Suggest someone who tells racist jokes or posts racist material on social media that their actions make them a bigot and they often respond with “some of my best friends are (insert label of minority).”
It’s an old trick, says a doctoral student writing in “Friends With Moral Credentials” in Social Psychological & Personality Science.
“People commonly reference minority friendships when expressing conceivably prejudiced attitudes. The prevalence of this strategy suggests a widespread belief that having minority friends makes one look less racist…,” says the journal entry abstract.
“People, it seems, are pretty good at piecing together bits of information to form an impression of someone – and minority friends are only a small part of the equation,” University of Queensland doctoral student Michael Thai, the lead author of the paper, tells The Washington Post.
“Our findings suggest that minority friendships can potentially be exploited to soften the backlash that is typically expected from observers when prejudice is expressed,” he concludes.
I hear it all the time. A homophobic bigot opposes gay marriage and makes strong anti-gay comments and then claims friendships with gays.
A racist posts inflammatory rhetoric about African Americans on Facebook and then excuses what he says with claims that he has a black friend.
Niraj Chokshi is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post and writes on the paper’s Wonkblog:
The idea that having minority friendships inoculates a person against being racist is so silly that it’s become a cliche. Just saying “some of my best friends are…” can elicit eye rolls before the sentence is even finished.
But that doesn’t mean it won’t work.
In many ways the technique is like a wife beater who tells people how much he loves the woman he married and then goes home and tries to kill her (and too often succeeds).
Scott Clement, also writing for Wonkblog, found that racist parents pass on their biases to their children and can be just as racist.
“Research has found racially prejudiced attitudes to be surprisingly persistent among the young generation of white Americans,” Clement wrote in June of last year.
Jessica Mendoza of the Christian Science Monitor asked “are millennials racist?” and found that, yes, it still is.
““A lot of people, even of the millennial generation, grew up believing that this country would always look a certain way, and that the people who were in charge of major institutions would always be of a certain color,” Ed Dorn, a civil rights professor at the University of Texas in Austin told the Monitor.
Dorn says the color line is shifting in America and the time is coming quickly when “this will no longer be a white man’s country. That makes them uncomfortable, angry, and anxious.”
We see it locally. A Facebook poster from Floyd County posted a picture recently that claims an black dance routine, outfitted in leather, looking like female Black Panthers and used in the Super Bowl, was no different than the Ku Klux Klan.
The conversation that followed was heated and even included claims of “reverse racism” against one woman.
When I have questioned the attitudes the original poster in the past he answered that he has “friends who are black.”
Was that posting racist? Some might say “yes.”
Then again, former President Bill Clinton, when asked about his claims that he did not “have sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinksy” when he was letting her ‘nosh on his Johnson, replied: “The depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is.”
Truth was once considered absolute. Now, like so much else in modern society, it is relative, subject to debate, explanation and rationalization.
Too many people hate the truth but still claim they know it.