July 19, 2009

Frago apologizes for racist e-mails

Atwater Racist EmailsAn Atwater city council member is apologizing tonight for forwarding several racist e-mails to other city leaders. Action News obtained copies of those e-mails from the Merced Sun Star. The emails were sent out by Councilman Gary Frago. Frago said they were meant to be a joke, but many people aren't laughing, calling them offensive and racist.

"They weren't sent as a racist, viscous act. They were sent as a very stupid act, and I don't know how many times I can say tell you I'm sorry."

Atwater city councilman Gary Frago is defending himself after e-mails he sent out surfaced in Friday's Merced-Sun Star newspaper. "If I could retract them all, knowing what I know now, I would retract all of them."
Comment:  Let's parse these comments. Again, not because I have anything against Frago or the city of Atwater, but for what they tell us about racism in America.They weren't sent as a racist, viscous act.First, Frago said "vicious," not "viscous." I don't think it's possible to send viscous e-mails.

This sentence highlights a comment misperception about racism. Namely, that something is racist only if it's vicious or hateful.

Wrong. The definition of racism is simply discrimination by race. It says nothing about whether this discrimination is malicious or not. Claiming "Asians are super-intelligent" would be a racist remark despite its (apparent) lack of malice.

Frago is trying to distinguish between "jokes" and insults or attacks that discriminate on the basis of race. But there's no such distinction. They're both racist by definition.

Nor should we excuse Frago because he believes "jokes" are harmless. You have to be pretty stupid to think comparing Michelle Obama to a gorilla doesn't carry a whiff of malice. The question isn't whether the jokes were malicious; they were. The question is why Frago was apparently blind to their maliciousness.

Frago reverses himselfThey were sent as a very stupid act, and I don't know how many times I can say tell you I'm sorry.I wonder what happened between this position and Frago's previous position:Frago admitted sending the e-mails, but showed no regret. "If they're from me, then I sent them," he said. "I have no disrespect for the president or anybody, they weren't meant in any bad way or harm."Could it be that he got in trouble with his constituents, with people demanding he resign? Yes, I think it could be.

At least he didn't give a non-apology apology. You know, like, "I'm sorry if these e-mails offended anyone who doesn't have a sense of humor." He seems to be reasonably sincere.If I could retract them all, knowing what I know now, I would retract all of them.I'd love to learn what Frago knows now that he didn't know before. That comparing Michelle Obama to someone or something in National Geographic is wrong? That forwarding e-mails with such comparisons is wrong? That racist "jokes" aren't really jokes? That he needs to keep his racist views off the airwaves if he wants to keep his job? Or what, exactly?

For more on the subject, see Study Shows People Ignore Racism and Everybody Is Racist.

No comments: