and how our internal views about race play out in our daily lives. I intend to do so, because there was no excuse for what I said on stage."
Right. But no one wants to admit that they've got a problem, even though all of us, failing extraordinary effort to examine the racist narratives with which we're all indoctrinated by our culture in an attempt to extricate ourselves from its divisive grip, will hold prejudices. The only question is whether you allow your own to be unexamined prejudices.

Responding to getting publicly busted making a mockery of the Jena 6 by insisting "I'm not a racist!" is a near-certain step to burying and making intractable the very prejudices that allows someone to engage in such behavior in the first place. There more shame in denying being a racist when you patently, undeniably are than saying: "Yes, I'm a racist, but I don't want to be."

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