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October 25, 2013 3:50 PM Racism Out of Context

By Ed Kilgore

I had planned on ignoring the furor over North Carolina Republican precinct chairman Don Yelton, who was pushed into resigning after stupidly making racist remarks to a Daily Show camera. I mean, the guy is a precinct chairman, not a county chair or an elected official or anyone else who is really authorized to speak for his party. If it’s not really appropriate to identify the GOP with every crackpot state legislator who says something stupid or crazy, then it’s worse to make a big deal out of the utterances of someone much further down the political food-chain.

(Confession: a million years ago—actually in 1976—I was participating in a Reagan-for-President poll bank operation just before a Georgia presidential primary, and I could hear the woman sitting next to me going off-script into nutty conspiracy theories about Henry Kissinger. There are people like that in every nook and cranny of politics, though admittedly there were a lot of them in the ranks of the Reaganites).

But then Yelton said something in his defense that we keep hearing so often from conservatives that I think it’s worth paying a bit of attention:

Yelton told a North Carolina radio station Thursday that the “Daily Show” had edited his interview in such a way that his comments were taken out of context. In the interview on voter ID laws, Yelton had criticized “lazy black people that wants the government to give them everything,” and told correspondent Aasif Mandvi that one of his “best friends” is black.

How could that comment possibly be taken “out of context?” What’s the “context” that could make it non-racist? It’s really getting to the point where the anti-anti-racism mania on the Right is convincing people that if they don’t say “I’m a racist,” then calling them out for racist comments is unfair, if not an actual example of “playing the race card” and hence racism itself. This is a particularly kind of twisted illogic that does indeed need to be exposed.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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