Accidental Racists and More: A Field Guide to the Racists of America

The Atlantic Wire

Do you think racists are all the same? You are wrong. Country star Brad Paisley announced to the world on Monday that he is an "Accidental Racist" in a song that has earned lots of criticism. Before we unpack how one can be accidental about their racism (and why that exucse the racism), perhaps, in a way, he's onto something. While racism is pretty much just racism there are so many different species of racists.

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Unfortunate Racist. Like the Accidental Racist, these racists did not set out to be racist, and are pretty sure they are not racist, but somehow found themselves being racist anyway. The most typical example of this species are politicians who say something racist and then find it unfortunate when they realize it could kill their careers. Unfortunate Racists include former Virginia Sen. George Allen, who called an Indian-American "Macaca" in 2006. Allen responded to the resulting criticism by saying, "I do apologize if he's offended by that." There's also Alaska Rep. Don Young, who last month said his dad hired "50 or 60 wetbacks" to pick tomatoes in the olden days. Young apologized, saying, "I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays, and I meant no disrespect... There was no malice in my heart or intent to offend; it was a poor choice of words." There's Hawaii state Rep. Faye Hanohano, who in February protested a lack of funding for Native Hawaiian artists by saying she didn't want art made by "Haoles, Japs, or Pakes." That means Caucasians, Japanese, or Chinese. She apologized, saying, "I'd like to express my sincere apology to any individuals or groups who may have been offended by my comments." While the Unfortunate Racist's apology may be motivated by self-preservation, unlike the Accidental, Unreconstructed, and Hipster Racists, he or she takes no pride in racism. 

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