If anything structurally supports racism, it's a collection of myths. Stereotypes and caricatures that a closer look at reality tosses to the wayside. Behind a lot of the support for George Zimmerman is a lot of these myths. And it's possible to be racist without realizing it is racism. You just have to believe the myths. Being racist doesn't necessarily mean you're a nazi. It may mean you're wrong. When you refuse to be corrected, then you get into more dangerous moral territory. Then you're not falling into racism because of ignorance, but by choice.
But there's a resistance to the charge of racism that's hard to explain from a logical standpoint; if everyone tells you your shoe's untied or your fly's open, you check. You believe them. There's no reason why you shouldn't. If everyone tells you you keep spelling a word incorrectly, you check. You believe they may be right.
But if everyone keeps telling you you're being racist, you do not check. You don't believe them. And -- if you're a conservative -- the more people tell you this, the more you claim to be the victim of some sort of slander. They're constantly being warned about their racism and they're constantly claiming to be the victims of a massive smear campaign because of it. They refuse to be corrected and make that choice.
The George Zimmerman trial and verdict is only the latest to bring this trend to the forefront. But every time an issue involving race arises, Republicans and conservatives take the side opposite whatever minority is at the center of the controversy. Like Stephen Colbert's "colorblind" shtick, they pretend not to see skin color at all and want everyone to believe this means they aren't racist -- as if ignoring the specific and all too real problems faced by people of color is the very opposite of racism, rather than a hallmark of it.
Yesterday, I assumed that Rick Perry chiming in on the Zimmerman verdict (while being the quintessential "colorblind" racist that Colbert mocks) would be seen as a major gaffe for a man contemplating a presidential run. For some reason, I thought Republicans had finally learned their lesson about race and would know enough to just leave it alone. I was quickly proved wrong, as Republican after Republican lined up to politicize a verdict that left so many Americans deeply disappointed and angry. As always when an issue shocks the American conscience, Republicans are there to remind us all that the real victims aren't the dead kids or the people turned away from voting booths.
No, the real victims are always healthy and wealthy white Republicans. That kid dead in the street? He got what he had coming to him. Despite having no criminal record, Trayvon Martin was a supposed "thug." George Zimmerman, with a rap sheet that included assaulting an officer and domestic abuse, was the angelic hero, tragically forced to defend himself from a wanna-be Gangsta armed with Skittles of Mass Destruction.
This is a party that's so alienated every other demographic that they pin all their 2016 presidential hopes on getting more white voters to the polls. And it's not because they're racist -- not if you ask them, anyway. It's because everyone else is racist against them.
It was a mistake for me to think that the GOP had learned some sort of lesson about race and politics. And my assumption wasn't that they'd stopped being racist, but that they'd just be smart enough to shut up about it. But they can't even do that. They have to go on national TV, shout their racism to the four corners of the nation, and remind us that whenever an African-American teenager lies dead in the street -- killed for no good reason -- the real victims are white Republicans.