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Pet Sins August 2001

Blacks used as scapegoats for projecting non-black individuals' vices

A former roommate of mine was from China, and he often had Chinese friends over. Although I did not become friends with his friends, I managed to overhear some of their conversations just by being in the same space at the same time. Oddly enough, their conversations, more often than not, revolved around 'race.' One of them, T, a man from Taiwan, seemed particularly obsessed with talking (or rather, railing) about race. He had a low opinion of African-Americans, Mexicans and South Asians in general, cursing at black and brown races in a manner that whites are usually too polite to bring up in social conversations. My roommate's other Chinese friends, although less extreme in their expression of dislike for darker-skinned races, seemed to share his views.

I can only imagine how much racist garbage they spew when I'm not around to listen. But I've noticed a trend among these individuals who seem to have an intense dislike of blacks. For example, T would mock obese blacks who overeat at buffets, as if their lack of self-control was somehow related to their blackness. But the irony is, T himself does the same thing! This Asian man is a pot-bellied binger who pigs out at buffets. Then he would whine and curse to his friends about white people ignoring him because of his weight. If he were telling me about it, I would have told him, "Well, if being fat bothers you that much, then DON'T eat more than you need to!"

IMHO, the hate-filled T is externalizing the negative qualities in himself and projecting his own vice onto some imaginary scapegoat, in this case blacks. This way he can rant all he wants about their supposed gluttony instead of doing something about his own gluttony.

Another Chinese woman P would rant about how blacks and Latinos in general were badly behaved, complaining about how sexually unrestrained Latino and black men were, and how they made unwanted advances towards her, and how white men approached her much more respectfully, and how black culture was supposedly obsessed with sex. Much as I dislike P's racist tone, I cannot insist that P that did not have the experiences she did. Her experience is her own. But she has a choice whether she wants to draw a 'racist' conclusion from her experience or think more deeply about social factors like economic class and education. But so much for her critiism of sexually-unrestrained blacks and Hispanics. P herself has a sexual history, and she had never been married. So maybe "sexually unrestrained" is also a label that can be applied to her. Maybe she, like T, is projecting her own vices onto a scapegoat group of blacks and Latinos. Instead of making a commitment to changing her lifestyle to avoid behavior that is proscribed by her faith, it is easier and more satisfying for P to self-righteously rant about other people's sins. Similarly, many of the Chinese who criticize the excessive sexual appetites of blacks are themselves consumers of porn. If you don't have an "excessive appetite" like the people you're criticizing, why are you watching that stuff?

After a while, I simply refused to be in the same space with my roommates' friends. The roommate tried to defend his friends with excuses along the lines of, "So and so slept with a black person before, so he can't be racist." But I didn't buy that reasoning. Many white slave owners slept with African slaves, but those whites were still racist. My decision caused some inconvenience and awkwardness, but it is not within my power or my responsibility to change or educate these people. And they had little to offer me other than negative energy.

M.N.