More Big Brother racism: from the perpetrator’s mouth

At the beginning of August I wrote about the ejection of a black member of the Big Brother house this season. A season full of offensive racism perpetrated by some of this season’s white contestants. Finally, the season’s biggest racist left and confronted about her racist comments in a post-ejection interview with CBS. In the interview, Aaryn Gries seems offended by her own comments when read back to her. However, her response is to explain how the comments were not meant seriously and implied that she was misunderstood. Not that her comments were inappropriate or harmful to other people.

Racial discrimination in employment

This is an all too common attitude coming from the mouths of racists in employment settings. Gries’ comments echo the same tenor of Paula Deen, facing lawsuits from her alleged racist remarks and employment practices. Racists, like Deen and Gries, perceive the effect of their “unintentional” and “humorous” comments as non-existent. Racism necessarily requires perceiving the targets as lesser individuals who just cannot understand their role as second class citizens.

Accordingly, it’s their own fault that they feel offended by racism. It’s a bizarre logic that makes sense if you buy into the assumption that other groups of people are inferior. And if you think other people are inferior then you aren’t going to waste the time to see how your conduct affects them. It’s not just TV personalities who behave this way. It is an extremely common attitude of supervisors and co-workers who racially discriminate in the workplace. It is far more common to see supervisors presenting that attitude than admitting that they discriminated to harm the employee.

However, anti-discrimination laws do not excuse employers from racial discrimination or other forms of illegal discrimination because the perpetrator was too dense or too racist to understand its effects. Anti-discrimination laws like Title VII focus on the effects of discrimination on the employee or applicant; not whether the racial jokes were serious. If you have been discriminated against in the workplace, you have rights to protect your job and pursue remedies against your employer.

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