There’s a lot that has been analyzed and broken down from what former Trump lawyer and criminal doofus Michael Cohen testified before a House committee this week. But one of the more newsworthy moments came when North Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Meadows brought out a Black woman who works for the president’s administration as proof that Donald Trump can’t be racist.
Cohen testified to actual examples of racism and Meadows’ response was, “behold, a Black.” It was…something. Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib called him out for the stunt, declaring it racist. What followed next was a textbook example of what happens when white men are confronted with their own racism.
They generally follow a pretty strict blueprint as if they went to some sort of racial deflection boarding school. With that said, here is what happens when you call a white man out for racism.
1.The Racist Act
The white man’s response to being called racist begins, of course, with the racist act. This act is rarely the Hollywood racist moment – the “Green Book”-ian racist moment with a white person saying the N-word while pointing a shotgun at a Black person’s forehead. Those people don’t get called racist. They get the cops called on them or beat the hell up. No, the person who gets called racist generally has some sort of cognitive dissonance that allows them plausible deniability. Mark Meadows dragging a Black woman on stage like he was presenting her to the highest bidder, all in order to prove that Trump wasn’t racist is, in fact, an act of racism. He presented one Black woman as representative of an entire race and as a way to excuse a whole racist. Similar deniably racist acts include stopping and frisking Black folks, following a Black customer around a store or not getting approved for the same loans as our white counterparts. The decision to call out said racist act will always, always lead to the rest of the steps.
2. Shock and Outrage
“How dare you?!” usually comes next. Scratch that, it always comes next. Meadows stopped a whole a$$ house hearing to make sure that he wasn’t being accused of being a racist. He demanded that the statement be taken down, removed from the record. His face after just hearing the word “racist” was worth the price of admission. He couldn’t even understand that he wasn’t being called racist. His actions were. Even after Tlaib clarified her statement and let it known she wasn’t calling Meadows racist, he still couldn’t control himself. Seriously, America watched a grown a$$ man have a temper tantrum overhearing something he did get called racist and thinking it meant he was getting called racist. See how he couldn’t even comprehend words anymore? Even after Tlaib reread her statement and clarified. It was too late, we were in the “I need to speak to the manager stage.”
3. “I Know A Black”
4. “No YOU’RE Racist”
I’m grouping steps three and four together because Meadows hit us with a one-two combo of white man meltdown, melding these together so seamlessly, so effortlessly, so loudly that it all seemed like one step. First, like someone sinking into quicksand looking for a vine to hold on to, he yelled out to the Black friend he had in the room, Elijah Cummings, who he is apparently actually friends with. Then he went to his mental Rolodex of Blacks in his life he could toss in front of the friendly fire of his own making, lobbing up the fact he has Black nieces and nephews. BLACK NIECES AND NEPHEWS, PEOPLE. Because, of course, white people merely being around Black people absolves them of any capability of being racist. Remember how all those slave owners suddenly stopped being racists when they started hanging around their Black slaves? I remember it, too. That’s how ending slavery works.
The “I have a Black friend” defense is a tale as old as time. It’s a belief that white people have that revolves around the idea of proximity to Blackness equating to an absence of racism. We all know this isn’t true, but it’s one of the most readily used defenses.
Then, when that fails, we get Meadows’ second grenade: the accusation that the person who astutely and accurately calls something racist is actually the racist one. Meadows, may I remind you, is still in a maniacal tantrum phase that has him thinking he was called racist. Again, he wasn’t being called racist. The “no, you’re racist” defense falls flat when you realize that nobody can be racist against white people because nobody has the power over white people to oppress them. This is Sociology 101. Racists don’t know Sociology 101. Or decency. Or, you know, an understanding of how not to be racist.
5. Spoiler: The Revelation That The Person So Outraged At Being Called A Racist (Though He Was Never Called A Racist) Has More Evidence That He Is, In Fact, A Racist
Within minutes, like clockwork, social media was full of clips of Meadows announcing, loudly and proudly that President Barack Obama was from Kenya. Not only that but Meadows also proudly declared that he’d send Obama back to said Kenya. Kids, that’s racist. That’s what racist people do. The whole birther movement was an act of racism and Meadows perpetuated it. It never fails. If you allow someone who does something racist to talk long enough or if you do even a superficial amount of digging into that person’s life, the inevitably more racism appears. Like magic. It never fails.
And like a whimper, nothing happens. Because what really ever happens to white men who reveal themselves to be racist. They do all that crying because the r-word to white men is their N-word. Why? Because white men will never have to face something as deadly, painful and hateful as the N-word. When in the end “racist” is just a mild inconvenience. Nothing substantial really happens to them. Sure, they may get fired eventually but they’ll find more jobs with no problems. They’ll find bigger fan bases who embrace their racism. They get to keep their jobs as governors. They become presidents. They throw fits on national television and get coddled into feeling like everything is okay. They learn nothing. They don’t grow. They get to continue to hate us. And all we get in the end is a shrug.
And that’s what happens when white men get called racist.
Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.
David Dennis, Jr. is a writer and adjunct professor of Journalism at Morehouse College. David’s writing has appeared in The Guardian, The Smoking Section, Uproxx, Playboy, The Atlantic, Complex.com and wherever people argue about things on the internet.