SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- Racists aren't actually racist, say two prominent racists embroiled in recent controversies over comments they made about people of varying ethnic and racial backgrounds. For the past week, Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito, whose public shaming has made him anything but incognito, has suffered at the epicenter of a scandal that involves allegations of hate speech beyond the already questionable hazing rituals in the world of professional sports. Then Richard Cohen, The Washington Post's reliably gauche and humorless columnist, candidly explored the "conventional" American's vomitous reaction to miscegenation, which endures in this century as a sort of societal emetic.
Despite colorful turns of phrase, racial epithets and other apparent vitriol, these men, like nearly all other branded racists, vehemently deny that they are hateful bigots. For Incognito, his racism springs from a deep and abiding love of his African American colleagues. To Cohen, racism is a slanderous label applied by Democrats to anyone deeply troubled by big government, immigration, the liberal attacks on the free exercise of religion and avant-garde attitudes in general.
On Sunday, November 10, Richie Incognito responded to allegations of racism by sitting down for a televised interview with FOX Sports. During the questioning, Incognito denied that he's a bigot and insisted that his relationship with teammate Jonathan Martin, the target of his hazing who quit the team on October 28, was close.
One of the key issues concerned a voicemail message Incognito left for Martin:
Hey, what's up, you half N-word piece of blank? I saw you on Twitter, you been training 10 weeks. Want to blank in your blank mouth. I'm going to slap your blank mouth. Going to slap your real mother across the face. (Laughter) You're still a rookie. I'll kill you.
Defending his actions, Incognito clarified for his fans that "the way Jonathan and the rest of the offensive line and how our teammates, how we communicate, it's vulgar. It's, it's not right. When the words are put in the context, I understand why a lot of eyebrows get raised, but people don't know how Jon and I communicate to one another."
That's why it's called an offensive line. Using vulgar, inappropriate, racially charged and discriminatory names with close friends and colleagues, Incognito and others like him explain, can transform hate speech into a more becoming language of love and familiarity.
"By calling an African American friend a darkie or spear chucker or porch monkey or even the N-word, you're telling that individual you feel close enough to them, and understand their plight, to use those words," said a friend of Incognito. "You wouldn't say that to a black stranger on the street, even though you may be thinking it. That's offensive. That's racist. But when you say it to a comrade who's already using that word in his own conversations with people like himself, you're demonstrating that you're comfortable enough to say intimate things like that. It's just like when a man hits his woman in a fit of jealousy or passion -- to show how much he loves her. It's a beautiful thing, honestly."
Martin himself texted Incognito shortly after the leaving the team, blaming the sport for his departure and not the players: "Yeah I'm good man. It's insane bro but just know I don't blame you guys at all it's just the culture around football and the locker room got to me a little."
Sports experts who share Incognito's attitude agree. The origins of football are heavily rooted in bygone military tactics. The structure and rules of the game mirror the old infantry maneuvers of the Civil War, suggesting a modern expression of the conflict between the North's aggressive need for nationwide dominance and control and the South's struggle to ensure homes and jobs for displaced black immigrants, who were exiled from their native lands. To Martin's point, these experts explain, the game itself glorifies racial conflict.
"I care deeply about black people," Incognito told reporters, tears forming in his eyes. "Before the Civil War, blacks in America all had homes for their families, guaranteed jobs and a place in society. After the Emancipation Proclamation, we abandoned them. Now, nearly 40 percent of the people in homeless shelters are black. Factoring in the homeless population not tallied in shelters, it's beyond 50 percent. We created that problem when the North turned them away from their homes and their work. This is why I play football -- hoping that in these recreations the South might actually win...and blacks will no longer be slaves to freedom."
In a recent and eyebrow-raising column, Richard Cohen echoed these same sentiments and expressed a deep concern for the black community, defending conservative views of class and race.
Today's GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party, but it is deeply troubled -- about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York -- a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts -- but not all -- of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn't look like their country at all.
Conservatives today are not racist, just as Cohen and Incognito are not. That the idea of miscegenation disgusts conventional people to the point of physical revulsion does not define bigotry so much as the fear socially aware citizens harbor about how real racists will treat interracial couples.
As with Incognito, Cohen's racism springs from a deep place of love -- of worry about how the myopic will treat people of color. Interestingly. as conservatives quickly point out, the real racism is coming from within the minority groups themselves.
Two years ago, Essence, a magazine catering to African American women, published an article by Jill Scott that revealed the fact that black women hate black men dating white women. A groundbreaking study conducted by Columbia University in February 2012 found that only nine percent of black women were likely to consider interracial marriage. One of the greatest concerns expressed by women in the study was how mixed-race children would be treated. Cohen also cares deeply about these issues and supports the concerns of these women, because he knows the real racism is coming from within.
"It's not whites discriminating against blacks; it's blacks," Cohen is reported to have told fellow journalists at The Post. "But to be fair, whites have done the blacks no favors since the latter part of the 19th century, when we displaced them from the comfort of their jobs and their communities and their homes -- homes that were maintained and paid for by their employers on the plantations. Instead, we imposed upon them the burden of liberation, the shackles of freedom. Metal fetters can be removed, but the spiritual bonds of freedom -- with their absence of security, shelter, food and work -- are much harder to discard. And this is why conventional people worry themselves sick -- to the point of throwing up, in fact -- when they must deal with blacks."
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