"Negroes Smell Like Copper": White Racists

Journalist Richard Leiby used this personal anecdote in a piece he did years ago, presumably to add authenticity to the article, which was a "fish out of water" account of a white journalist at a black journalist's convention.

    "Back in the seventh grade, at the all-white school I attended, an English teacher announced to our class one day, for no reason I can recall, 'Negroes smell like copper. If you ever get close to one, you will know it.' I tried. I licked and sniffed a penny. Was that it?

    "I never got close to a black person until my first year in college, when a black professor hired me as his work-study student and patiently mentored me in journalism. He smelled of rich cologne. But I could never get that insidious notion out of my mind."


Say this to a group of black people, and everybody nods their heads after reading a passage like the one above, all of them feeling in their own way a phantom sense of hurt not unlike that of an amputee who thinks he can feel his missing limb.

Say this to a group of white people, and it becomes a verbal assault weapon, the linguistic equivalent of a drive-by shooting, peppering its victims with a sense of out-sized guilt for not seeing right off the bat the proper amount of vile and malicious intentions the author has woven into this tale.


    "If someone white accidentally sneezes on me, THEY ARE A RACIST!"

    "If my paycheck is short due to a clerical error, but no one else’s is, THE COMPANY IS RACIST!"

    "If the white principal sends my kid home for setting the teachers desk on fire, HE IS A RACIST!"

Calling someone "racist" is a reflex action these days for some of us. But if someone who is white points out something that is true in a tactless manner, that doesn't make him a racist, it makes him a boor. A lot of the incidents we cite to indict someone as a bona fide racist are in fact racially insensitive acts.

In America in Black and White, a book by Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom, their research showed that in almost every European country, about four out of ten people say that they dislike a prominent minority group: Bulgarians and Germans dislike Turks, the French dislike North Africans, Poles dislike Ukrainians, Russians dislike Azerbaijanis, and so on. In the United States, by contrast, only one out of every eight white Americans dislikes blacks.

To someone white who is a racist in modern day America, I am not just black, I am the enemy. Decades ago, when racial bigotry was commonplace, I would assume that a large contingent of white people were passively racist, just as a large contingent is racially ambivalent today, mostly because it was easier to "go along with the crowd". What we are seeing when encounter dyed-in-the-wool racists these days are the last of a fast disappearing breed, people who have become isolated from the very part of society they want to protect.

According to Entman and Rojecki, white racists are people who "believe blacks share such homogeneously negative characteristics that they must be an inferior rank of human against whom discrimination is inevitable and justifiable." "Knowing" the truth, they tend to search for confirmation of these beliefs, able to dismiss even the strongest evidence to the contrary. Often, research by psychologists has shown, they cannot face the underlying shame of their own insignificance in the world.

With all of the the things going on around them - black people who are not only integrating but also assimilating into the larger society more and more everyday - to be hell bent on despising black Americans, they have to really work at maintaining the fictions that such a system of beliefs requires. Since one of our biggest fears as human beings is psychological disintegration - what we colloquially refer to as "losing our minds" or "going crazy" - this kind of person must claw at the merest shred of inadequacy we display to maintain a hold on their own sanity.

"Our brain has developed a capacity to create for us a world of our own imagination and making," wrote William Gaylin in The Rage Within. "Very few of us live in the real world. We live in the world of our perceptions, and these perceptions differ dramatically according to our personal experiences. We may perceive danger where there is none. If the distortion is ever enough, we may think we are living among enemies even when we are living among friends."

Think locally, act globally is someone’s corporate tag line, but I have adopted it as my own short hand for how to handle personal conflicts and one-on-one confrontations. So I’ve been trying since the beginning of last week, when I started outlining this series, to think outside of the box about those people who are bona fide racists. But it hasn't worked. There is no known kryptonite that weakens the resolve of these kinds of people.

Depravity will spew from the minds of these folks for the next few weeks, the kind of degeneracy that seeks to publicly humiliate Barack Obama and derail his candidacy, as if their very lives depend on it. You will hear "Obama Loves America Like O.J. Loves Nicole". "Barack Obama - Half Honkey, All Donkey". "If he is elected president, he will let the black people make us all slaves". You may even get a glimpse of the latest email making the rounds that shows Barack Obama shining Sarah Palin's shoes.

In the end, what will all of these machinations really mean to us?

MY shiny, unlicked two cents says, "not a damn thing".

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Anonymous said...

Check out this stupid site:
This is why we can't let McCain win.

Anonymous said...

richard leiby is indeed a racist. you must read the whole piece.

the part about nickels was followed by a passage in which he wondered if blacks smelled like nickels, he must smell like a dime.

get it?

he also talks about the only time he feels at home is when he's back on the plane to him, sitting among whites, in first class.

he is a POS.

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