By Jonah Owen Lamb
In all, the Sun-Star obtained seven e-mails that Frago sent from October 2008 to February 2009 from an anonymous source.
Some compared Obama to O.J. Simpson while others suggested that "nigger rigs" should now be called "presidential solutions."
Perhaps the most overboard e-mail was sent on Jan. 15. It read: "Breaking News Playboy just offered Sarah Palin $1 million to pose nude in the January issue. Michelle Obama got the same offer from National Geographic."
Still, a few of the senders and a recipient said they saw no harm in any of the jokes sent.
Black community leaders called the e-mails outrageous, revealing that American society has not left behind some of its racist past.
While recent racial barriers have been broken--such as the election of a black president--and most outright racial and prejudice is not acceptable in public, local civil rights activists and others believe the e-mails illustrate the racism that lingers behind some doors assumed to be closed in Atwater and America.
Jensen, who is also author of "The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege," said that the disappearance of overt racism in polite society only means it has gone underground. Racial jokes for instance, may be meant in jest, but they are not just jokes. "They are a sign of a deeply entrenched white supremacist ideology in this country," Jensen said.
Racist jokes reinforce this world view cloaked in humor, he said. But they are also expressions of power in and of themselves, he said.
They essentially communicate that the teller can say denigrating things with impunity. If you feel comfortable saying such things in a private setting, he said, that fact signals an implicit understanding among your compatriots that it is OK to say such things.
True, only a minority of Americans (perhaps 20-30%) are overtly racist. Only they would send e-mails like this. But these racists benefit from "a deeply entrenched white supremacist ideology in this country"--which is another way of saying "white privilege." They can act the way they do because the white majority tolerates their behavior.
I assume some of the people who said they didn't read the messages were lying. Others defended the messages. Not a single person challenged the e-mails until an anonymous source sent them to the newspaper.
This is the epitome of unconscious racism. You excuse examples of racism because you think they're minor or inconsequential. You accept or tolerate them as the norm. You express outrage only because it's politically correct to do so, not because you think anything's wrong.
Anybody who says he'd vote for, live next to, or marry a black, but who also excuses these e-mails, is at least partly racist. He may think and say he's not prejudiced, but actions speak louder than words. Racist is as racist does.
Even Frago, the man who forwarded the e-mails, claims he isn't a racist:
Needless to say, this also applies to Indians and other minorities. How many times have we heard that an offensive "joke" is just a joke? Repeat: