Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sometimes, the intent doesn't matter.

Recently, an Orange County GOP official sent out an email with a photograph of President Obama's face plastered on to a chimpanzee. It was supposed to be a joke email commenting on his birth certificate issue. She apologized for being "unwise" and regretted that it offended her community. But later on, she said, "I think it's only racist when the intent in my heart is to make it that way, and that was not the intent in my heart."

Let's not even get into the fact that questioning President Obama's birth certificate has some racist undertones to begin with. What bothers me about what this woman said is her I-didn't-mean-it-so-it's-not-racist explanation. It doesn't matter if you meant it to be racist. If you offended a group of people, and they took it as racist, it can be valid enough for your ACTIONS to be racist.

My friend-crush blogger Jay Smooth said what I'm about to say very clearly in this video. I first start off with my rant by giving him credit for the inspiration of this blog post.

It concerns me when people say something offensive, and as part of their "apology", they try to explain that what they did wasn't racist because they didn't "mean it that way". Most of the time it isn't the intention that hurts, but rather the consequences of the action itself. You might not be racist. No one is free of judgments. I'm sure I have said and done racist things, sometimes without even knowing what I had done. But here is the difference between me and the racists: If I offended a group of people, and they were hurt because of something that I had done REGARDLESS of what I meant my actions or words to mean, it doesn't change the fact that I have offended a group of people. My responsibility as a functional person in this society is to own up to the fact that what I DID was offensive and apologize to remedy because I'm NOT an offensive person.

This is where I have problems with what the GOP official said: "I think it's only racist when the intent in my heart is to make it that way, and that was not the intent in my heart." False. "It" can be racist if the offended party feels that way. YOU don't get to decide. YOU may not be racist, but the decent thing to do would be to own up that your action was racist and it's up to you to prove that it isn't consistent with your actual persona.

When people say these things, I think of this one time when I went miniature golfing with a bunch of my friends. I had a grand ol' time, and I was about to swing my club to get my ball into some kind of wooden castle. When I swung behind me, I accidentally smacked my friend in the head, and she got a gigantic bump. I felt horrible. I didn't INTEND to hurt her, but there was no question that my actions did injure her. I was careless and didn't look behind me before I swung. This doesn't necessarily make me a violent person, but what I did was definitely hurtful.

Sometimes, the real issue is how the perception of your actions and your perception of yourself don't line up with each other. The real step to progress would be to acknowledge that fact and adjust your ways so that they are closer together.

End rant.


unwashedflyer said...

i will keep this brief but american politics is a joke, nevermind anything to do with obama.

freemason and zionist agenda conspiracy theories etc... probably hold weight.

and i agree, good point.

Karen in Progress said...

I wholeheartedly agree with your rant. However, I don't think the point your making pertains to only the topic of racism, but to any offensive comment. Nice food for thought.

Hunter Thompson said...

You're awesome.

End Rant

Emily said...

Often times, when I'm subbing, little kids will come up to me complaining that another kid pushed them. When I get both parties together, I learn that it was an accident. I can't even count the number of times where little kids don't see the need to apologize and make right when the offending action was an accident. It's interesting to think of such adults behaving in a similar fashion as kindergarteners.