Racist Texting: Examples of Backstage Racism

The other day I was at lunch with my best friend. As we were laughing at the minuscule things childhood friends find amusing, we were interrupted by his beeping cell phone. He had received a forward text from a friend. After reading, he sighed and said, “Take a look at this crap,” as he quickly handed me his smart phone. The message read, “What would you get if Sammy Davis Jr mated with Bo Derek? Answer: A 10 of spades.” His phone suddenly beeped again notifying him of an additional message. Another person attached to the original text then forwarded the list of friends another joke. It read, “A Mexican and a nigger are riding in car . . Who’s driving? A cop!” After my immediate reaction of anger, I asked him if this was the first time he has received racist text forwards. He noted that, “These groups of guys send stuff like this all the time. I just delete them.” The interesting fact is that I knew his other Midwestern small town White friends since I was in high school. They always seemed to go out of their way to greet and talk to me whenever I saw them in public. I sensed they were not the most enlightened fellows, but my Black “spidey senses” never went into overdrive when I was in their presence.

What few people know is that this type of behavior is worldwide. For example, a UK Councillor was recommended for “equality and diversity training” for forwarding racist jokes on his cell in June 2010. In July 2005, four policemen in the UK were fired for exchanging and sharing racist text messages. Also in the UK, it was first reported in 2008 that a service called 118-118 Joke Service, sent out daily jokes that included racist jokes to its subscribers. A Muslim student, Kameron Abbas, then 21, received the following:

1. What’s the difference between ET and an Asian? ET got the message and went home.
2. How do you save a drowning Pakistani? Take your foot off his head.

With little research, I ran across several websites that one could draw from in order to send very racist jokes to friends . The most ridiculous and asinine comment made on one page asserted “Please note that these nigger jokes are only for information purpose. These are not meant for any sort of controversy or to hurt anybody’s feelings. A joke is a joke. If you are easily offended, we suggest you not to read these jokes.” The use of texting and forwarding offensive racist jokes is simply an example of the 21st century “Backstage Racism”. With the political circus that is evolving, racist evidence has been shown on Facebook and Tweeting. People such as Sarah Palin and Republican Minnesota State Senate candidate Mike Parry. Just last week, the national news reported the homophobic Facebook rants from an Arkansas Public School Board memberthat advised that “It pisses [him] off though that we make special purple fag day for them. I like that fags can’t procreate. I also enjoy the fact that they often give each other AIDS and die.”

Leslie Picca and Joe Feagin explain and discuss how racial attitudes and behaviors demonstrated by Whites in private settings are more freely expressed with racially like peers. The fact that everyone attached to my best friends forwarded text were White, exemplifies this line of thinking. Moreover, this example illustrates that the white racist framehas indeed added new mannerisms and techniques that facilitate century-old White ideologies toward marginalized populations in a period of time many blindly called “post-racial.” (On the dramatic expansion of racist activity to cyberspace, see Jessie’s pathbreaking Cyber Racism book.)

Sadly, we who are conscious and familiar of the many faces of racism and oppression cannot simply take the road of “deleting” as my best friend has traveled. We must confront these people and simply state, No. No, we will not be a part of this frame. No, I will not allow the marginalization of any people. Even if we upset those were speaking to, we must take a stand. To me, if I lose a so-called friend, it is simply one less person I would have to account for on my Christmas list. More money…more money. But I digress, in regards to my personal story, instead of wasting my breath of explaining racism, the white racial frame and its impact, marginalization, conflict theories, and matrix of domination to these leptons. I decided to send them a text of my own from my phone to the so called leader in the forwards. It read, “How do you get a racist to laugh on Sunday? Tell them the joke on Friday.”