Between reading Yo, Is This Racist? and the bizarre reactions to the very possibility of a black guy playing Human Torch in the next Fantastic Four movie, one puzzling thing has been sitting on my mind. This one thing baffles me to my very core, yet keeps happening time and time again. It seems that when you point out to a lot of people that they've said something racist, they freak out and demand it isn't.
In the case of comic book characters they'll try to sell you a "true to the original source material" spiel, but often there are huge flaws - like in the case of the Human Torch, his ethnicity never played a part in his characterization, so as long as the Character is "American" whether he's black or white shouldn't matter. No one complains that Hugh Jackman is a foot too tall to play Wolverine, or that Ra's Al Ghul was played by a white dude in Nolan's trilogy (when the character clearly isn't in the comics).
In the end, they said something racist - but they freak out at the very idea that you've called them out on it.
The reason is simple - we're told our whole lives that racism is bad. The reasoning for this is, frankly, quite simple: racism is bad. But when you core program that into someone who also has a racist idea or view point, they develop a dissonance between the idea that they might think something racist and said racist thought. When you call them out on it, and attempt to resolve the dissonance, it causes them to get angry -- and rather than blame themselves, they'll blame the person who pointed it out.
Now thinking or doing something racist doesn't make the person necessarily a racist, but refusing to recognize your actions might. A non-racist person will recognize that they said or did something racist and realize they should stop. Maybe said person will apologize even, but in any case they themselves will recognize the racism in their behavior.
A racist person on the other hand will refuse to recognize their own problematic behavior. This person will decide everyone ELSE is wrong.
I guess the lesson here is don't be afraid to self examine. If you refuse to do so, you might end up continuing to perpetrate problematic behavior. This applies to more than just racism, but that's what's on my mind today.
The other lesson is "don't be a f***ing racist."