1. Archive

Gloria Platko and Accidental Racism Disorder: Diagnosing a political malady while puncturing media myth

Anything I can do to bust up liberal media conspiracy, I'm happy to do.

So let me point out, right here, that a Democratic town clerk in Buena Vista Township, Mich. faces a controversy in which she used the n-word to describe a black township official. You can click on the YouTube video below to see a local news story on the dust-up.

Why would you care about this if you didn't have the unfortunate luck to live in Buena Vista Township? It's a shining example of how people, sometimes in important electoral positions, can insist they're not racist on one hand and then commit an act which is horribly racist in another.

var doubleClickAd_1351095941136 = ''; document.write(doubleClickAd_1351095941136);

That's what happened in Saline County, Kansas, when Republican County Commissioner Jim Gile used the word "n----r rigging" to describe a makeshift solution for a problem. Asked for clarification on what he meant, Gile replied "Afro-Americanized," leaving little doubt he was connecting the idea of an improvised substandard solution to words describing black people.

His comments were greeted with laughter from some at the public meeting, before a newspaper report introduced his slip of the tongue to the wider world. Some conservatives have suggested national media isn't salivating over the Buena Vista Township matter in the same way because Township Clerk Gloria Platko is a Democrat.

I'm not sure I buy that. But what is obvious to me, is that both Gile and Platko suffer from what I call the habit of "outsourcing racism" or "Accidental Racism Disorder."

Cribbing a name from Brad Paisley's ill-advised recent song, Accidental Racism Disorder describes a malady in which people mistakenly assume they can't commit actions rooted in prejudice and racism simply because they aren't bigots.

Gile and his wife explained publicly that he was using an old expresson, he has a close friend who is black, he builds homes for "colored people" through Habitat for Humanity and more. When Platko apologized for using the n-word to describe a black person while on the phone with another black official who recorded the call, she said it was "slip of the tongue," it "wasn't directed toward a race or a group of people" it was a habit she was taught when she was young and it was said during a private conversation.

In other words, she only uses the n-word to describe black people she doesn't like, not all black people.

That reminds me of the incident in which Republican U.S. Rep. Don Young made national news using the term "wetback" to describe Latino workers who picked tomatoes on his family's farm years ago.

His story was news, not only because he's a member of Congress, but because his remark came as Republicans were trying hard to convince Latinos that they care enough about their issues that the GOP deserved a greater share of the Hispanic vote in national elections.

But that is a tough argument to make when Congressman from the party uses a slur against Latinos in a radio interview.

The point is, lots of people can harbor horrible stereotypes and prejudices about people without living their lives as full-on bigots. The real challenge is for people of good conscience to face down their worst beliefs and admit how awful this stuff is – no matter the excuse or explanation.

So let me break any notion of a liberal conspiracy to keep news of Platko's severe case of ARD from the world.

Because I'm happy to take on anyone willing to sue the n-word in such a way, no matter which party they hail from.